by Gabe Beita Kiser
Jeep Grand Cherokee. A model synonymous with comfortable off-roading, the SRT version is a performance SUV that sidelines mud-crawling in favor of outpacing fast road cars. With a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 under the hood producing 475 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, the SRT takes on the familiar Dodge Durango SRT and, from further afield, BMW's X5 M. With numerous standard features and a commanding road presence, the Jeep is capable of doing the school run and then embarrassing lighter cars at the track. That said, it's not perfect and has remained virtually unchanged from its 2011 forefather, the SRT8, and those looking for truly premium materials and build quality will be better off considering German offerings, most of which have been redesigned at least once since then.
Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is now standard on the SUV, along with an updated 8.4-inch touch display that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Three new color options have also been introduced for the 2019 model year: Green Metallic, Slate Blue and the daftly named Sting-Gray. The rest of the vehicle is essentially unchanged from the 2018 offering.
The SRT model of the Grand Cherokee is much easier to distinguish from the rest of the range, with a sportier body kit and hood, dual-exit exhaust tips and blingy 20-inch wheels wrapped in performance tires. Bi-xenon headlamps are framed by LED daytime running lights, while LED fogs and taillights add modernity to the slightly aging design. The headlights also feature gloss black accents, adding to the sporty look.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is still relatively capable off-road despite its performance bias, thanks to 8.3 inches of ground clearance, and approach and breakover angles of 18 and 18.4 degrees respectively. The departure angle is 23.1 degrees. Thanks to its rugged design, the SRT is also capable of towing up to 7,200 lbs - the best in its class. The length of the SUV is 189.8 inches with a width of 84.8 inches and a height of 67.9 inches. The wheelbase measures 114.7 inches, while curb weight is a massive 5,195 lbs.
True Blue Pearlcoat and Rhino are the paint options discontinued for this year's model. In their place, Sting-Gray and Slate Blue Pearl are new additions, with a bonus added in Green Metallic. Billet Silver, Redline 2, Granite Crystal, Bright White, Diamond Black, and Velvet Red have returned. Ivory is a $595 option, but none of the other colors cost extra to spec, so we'd go for a stealthy Diamond Black or the sleek Granite Crystal.
There is only one variant of the SRT available, while the ridiculously bonkers Hellcat-powered Trackhawk is reviewed separately. Thanks to standard all-wheel-drive with launch control, a 475-hp Hemi V8 and a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic, the SRT accelerates hard and fast, even in auto mode. Change the drive mode to Sport and the transmission will shift 50 percent quicker, tighten the suspension, and allow manual shifting through the paddles. The Track setting further reduces shift times to 160 milliseconds and stiffens the adaptive suspension to its firmest setting. All of this will allow the SRT to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.3-seconds, crossing the quarter-mile in 12.8-seconds on its way to a 160 mph top speed. The benchmark for fast SUVs - the Porsche Cayenne Turbo - will still outperform it though, and the BMW X5M will decimate both of them in a drag race; but, those two are far more expensive, and SRTs have always been about accessible and relatively-affordable power, which this Grand Cherokee provides in spades. In terms of practicality, the Jeep is the winner, towing more than in its class rivals at 7,200 lbs. However, BMW's X5 50i is similarly rapid and not far off in price either, at $76,150. Offering more luxury, better quality, and insane-for-an-SUV-performance, it's worth considering.
Power in the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT comes from a naturally aspirated 6.4-liter V8 producing 475 hp and a strong 470 lb-ft of torque. That output is sent via an eight-speed automatic gearbox to all four wheels, aided by a rear limited-slip differential. Cruising is smooth and surprisingly quiet, even with a load being towed behind the behemoth. Acceleration too is effortless, with little drama from the tires even when you bury the gas pedal in the firewall. For ultimate bragging rights, the Grand Cherokee range of models does include a supercharged V8 borrowed from the Challenger Hellcat, but that's an entirely different beast altogether, characterized almost solely by its powerplant. The regular SRT here is just fine, offering comfort, decent practicality, and strong performance. The transmission and drivetrain can also adjust to snowy conditions, holding on to lower gears a little longer, reducing engine output, and splitting power evenly between the front and rear axles. In a vehicle like this, a manual would have been pointless, and we're glad it's not available, but the gearbox does feel a smidge lethargic when not in Sport mode.
With so much weight, the SRT absorbs bumps and undulations with ease, if a little stiffly for our liking. This is not a honed track weapon, though, and the heft of the SRT can be felt when turning into corners. The steering is also a little detached, and mid-corner undulations and bumps do not inspire confidence. This SUV is built to go fast in a straight line, with little to no wheelspin off the line, and not much else. Auto mode is just fine for daily use, with Snow mode offering decent composure in slippery conditions. Sport and Track increasingly stiffen the ride, but if you want to fine-tune sharper throttle response with a more pliable suspension configuration, custom settings can be applied to make the SRT more suitable to individual tastes. Its German rivals handle the balance between comfort and performance more delicately, but the Jeep is still impressive. Braking is upgraded from regular Grand Cherokees as a necessity resultant of the increased power, and stopping power is adequate for this hulk, even when hustling it hard. As an off-roader, the SRT is decent, but the entire vehicle has been tuned to be more speed-oriented than its more rugged siblings, and while relatively capable, is not our first choice for adventurous mud-crawling or rock-climbing.
The SRT's massive motor is typically not likely to attract Prius owners looking for a bigger vehicle, but its figures are just about in line with those of its German counterparts even if it can't quite match them on the performance front. The SRT scores 13/19/15 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles and will return approximately 369 miles off its large 24.6-gallon gas tank before you'll need to break out the credit card at the pumps again.
The interior of the Grand Cherokee has always been a lovely place to be, and it's only when compared to European offerings that shortcomings become more obvious. Leather with suede inserts is standard on its sporty-but-comfortable SRT-embossed seats, with a decent sound system and an inviting, roomy feel to the cabin. Everything is easy to use and ergonomically placed, while occupants will be pleased by heated seats in the front and rear of the cabin. The front chairs are eight-way adjustable with four lumbar settings, while the steering wheel is also heated and power-adjustable. Overall build quality trails behind that in the Porsche and BMW, but is still relatively good for the price.
Typical of a decent SUV, the Grand Cherokee offers a commanding seating position, with good all-round visibility only impaired by thick A-pillars. All body types will be comfortably seated though, thanks to numerous power adjustment settings. The cabin is roomy in both the front and rear, with ample head and legroom for four, although a fifth adult in the back will feel a bit of a pinch with a floor that isn't flat all the way across, but this is minimal. Getting in and out is easy thanks to large door openings, and the seats are all supportive.
The SRT features standard black or tan leather with suede inserts and brushed aluminum trimmings on the center console and steering wheel, as well as the dash. An upgraded Laguna leather option is available for $5,295, and upgrades to matte carbon on the instrument panel and door cards. However, this option also requires you to upgrade the Alpine audio system to a $2,095 Harman Kardon setup with 10 additional speakers. Red seat belts are also available as an option.
The SRT is practical thanks to 36.3 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats up, which would have been bigger if not for a full-size spare below the floor. This will easily fit four to five large suitcases, with space in between for a few carry-on bags, but if more storage is required, those rear seats can fold flat in a 60/40 split. With both seatbacks down, available cargo volume expands to 68.3 cubic feet, enough for a pair of bicycles or other large adventure equipment.
In the front, you'll find a small center console, two pairs of average cup holders, the usual narrow door pockets and a reasonable glovebox.
The Grand Cherokee SRT offers many of the optional features on other range variants as standard, including heated seats for both the front and rear occupants, as well as trailer-sway control, keyless entry with remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, park assist, power heated mirrors, and a power-adjustable heated steering wheel. Behind that steering wheel is a seven-inch driver info display. A rearview camera, automatic wipers, adaptive cruise with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are standard. The SRT also features launch control, hill start assist, and lane departure warning. A dual-pane panoramic sunroof is optional for $2,095.
The Grand Cherokee's infotainment system has been updated for the 2019 model, with an 8.4-inch touchscreen offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but it's still not as good as some rivals' offerings. Luckily, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, two USB ports for charging and a voice-activated Uconnect 4C navigation system are included. Output is distributed through nine Alpine speakers with a 19-speaker Harman Kardon upgrade also available. Bluetooth connectivity is also included, but a single-disc CD player costs extra. Rear seat dual Blu-Ray/DVD-playing screens are also optional.
No recalls have yet been issued for the Grand Cherokee SRT in 2019-guise, but the essentially identical 2018 model did suffer eight of them. The 2019 SRT boasts a great reliability rating of 80/100 from J.D. Power. In the event of an issue occurring, the Jeep is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty with a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain and roadside assistance package included.
The NHTSA has not yet rated the Grand Cherokee for crashworthiness, but the IIHS gave it an overall safety rating of Marginal, one above their worst possible score. This is as a result of less-than-promising results in the front overlap test, and poor headlight ratings.
The Grand Cherokee SRT is fitted as standard with all available safety and driver-assistance technology for the model. Blind-spot and rear-cross traffic detection are included alongside full-speed forward collision warning with automatic braking. An accident response system is fitted to the vehicle in the event of a crash, while adaptive cruise control is also included to aid in avoiding collisions on attention-sapping journeys. Airbags include dual front and seat-mounted side units, with a driver's knee airbag and side-curtain airbags front and rear, also fitted.
If all-out performance and bragging rights is your goal with a performance SUV, the Grand Cherokee SRT will disappoint. Its big brother, the Trackhawk with its 707 hp supercharged V8, is officially the fastest SUV in the world, while BMW's X5M and Porsche's Cayenne Turbo will offer more dynamic handling and better luxury too. The SRT is also not class-leading in terms of practicality, with some smaller rivals offering more cargo space. However, as a performance bargain that still offers all-weather capability, comfortable seating for four to five adults, and a usable amount of space in the back, the Grand Cherokee SRT is a great all-rounder. Thanks to relatively restrained looks, it doesn't shout about its abilities either, which is a trademark characteristic of all Grand Cherokees, regardless of their focus. With such a big motor, it's also capable of towing more than any other SUV, bar the Trackhawk. The interior is not as premium as some rivals, but again, the price factor comes into play. We would certainly recommend taking the SRT for a test drive.
The Grand Cherokee SRT starts at $68,645 before taxes, Fiat-Chrysler America's $1,495 destination charge, and other fees. Fully loaded with all the available options on the spec sheet ticked, the SRT will set you back $86,585 including destination charge - a lot of money, but still less than the starting price of many performance-enhanced rivals.
Only one trim level is available for the Grand Cherokee SRT. Well-equipped from the factory, the SRT features a 6.4-liter Hemi V8, all-wheel-drive, and an eight-speed auto with no other drivetrain or transmission configurations available. Standard features include an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system, satellite radio, voice-activated navigation, smartphone integration for both Apple and Android operating systems, and a nine-speaker Alpine sound system. Leather with suede inserts is standard inside, with dual-zone climate control, auto headlights, adaptive cruise control, launch control, trailer-sway control, keyless entry, remote start and lane-keep assist among the factory extras. Further safety features include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and forward-collision warning with auto braking. Making parking the SUV easier are a rearview camera with a parking assistant for both parallel and perpendicular maneuvers. A unique body kit is complemented by 20-inch wheels and a dual-exit exhaust system.
6.4-liter V8 Gas
The SRT's optional packages are separated into four choices. The leather interior package adds Laguna leather to most of the interior panels and the seats and also includes matte carbon on the instrument panel and doors. This package costs $5,295 but requires you to tick the high-performance audio upgrade with 19 Harman Kardon speakers and an 825-watt amplifier. The audio upgrade can be specced as a standalone package for $2,095. Dual screens in the rear playing Blu-Ray or DVD media can further upgrade the infotainment system for $1,995. The cheapest package option is called Trailer-tow Group IV and costs $995. This package adds a seven and four-pin tow-hook wiring harness and class 4 receiver-hitch and also upgrades the engine cooling system to cope with the additional strain of heavy-duty towing. It naturally deletes the regular tow hook and also swaps the full-size spare tire for a compact spare instead.
With only one trim option available for the SRT, the choices are simple for the "base" performance SUV, with additional package and option add-ons offering a little customization. We'd have our SRT just as it comes from the factory, as all available safety tech is already fitted, and numerous other comfort and convenience features are also standard. Keeping the price down also helps to drive home the rationale of this being a very competitively-priced avenue into performance-SUV ownership. A 6.4-liter Hemi, all-wheel-drive, and decent practicality, with all costs taken care of for a smidge over $70,000? Sounds perfect to us.
Born from the same family and featuring identical outputs and drivetrains, the Grand Cherokee SRT and Durango SRT look very similar at first glance. However, the Durango is more spacious and can carry more people. A bigger vehicle, its cargo volume is greater and it can tow more at 8,700 lbs, although standard payload is worse than with the Jeep. However, the Durango has poorer safety tech, less generous warranty offerings, and poorer gas mileage. It's also less sporty and feels much less premium. Being larger it is also more troublesome to park. The Jeep handles better, arguably looks better with neater proportions, and has better infotainment - the Durango doesn't even offer Bluetooth as standard. Overall, the Jeep is a far easier to live with option, and as a performance vehicle, is vastly superior in every way.
When it was announced that the world was getting a 707-hp SUV, there was a collective hurrah from automotive enthusiasts of excess everywhere. The Trackhawk borrows the engine from the Challenger Hellcat, and unlike in many other internal engine swap scenarios, doesn't suffer from reduced power. The full-fat supercharged V8 fitted to the Trackhawk is fitted to the same basic architecture as the SRT with the obligatory performance upgrades. This means that the Trackhawk retains the relative practicality of the SRT, but will decimate almost anything that lines up next to it at a traffic light. A symbol of excess, the Trackhawk suffers ridiculous fuel economy and is not cheap, but it is still the fastest and most powerful production SUV in the world. Yes, it's silly, but so are performance SUVs in general. Bragging rights and fun make this worth every penny, and we'd take one over the "normal" SRT any day of the week.