by Karl Furlong
The current generation of the Jeep Grand Cherokee has been around for some time, yet the midsize SUV somehow doesn't feel quite as old as it is. In SRT form, that's probably because it's difficult to tire of large-capacity V8 power, with the 6.4-liter churning out 475 horsepower to send this five-seater family off-roader to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. It's burly, addictive V8 power that can tackle more of the rough stuff than many competitors including the BMW X5 M50i and Mercedes-AMG GLE53. A feature-packed infotainment system and a generous standard specification are also highlights, but the Grand Cherokee isn't as spacious as the best offerings in the class and the V8 is frighteningly thirsty. Floor the throttle, though, and these flaws are quickly forgotten.
Jeep has made only minimal changes to the Grand Cherokee for 2020, and many of them don't affect the performance-oriented SRT at all.
6.4-liter V8 Gas
The blocky Grand Cherokee isn't a beauty queen, but in SRT specification, it successfully plays the part of an SUV hot-rod. It boasts a black grille, headlamp washers with bi-xenon headlamps, a liftgate spoiler, and LED daytime running lamps. The SRT has LED fog lamps and 20-inch alloy wheels finished in Satin Carbon. A dual-pane panoramic sunroof can be equipped.
Compared with less powerful Grand Cherokees, the SRT has widened front and rear tracks, otherwise, width, length, and the wheelbase are all the same. The SRT is 189.8 inches long, 84.8 inches wide (including the side mirrors), and has a 114.7-inch wheelbase. Overall height works out to 67.9 inches. Ground clearance is 8.1 inches, while approach/ramp breakover/departure angles work out to 18/18.4/23.1 inches, respectively. The SRT's curb weight is 5,195 pounds, making it just over 150 lbs lighter than the big-daddy Trackhawk.
A total of ten shades are available for the performance Jeep Grand Cherokee, but only Bright White Clear-Coat doesn't cost extra. Eight shades that all cost $195 each are Diamond Black Crystal, Granite Crystal Metallic, Sting-Gray, Billet Silver Metallic, Slate Blue, Velvet Red, Redline 2 Coat Pearl, and Green Metallic. The priciest color is Ivory Tri-Coat at $595, but we'd recommend Diamond Black Crystal or Redline 2 Coat Pearl.
The SRT sits just beneath the pinnacle of performance for the Grand Cherokee range, and it's primarily due to the V8 under the hood. The SRT's 6.4-liter engine has 475 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. With four-wheel-drive, it'll whizz past 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.3 seconds, clear the quarter-mile in 12.8 seconds, and top out at 160 mph. For most, that would be more than enough performance on the way home from a camping trip, playing second-fiddle to only the Trackhawk's Hellcat engine. In the midsize SUV realm, the BMW X5 M competes strongly, besting the SRT with a 0-60 mph sprint of 3.7 seconds. The Grand Cherokee SRT is also a fine choice for hauling, capable of towing up to 7,200 lbs.
The SRT is fitted with a naturally aspirated 6.4-liter V8 with outputs of 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. It makes a nice, deep V8 rumble and provides the Grand Cherokee SRT with loads of performance while making mincemeat of overtaking maneuvres. The engine is mated to an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission that works through its ratios smoothly. With sharp throttle response and no turbo lag to contend with, the SRT is a blast to drive quickly. The eight-speed auto is also quick to kick down here, and Sport mode adjusts the shift mapping appropriately. As SUVs go, you'll struggle to find one that lets you have this much fun.
The Grand Cherokee SRT gets a Blistein adaptive damping suspension as standard. It also has five pre-configured driving modes: Auto, Sport, Track, Snow, and Tow. With bigger wheels and the sport-tuned suspension, the performance SUV doesn't drive as smoothly as lower-powered Grand Cherokee models, but it's certainly a better handler. The steering is fairly heavy but reasonably communicative, and the Jeep holds on gamely through corners. Switching to Sport mode reduces shift times by as much as 50 percent when compared to Auto. It's not as athletic as a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5, but both those SUVs cost far more than the Grand Cherokee.
The ride over brittle surfaces can be rather harsh, especially in Track mode (initiating a 30/70 torque split), but on smooth highways, the Grand Cherokee can transport a family of five to their destination in good comfort. You wouldn't want to risk scratching those giant wheels by taking the SRT off-road, and this more powerful version lacks the Selec-Terrain traction management system fitted to other Grand Cherokees. But it'll still clear obstacles that would befuddle many other midsize SUVs.
The second most powerful Grand Cherokee you can buy sounds as if it's taking big gulps of premium gasoline at even moderate throttle openings, and that's evidently the case when perusing its EPA-rated economy estimates. The SRT returns 13/19/15 mpg city/highway/combined, usurped only by the supercharged Trackhawk with its 11/17/13 mpg. Despite a large 24.6-gallon gas tank, the SRT's range only works out to 369 miles.
Are there better-built, more luxurious SUV interiors out there than the Grand Cherokee's? Yes, but considering how much cheaper the Grand Cherokee is than its European competition, the sporty and comfortable cabin is perfectly acceptable. The infotainment system is one of the most user-friendly units around, and the same goes for the other logically presented controls. The SRT also has standard gear like power-adjustable front seats, heated seats, front and rear, and a heated steering wheel. Leather and perforated suede are standard on the SRT, and overall, the mix of solid materials and the sporty touches that are unique to the performance variant make a good impression.
Seating a total of five passengers, the Grand Cherokee is accommodating and comfortable, even if it doesn't offer truly stretch-out space. The driver has a clear view of the road ahead (although the windshield pillars can slightly hamper the side view in corners) and a wide range of adjustment thanks to eight-way power front seats. A power tilt/telescoping steering column also helps in this regard. Other passengers also have nicely bolstered seats and both leg- and headroom are good for six-footers. Only the middle rear seat doesn't feel wide enough for larger-framed individuals.
On the SRT, the seats are covered in a pleasing combination of leather and perforated suede in either black or black/sepia. For an extra cost, black Laguna leather can be equipped, but only as part of the Signature Leather-Wrapped Interior Package which also adds leather-wrapped lower panels and matte carbon trim for a total of $5,295. As expected, a leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard. Buyers can also opt for red seat belts for extra sportiness.
Although the Grand Cherokee has a clear cargo advantage over a sedan, it lags behind other midsize SUVs in this area. Behind the second row, there are 36.3 cubic feet of space - for perspective, the Toyota 4Runner has 46.3 cubes behind its second row. With the 60/40-split folding second row of seats folded down, a total of 68.3 cubes is freed up. On the plus side, eight cargo tie-down loops help with securing items, while a power liftgate is also fitted.
Helping with small-item storage is a full-length floor console in front with twin illuminated cupholders. There is also a front overhead console with space to store a pair of sunglasses. Other than this, there are door pockets, but they're rather slim.
The Grand Cherokee is fully-stocked, especially these top-tier performance versions. Both trims come equipped with dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front/rear seats, eight-way power front seats, a heated steering wheel with power adjustment, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a remote start system, a power liftgate, and a headlamp washer system. A dual-pane panoramic sunroof is available as an option. On the safety front, Jeep has equipped the Grand Cherokee with standard adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, a rearview camera with the ParkSense rear park assist system, and trailer-sway control.
The Grand Cherokee's Uconnect 4C NAV infotainment system is one of the best, combining a clear display with easy-to-understand menus. An 8.4-inch touchscreen integrates features like twin USB ports, an auxiliary jack, navigation, SiriusXM Traffic Plus with a five-year trial subscription, SiriusXM Travel Link (also with a five-year trial subscription), and smartphone integration (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). Audio is channeled via a nine-speaker Alpine system, but a 19-speaker Harman Kardon unit can be equipped for an additional cost. Also available is a Blu-ray entertainment system with dual screens mounted to the backs of the front seats.
It's been a good year or so for the Grand Cherokee SRT, with zero recalls for the 2019/2020 model years (at the time of writing) and a solid J.D. Power rating of 79 out of a maximum 100. Things weren't so rosy back in 2018, though, when the SRT was subject to six recalls by the NHTSA. Issues included the installation of incorrect transmission park rods, cruise control that may not cancel, and a faulty voltage regulator that may cause a stall. Two separate recalls were issued for a problem where the floor mat could trap the accelerator pedal when it is depressed.
Jeep's basic warranty runs for 36,000 miles or three years, along with a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance, and rust-through coverage for five years with unlimited miles.
Being an older design, the Grand Cherokee doesn't have perfect safety scores. Although the IIHS gave the SUV mostly Good ratings in crashworthiness tests, it only achieved a Marginal rating for the small overlap front driver-side test, and a concerning Poor score for the same test on the passenger-side. The headlights attained a rating of either Acceptable or Poor depending on the trim. The NHTSA's findings were better, where the Grand Cherokee was rated five stars for overall safety, although it was awarded just four stars for the frontal crash.
Jeep has been generous with the Grand Cherokee SRT's standard safety specifications. It gets seven airbags (including curtain airbags and a driver's knee airbag), electronic stability control, hill-start assist, trailer-sway control, and Selec-Trac traction management.
It's good to see that Jeep has committed to fitting most driver aids as standard. The SRT receive adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning (with active braking), Jeep's ParkView rear backup camera (with ParkSense rear parking assistance), ParkSense parallel/perpendicular park assist, rain brake support, ready alert braking, and rear cross-path detection.
It's impossible to judge the Grand Cherokee SRT (and the even more ballistic Trackhawk) by normal SUV standards, as both are completely dominated by their V8 engines that allow for endlessly addictive traffic light blasts. At the price, you won't find another SUV that provides such insane straight-line performance, and to the accompaniment of a burly V8 soundtrack. The slightly old-school styling also works well with the SRT's sporty add-ons, and we love the feature-rich and user-friendly infotainment system. Sure, there are SUVs that can haul more cargo, have more passenger space, and which have superior safety ratings, but none of these things are likely to be top of mind when you're behind the wheel. If you want equal performance and even more luxury, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 and BMW X5 M will be happy to provide it in bucketloads, but they're over $30,000 more expensive. As pointless and environmentally offensive as it is, we love the Grand Cherokee SRT.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT starts at $68,395, a price that excludes tax, licensing, registration, and the manufacturer's destination charge of $1,495. By comparison, both the BMW X5 M and the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 start at over $100,000.
Jeep's Grand Cherokee SRT is offered in a single trim: the SRT. It features four-wheel-drive, a Bilstein adaptive damping suspension, and an eight-speed automatic transmission, with 475 hp supplied by a naturally aspirated Hemi V8 displacing 6.4 liters.
The SRT features 20-inch satin carbon alloy wheels along with a liftgate spoiler, a power tailgate, headlamp washers, and LED daytime running lamps. Inside, dual-zone automatic climate control keeps occupants comfortable, along with the standard leather/perforated suede seats with heating both front and rear. Eight-way power front seats, an 8.4-inch infotainment system with navigation, a heated steering wheel, and blind-spot detection are all standard.
On the SRT, the Signature Leather-Wrapped Interior Package adds Laguna leather to the seats and lower panels, along with matte carbon spears on the instrument panels and doors - it costs $5,295. A high-performance audio system comprises 19 speakers and will set you back $2,095, while the rear DVD entertainment center costs $1,995. The Trailer Tow Group IV includes a compact spare tire, heavy-duty engine cooling, and a seven and four-pin wiring harness for $995. Standalone features include a dual-pane panoramic sunroof ($2,095), high-performance brakes ($1,295), and 20-inch black satin alloy wheels ($995).
It's a standalone trim, which means if you want an SRT, you get an SRT. We'd recommend a few of the options packages though, including the Signature Leather-Wrapped Interior Package and high-performance 19-speaker sound system. Towing with a vehicle like this also makes sense, so consider the $995 Trailer Tow Group IV package. Lastly, we'd add the $1,295 high-performance brakes, because the SRT carries far more speed than you realize and needs the help stopping all that heft.
The Land Rover Range Rover Sport follows a similar philosophy to the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Both are SUVs from manufacturers that are experts at producing capable off-roaders, but both prioritize on-road performance. At $68,650, the Range Rover Sport starts off at a nearly identical price point to the SRT, but with a 254-hp turbodiesel engine, it's not nearly as rapid, taking 7.2 seconds to 60. It's vastly more efficient than the SRT, though. The Range Rover Sport is better off-road, though, with superior approach/departure angles. It also has a classier cabin, but the SRT counters with a larger trunk. The range-topping Range Rover Sport SVR matches the SRT from 0-60 at 4.3 seconds, but it costs close to $50,000 more. If you want the more premium offering, it's the Range Rover Sport, but the Grand Cherokee SRT's price/performance ratio can't be matched.
As is so often the case, the German combatant to the Grand Cherokee SRT is a lot more expensive. The X5 M starts at $105,100 and has 600 horsepower from its 4.4-liter V8, enough for 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds, eclipsing the SRT. The X5 is a much newer vehicle, though, so the cabin feels significantly more expensive than the Jeep's. The X5 is also not just fast, but goes around corners with more conviction than the Grand Cherokee. Plus, the BMW is well-equipped with features like four-zone climate control, a power panoramic moonroof, and 18-way power-adjustable front seats. Does that make it over $35,000 more valuable than the SRT, though? It's up to you to decide. As with the Range Rover Sport, the X5 M has brand cachet and status in its favor and, being newer, is the better overall SUV. But the Jeep is no less entertaining and will save you a decent sum of cash.