What is it?
A very American way of getting performance out of a car.
This is the go-faster version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV and it’s called the SRT – which is a Chrysler badge, dating back to 2004, that stands for ‘Street and Racing Technology’.
SRT has since been subsumed into the giant conglomerate known as Fiat Chrysler Automotive, so although this seems a transatlantic machine, there’s actually a European flavour to the Grand Cherokee SRT.
However, the chief American characteristic we mentioned at the outset is the engine: it’s colossal. Bigger, even, than the motor we sampled in the astonishing Bentley Bentayga a few weeks back.
Following the old adage of ‘there ain’t no replacement for displacement’, the Jeep has a 6.4-litre ‘Hemi’ V8, a big-hearted powerplant that lacks for any of the turbo- or supercharging employed by its chief rivals.
Why are you driving it?
Well, three reasons, really.
One, a 468hp Jeep that can do 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds and go on to 160mph is worth a few minutes of anyone’s time, most assuredly.
Two, while this model might be normally aspirated, an even madder ‘Hellcat’-powered model is on the way later this year, boasting a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 with enormous outputs of 707hp and 881Nm.
And three, madly polluting vehicles like the grunty Grand Cherokee cannot be long for this world.
With hybrids, tiny petrol turbos and the like becoming the preferred choice of motive power, what you’re looking at here is a dinosaur of the motoring realm.
Albeit, an extremely appealing dinosaur.
What do you like about it?
If you’re thinking ‘it’s American and therefore it will handle with all the grace of a stuck pig’, you’d be wrong.
While the low-speed ride is a bit firm and the body control slightly looser than you’d get on something like a BMW X5 M or Porsche Cayenne Turbo, there’s a fluidity to the way the Jeep SRT drives that’s hugely endearing.
It has mammoth brakes and decent steering, with masses of mechanical grip and the engine is an absolute peach.
In this day and age, despite its fantastic outputs, the Hemi lags behind the rival performance SUVs, which all deliver at least 550hp and 680Nm. But what none of them have is the keenness to rev, linear throttle response and absolutely glorious, thunderous, uncorrupted V8 soundtrack of the Grand Cherokee.
It’s almost worth the entrance fee alone, although we’re also fans of its subtly muscular looks – you’ll spot the SRT courtesy of huge 20-inch alloys, the black ‘mask’ it wears around its grille and headlights, and a discreet lower body kit, which houses the large-diameter twin exhausts.
It is, as you might expect, hopelessly bad on fuel. With just a few blasts to enjoy the bellowing of the V8 Hemi, the rest of our week behind the wheel of the SRT saw us driving more sedately, including a cruise along the M18 and we received 16mpg across 275 miles for our painstaking troubles.
There’s also the consideration to make that, despite its competitive pricing, the Jeep’s interior finishing is simply not up to snuff when compared to the likes of the Range Rover Sport SVR, Mercedes-AMG GLE or Audi SQ7.
However, the cabin of the Grand Cherokee is largely fine overall, with a logical layout, some nice toys and a few decent touches.
It’s just that the silvery plastic on the centre console looks and feels cheap for a car at this level.
The biggest crime, though, is the ridiculously large steering wheel that Jeep has foisted on the poor SRT; it doesn’t feel much like something you’d find on a sports car – rather, it feels as though it should be on the bridge of an ocean-going vessel.
What’s it like as a business vehicle – are there any tax benefits?
This would be a very, very bad choice for a company car, as it has CO2 emissions, which are the wrong side of 300g/km and a price tag that, while cheaper than those of key rivals, is still pretty hefty at almost £70,000.
So the V8 Grand Cherokee won’t be the sort of car you’ll see on a lot of company car lists.
Where does it rank in class right now?
The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT offers storming performance in an attractive, well-equipped SUV body for considerably less cash than anything from its most obvious competitors.
Also, there’s nothing from Sweden or Japan that’s comparable, even allowing for the fact the Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid has 400hp, so in some respects you could say the SRT is first in a class of one – if you think it doesn’t deserve to be held up to the BMW, Audi and Merc opposition.
Compared to the aforementioned German and British rivals, it’s a little less powerful and little less well finished within, and it will most likely depreciate more heavily than any similarly rapid SUV.
Factor all those into account and there are clearly better high-performance 4x4s on offer – but there’s enough character here and some exceptionally good dynamics too, in order to make the Grand Cherokee SRT tempting enough to take a punt on.
Model: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Price: Grand Cherokee range starts from £47,135; SRT from £68,950
Drivetrain: 6.4-litre ‘Hemi’ V8 petrol, eight-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
CO2 emissions: 315g/km – £2,000 first 12 months, then £450 per annum next five years, then £140 annually thereafter; 37% benefit in kind
Top speed: 160mph
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Power: 468hp at 6,250rpm
Torque: 624Nm at 4,100rpm