This isn’t an entirely new concept, is it? Increasing SUV sales demand halo products, which exemplify pretty much everything an SUV can be. We’ve known for a while that they can be rugged, imposing and luxurious. What we needed to know was just how fast and agile they can be. In a fast-approaching future, where the SUV is the most ubiquitous form of road-transport, can the super-SUV possibly satiate our considerable appetite for motoring?
The answers have come in various shapes and sizes, mostly suffixed by acronyms and crackling exhausts. Well, there’s a new SUV in town, and it has a new acronym. It’s called the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. The acronym stands for Street & Racing Technology, and is something usually found on cars from Jeep’s sister brand, Dodge. Unless you’ve been locked up in a Soviet prison for half a century, you’ll recall that Dodge forms the muscle car manufacturing holy trinity, along with Ford and GM. Dodge’s contributions are arguably greater, not only because the Charger and the Challenger continue to wave the muscle car flag, but because they popularised the HEMI V8 (an engine with a hemispherical combustion chamber). The Grand Cherokee is the ideal Jeep to be endowed with a HEMI V8. It’s arguably Jeep’s most wholesome and refined product, and the only member of the pack to enter the luxury off-roading ranks. In its latest avatar, the Grand Cherokee manages to look fairly handsome too, retaining the muscularity of traditional SUVs, while still looking modern, with its chrome-lined grille and slender, LED headlamps.
None of these factors will hold your attention for long, not when there’s a 6.4-litre V8 waiting under the hood. That’s a naturally aspirated 6.4-litre V8, mind you, the last vestige of America’s endangered motoring heritage. This means that the Grand Cherokee SRT is, at the moment, the most authentic muscle car experience you can buy in India. It’s the same engine that’s found in the Dodge Challenger SRT8 and the Dodge Charger SRT8, where it benefits from being unencumbered by at least 500 extra kg that the Jeep carries. Still, that engine note is as raw and pure as they come — no forced induction or emission crackdowns impeding its ability to sing loudly.
What we like: Exceptionally comfortable leather seats; launch control; glorious engine
What we don’t: Body roll; fuel consumption
As expected, it’s not neck-snappingly fast, but it has the steady, self-assured rhythm of a muscle car down pat. That’s not to say that it is, by any means, anything close to slow. In fact, a slightly miscalculated tap on the accelerator will make it lurch forward, since, much like any traditional normally aspirated V8, it’s entirely unfamiliar with the concept of lag. And that’s what’s most refreshing about the SRT — that’s precisely what sets it apart from the rest of the super-SUVs. Sure, they might be quicker, and quite possibly more composed around a racetrack, but the way the Jeep cuts out all the recently appointed middlemen that lie between throttle and instant, unholy combustion — that’s what makes it truly special.
What works remarkably well along with the engine is an 8-speed automatic gearbox, which shifts cogs so well, the car just plunges forward even during tight overtaking manoeuvres. To make things more fun, there’s a ‘launch control’ feature which, when used, pitches the car into triple digit speeds in a little over five seconds. The SRT is the most flamboyant way for Jeep to make an entrance in the Indian market. It’s the kind of big and luxurious SUV most of its target customer base will respond to. It’s also got a chunky, meaty steering wheel, which has sportscar-like heft to it, and a great set of leather seats (the same leather that goes into Ferraris). And it’s old-school fast, which makes it a rare breed.