Even after all these years there are still some folks who, when you say Jeep, picture some sort of pseudo-military Wrangler type vehicle. Well, let me bring you into the 21st century with the new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.
And although this looks like the previous model, there are differences. The sides are flatter and more slab-like. The greenhouse, as they call it…that area above the car’s beltline is lower. The truck is 3 inches longer. Oh, I almost forgot. Now it has a Hemi.
The new Grand Cherokee shows that the recent near death experience at Chrysler has given the company religion. The recent spate of cheap interiors made from plastic that belonged on kids meal toys, and fake wood that belonged on the stock of a Daisy BB gun, are gone.
The big Jeep SRT Alpine Edition was swathed in absolutely gorgeous leather on the seats, and fine grained leather and vinyl on the dash, with real hand stitching. The real carbon fiber trim is superb and overall, the roomy interior feels as good as the $80,000 Range Rover we drove a few weeks ago, for 3-quarters the price.
Under the hood of regular earthly Grand Cherokees is one of 3 engines. You can have a V6, and a 4.7-liter V8, but our SRT Alpine Edition had the 6.4-liter, 470 horsepower Hemi, which will take this puppy to 60 in under 5 seconds and produces mileage that is…uh…well frankly it stinks. But this is a 5300 pound box with a V8, for crying out loud. What were you expecting?
What you get is 12 miles per gallon city, 18 highway. Yes, 18 highway.
And if that road is wet, watch out. We jumped into our test truck on a rainy day and drove to a story 60 miles away. The high performance, 20-inch, Pirelli Scorpion tires and snubbed down sports suspension made this a fidgety beast in the rain. So much so, that I set the suspension knob to snow to try to improve the stability. Forget high speed, I was nervous as reluctant bridegroom.
On dry pavement it’s a blast, but it is still a truck. I’ll bore you with my philosophy again. If you want a sports car, get a sports car. Jeeps are trucks, period. Any mixing will be a compromise.
Off road, you have a choice of 3 different 4-wheel-drive systems of increasing sophistication, and like all true trail rated Jeeps, it is one of the 2 or 3 best off-roaders in the world.
Not that most owners will ever know that. At just over $63,000, our Grand Cherokee SRT Alpine had every bell and whistle you can get, but the base model starts around $30K, so you can take your pick.
But whichever you pick, the Grand Cherokee is now back on top in its class. But then again, it has quite a name to live up to.