The idea of a big-dollar, high-performance SUV may seem like a contradiction, but it’s difficult to suppress a smile when you stomp on the Grand Cherokee SRT’s throttle and you’re pinned back in the seat. Suddenly, a hot SUV seems perfectly logical, or at least fun if you like to go fast quickly, as in zero to 60 in 4.8 seconds.
In general, SUVs are big, tall and boxy, the antithesis of a sports car. Yet, for a certain segment of the market, a performance SUV is just the ticket. Look around and you’ll see that most luxury brands offer something similar. The popularity of the Porsche Cayenne, for example, has been a big part of that brand’s sales success. In that light, the Grand Cherokee SRT makes sense. While it’s aimed at an admittedly small audience, the SRT creates a halo whose glow enhances the brand.
The test car, from Chrysler’s press fleet, was the Red Vapor special edition. The Redline Red Pearl paint was accented with black trim, black chrome 20-inch wheels and red and black upholstery. Black and white paint is also offered.
With the exception of the sticker price – $76,465 – and the gas mileage – 13 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway – the SRT is my favorite Grand Cherokee. The 6.4-liter Hemi engine cranks out a whopping 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. Maximum towing is now 7,200 pounds.
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The eight-speed automatic transmission can be shifted manually, and there’s a launch control feature for blasting away from a stop with maximum speed and traction. To use it, put one foot on the brake, floor the throttle and then release the brake. The vehicle’s traction system balances traction and throttle as you roar off. Doing this sounds abusive, and I didn’t try it.
The engine deactivates cylinders to save fuel whenever possible, and an Eco mode can be selected with a button on the console. I averaged 13.1 mpg in my week of mostly city driving.
Six-piston Brembo brakes are used on the front with four-piston units on the back. The SRT will stop from 60 miles per hour in 116 feet.
The adaptive sport-tuned suspension enables the vehicle to take corners with confidence, sit firmly on the road yet ride comfortably. The driver can select Auto, Sport, Track, Tow and Snow driving modes with a knob on the console. Track mode tightens the suspension and changes the transmission’s shift points.
The red and black sports seats were exceptionally comfortable, with proper support on the side and back. An active noise cancelling system uses the vehicle’s audio system to enhance sound-system clarity while maintaining the V-8 exhaust note.
The 8.4-inch touch screen used for vehicle, navigation and audio systems is one of the simplest and easiest to use. The test car also had the blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and forward collision warning.
Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The base price of the test car was $64,395. Options included the leather and suede interior, rear-seat entertainment system with video screens in the back of each headrest, trailer tow package, Harman/Kardon audio system, dual-pane sunroof and a trailer hitch. The sticker price was $76,465.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Engine: 6.4-liter, 475-horsepower V-8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 114.8 inches
Curb weight: 5,150 pounds
Base price: $64,395
As driven: $76,465
MPG rating: 13 in the city, 19 on the highway