Think of a performance SUV and the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5M might pop in to your head, but have you ever considered the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT?
Jeep’s Street and Racing Technology team has added a huge 6.4-litre HEMI V8 to Jeep’s flagship off-roader, so it now produces 461bhp and can sprint from 0-62mph in five seconds – that’s not bad for a car that weighs almost 2.5 tonnes.
And the way this car gets from 0-62mph has to be one of the most dramatic experiences you can have on the road. Not only are you pinned back in your seat with instant grip from the four-wheel-drive system, but there’s a thunderous roar from the V8 that never lets up. Even at idle it rumbles away quietly, so there’s always a gentle reminder of what this car is capable of.
But even if you don’t hear it coming you’ll definitely see it. The Grand Cherokee is already a confident piece of design but the SRT takes it even further, with huge air ducts in the bonnet, a more aggressive bodykit, LED running lights, a rear spoiler and a pair of huge exhaust pipes.
Underneath the new skin, Jeep has added an active damping system that incorporates four different selectable driving modes ranging from Auto to Track. The former aims to provide the most comfortable ride, while Track and Sport modes sharpen up the handling, throttle response and steering.
No matter which mode you opt for the soft, cosseting ride of the standard Cherokee is gone. In its place is a much firmer set-up that does manage to deal with potholes and rough roads pretty well. ‘Sport’ and ‘Track’ modes firm everything up even more but deliver impressive handling for a car this size. There’s a hint of body roll but plenty of grip, and while the steering is well weighted it feels a little slow to respond.
As you might expect from a 6.4-litre V8, lugging around just under two tones of high-performance SUV, fuel consumption in the SRT is terrible. Jeep puts the official figure at 20.1mpg and that’s despite a system that shuts off half of the engine’s cylinders under light throttle loads.
But the astronomical fuel bill doesn’t seem as bad when you consider a Porsche Cayenne Turbo – which is only three-tenths quicker from 0-62mph – costs £30,000 more than the SRT’s £58,995 price-tag.
And everything you could ever ask for already comes as standard on the Jeep including part-leather seats, a dual-pane sunroof, a 19-speaker stereo, sat-nav and adaptive cruise control. The only thing missing is the genuine sense of luxury that you get in other European SUVs; the Grand Cherokee still has a few cheap feeling areas in the interior.