Automotive

Car review: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT tested in UAE

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT UAE

Another SRT, huh? Which one is this?

It’s the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, Jeep’s answer to the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5M and Range Rover Sport. And I reckon it’s a worthy adversary to these much more expensive competitors.

And how have you come to that conclusion?

Well, let’s start with the numbers. The 2017 Grand Cherokee SRT currently has a list price of AED 330,000 (though you can pick one up for a lot less than that – we’ll get to that later), and it comes with a 475 bhp, 6.4-litre HEMI V8. It’ll do 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, and go on to a top speed of 258 km/h.

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In comparison, the entry-level Range Rover Sport is AED 356,000, which will get you a 340 bhp supercharged V6 engine. For anything like the power of the Jeep SRT, though, you’ll need to opt for the Range Rover Sport Supercharged, which comes with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 chucking out 510 bhp. That’ll cost you at least AED 479,000. And it’s a similar story with the Porsche and the BMW.

So the Jeep offers big power at a much lower price. But come on, it’s not going to be as nice a car, is it?

Sure, anyone who pays attention to their cars will know that European motors of that level offer properly nice interiors. But the Grand Cherokee SRT’s won’t leave you wanting for much. Older models used to suffer from that old American ideal that cheap plastics were acceptable in AED 300,000 cars, so long as all the tech was there and the seats were leather. The whole Grand Cherokee range had its interior refreshed a couple of years ago, though, and the SRT’s is the best of the bunch, befitting the car’s price tag.

For example, you can spec seats made from ‘Laguna’ leather, sourced from Swedish tanner Elmo Leather, which chooses hides exclusively from countries where barbed wire is banned, so that there isn’t any risk of the raw hides being scratched. Elsewhere, you get a Harmon Kardon stereo system with an 825-watt amp and a system that sees silent sound waves deployed across the interior to reduce the effects of outside noise on the audio experience. These are the sorts of comfort-oriented considerations that brands like Bentley shouted about not that long ago, and yet here they are on an American brute.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT UAE

Okay, so what does all this luxury add up to?

A wonderful cockpit in which to spend time, frankly. There’s leather everywhere – hand-stitched on the door trim and dashboard cover – while the roof is lined with a sporty, Alcantara-like material that’s stunning to glide your fingers over. The slightly flat-bottomed steering wheel is a mix of leather and Alcantara, and it’s shaped beautifully to fit just right into your clenched fists, while tactile paddle gear-shifters lie behind it. And thanks to the panoramic sunroof that stretches well into the rear half of the cabin, the whole package is serenely bathed in sunlight.

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In terms of the switchgear, there are some plastics that might not be up to the mark of Jeep’s European competitors, but they’re really not that bad, either. Every button you press has a meaty, if not premium, feel to it, and the 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system, while not great in terms of screen resolution, is miles ahead of the Europeans in terms of functionality and ease of use. Bluetooth pairing is a cinch, and navigation through the various functions is so much simpler than what you’d find on, say, a BMW.

And what about the drive?

Well, being an SRT, it’s dominated by that engine. It’s the same basic unit as the one found in the Dodge Challenger SRT 392, which we liked a lot. And as in the Dodge, this means that you’re in for a lot of noise and excitement whenever you flex your right foot. Even in Auto mode, the slightest blip of the accelerator will result in a distant but stomach-wrenching rumble, while flooring it will unleash a torrent of adrenalin-fuelled fury. Flick the drive selector to Sport mode, and everything is dialled up to 11 – you get more noise, more drama, more grin-inducing responses. It’s wonderful in just about every way if you like your full-fat V8s.

But because the Grand Cherokee is so much more of a refined car from the get-go, it isn’t as visceral and wayward as the Challenger. You still get 90% of the fun that the amazing engine provides, but it’s wrapped up in a package that’s much more appealing on a day-to-day basis. Put it this way: the Challenger is a bodybuilder who spends his days flexing his muscles on the beach, making a big show of his gains. The Grand Cherokee SRT is that same bodybuilder, except he’s got a master’s degree and he dresses in discreet, black suits.

So it’d be alright for the daily commute?

Certainly. The Grand Cherokee has standard, all-wheel drive, so you won’t be pulling little drifts out of corner, or spinning up the rears as you blast away from traffic lights. The whole package is relatively composed and grown up – though if you want to be a little silly, you have a whole lot of power to play with.

Indeed, the Grand Cherokee still has a sense of humour about it – there’s a launch control button that’ll gear the driver aids towards giving you the quickest possible start off the line, and there’s even a 0-100 km/h timer that’ll give you a read-out of your quickest and last 0-100 km/h times. Trying to match Jeep’s claimed time of 4.8 seconds on public roads is a good way to lose a licence, though.

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Aside from that, the Grand Cherokee SRT is a brilliant long-distance cruiser. I drove it from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, and when I got there, realising I hadn’t packed a swimsuit for a quick stop on the beach, I was delighted that I had to drive back because I had nothing else to do. It felt more like a quick jaunt to the shops, rather than an hour’s journey each way.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT UAE

Will it corner?

It isn’t bad for a big barge of an SUV, but fast corners, even in sport mode, result in a fair bit of body roll and a little understeer. To be fair to the Jeep, you’d roll the car if you were in a normal SUV trying to corner like the Grand Cherokee SRT can. But I wouldn’t recommend taking it on a track day all the same (despite the press images here).

And what about off-road? This is a Jeep after all.

Certainly, Jeep has sacrificed some of the Grand Cherokee’s (very good) off-road ability in the pursuit of turning it into a fast-as-hell street brawler. The only real off-road mode on the drive selector is for snow driving, which is obviously useless in this part of the world.

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With permanent four-wheel drive, decent ground clearance and all that power, the SRT fares alright on medium to soft sand. Think driving along the beach, rather than taking on the vast openness of the desert. It won’t be as good as a regular Grand Cherokee, mind, and it’d be destroyed in the sand by something like a Nissan Patrol Super Safari. The SRT is simply happier on the road than off. And that’s fine by me, to be honest.

How so?

Well, look at the competition. None of these fast, sport-minded SUVs can really go off-road (the current Range Rover Sport is better for this, admittedly, but then you pay the price for that), so it’s unfair to hold the Grand Cherokee SRT to a higher standard when it’s noticeably less expensive.

At AED 330,000, it’s not a cheap car, though, is it? 

No, but you can knock a lot off that number if you head to Jeep Trading Enterprises, the Dubai dealer. The list price is AED 330,000, but the dealer will front up a big chunk of the down payment for you, bringing the price down to below AED 300,000. And there are good finance options available, with a free, five-year or 100,000 km service package.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT UAE

And what if I want, you know, a regular Grand Cherokee?

You’re spoilt for choice. I’d stay away from the entry-level Laredo, which is criminally under-equipped for a car in its class. But don’t be put off by the ‘Exclusive’ Grand Cherokee Laredo, which is only a smidge more expensive, comes with loads more kit, and will see the dealer front the entire down payment for you. You’ll be able to drive out of the showroom without putting down a dirham.

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The pick of the bunch, though, is the ‘Highline’, which comes with all of the toys that you get on the SRT (remote bootlid, keyless entry and go, and even remote engine start), but instead packs a 295 bhp, 3.6-litre V6. Without the dealer down payment contribution, it’s an expensive proposition, but thanks to that offer, you get a lot of car for the money.

JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SRT SPECS: 

Engine: 6.4-litre HEMI V8
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Power: 475 bhp
0-100 km/h: 4.8 s
Top speed: 258 km/h
Price: AED 330,000
Dealer: Al Futtaim Trading Enterprises

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