It’s no secret that of all American 4x4s, Jeep has consistently outdone itself as a purveyor of power and functionality, on and off the beaten track. Jeep’s a well-established legend: Beginning with its days in the military, the model line has reinvented itself countless times, from the Islander YJs of the ’80s to the TJs of the ’90s to the SRT line that debuted early in the last decade. This leads us to the latest model, the surprisingly luxurious 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT.
Bold, sporty and tough, the 2014 SRT is muscular with a tempered edge that is both refined and distinct. Getting behind the three-spoked wheel for the first time, the quality in the bucket-style rocker seats is apparent; the classic SRT badging and track-inspired stitching and accents complement the aggressively styled cockpit that is as mean as it is comfortable. Chrysler’s UConnect system we keep raving about is front and center; the 8.4” display will track your recent track times, 0 to 60 mph measurements and lateral accelerations.
In sports mode, the SRT revs slightly as we engage the rocker paddles on either side of the wheel. We flick the eco mode button off, then engage the launch control which primes all systems for a smoother acceleration through the transmission. The audible pickup of the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 is impressive as we go through the eight-speed gearbox that’s been engineered to optimize shift quality and specific shift points in order to maximize fuel quality, drivability and overall performance; the intelligent software programming takes into account torque gradients, longitudinal and lateral acceleration and downshifting, among other variables.
From a driving perspective, we found the Grand Cherokee SRT to be pretty nimble even at higher speeds, taking full advantage of the 470 horsepower output that delivers 465 pound-feet of torque. To put that in perspective, this performance SRT can easily tow up to 7,200 pounds, a massive 44 percent increase over the previous SRT8 model, which could only handle about 5,000.
At lower speeds, the SRT was still fairly responsive, though we noted that even with the current lower fuel economy, this Jeep still burns through it when you’re not paying attention. The new eight-speed stretches the 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway of the new generation compared to last year’s model that did 12/20 mpg, so keep in mind if you’re buying this 4X4 you are absolutely not choosing it on that merit.
The beauty of the SRT division (home also to the Viper, Challenger, Charger and 300) is that these vehicles have been designed with the track in mind. In track mode, the transfer case shifts its dynamic controls so that 70 percent of the engine’s overall torque is delivered to the rear wheels for a much more solid and pronounced rear-wheel drive experience. This improves the SRT’s responsiveness from mid-corner handling to exit. While most gearheads need no pushing to hit the straightaway in this beast, noobs will be relieved that Jeep includes a one-day track session for new SRT owners at tracks across the U.S. That’s pretty slick if you ask us.
On sale now, the 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT starts at $63,195. Find it at www.jeep.com