Maybe not the best vehicle to drive around the world – er, ok maybe that would be really, really fun!
People take travel too seriously, debating if a Nissan
Patrol is better, or a Land Rover Defender, or a Toyota Land Cruiser – who
cares, as long as you are having fun.
Fun is the point of all this expense, research and dreaming about the
open road – right? Well the team at Expedition Portal had the very serious job
of evaluating the new 470+hp, 4.8 second 0-60, fire-breathing Grand Cherokee
SRT. Our primary goal of the trip to
Austin was to spend quality time in the new diesel version, but the schedule
included a day on the track at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) course outside
of Austin, TX. This is a full road
course used for MotoGP, Formula One Grand Prix and other significant events. It
is wide and fast at 3.4 miles, consisting of 20 turns and an elevation change
of 133-feet. I did my level best to
attack the course with all of the HP, grip and technology the SRT Grand
Cherokee had to offer.
Driving the 2014 SRT Grand Cherokee really is a blast; the
reward coming with the first crack of the throttle and the smile doesn’t leave
your face until the 6.4L HEMI trembles to a stop. The brakes are incredibly effective,
something to be expected form six piston Brembo calipers and 15-inch ventilated
disks. Modulation is a bit difficult when the brakes are new and cool, but
improve with a little heat. It is just
important not to introduce too much heat, at the 5,000-pound SUV can still
induce fade with extreme use. Stoping from 60-0 occurs in only 116 feet, and
feels every bit of that as I nearly hung from my seatbelt under hard
deceleration in turns 11 and 12. The 295mm Pirelli P Zero tires had tenacious
grip on the track, howling in protest to the g-force imparted by the massive
wagon, input torque from the HEMI and the active all-wheel-drive system.
When on the track, the driver has multiple options for fun, including launch control that optimizes acceleration and 0-60 times by allowing the driver to impart WOT and left-foot braking to initiate a launch. I can assure you that the launch is breathtaking as the AWD system hooks up and punts the Grand forward like being kicked by a mule. 0-60 happens in just 4.8 seconds, although the cool morning and low elevation in Austin gave some drivers closer to 4.6 – both times will smoke sedans and competition twice the price. However, I do not believe the SRT Grand Cherokee has anything to do with value, and everything to do with a promise of performance and the reality of excellent day-to-day usability. This same machine that chews up tires and asphalt on the track can also be put in auto mode for a comfortable commute, the eco mode disabling cylinders and providing nearly 20mpg. The truck can also be set to “snow” mode and provide safety and traction during a winter storm, or “tow” can be dialed-in for pulling your 7,000-pound sailboat. It is really the breadth of capability that is astonishing and after I pulled the truck into pit lane I just couldn’t help but laugh at the fun I just have, and wonder if they wouldn’t let me drive it to the Transfăgărășan. . .