2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review: Introduction
Is it really that ridiculous to build a sport-utility vehicle that pushes the 500 horsepower mark? After all, it’s already possible to buy 200-mph plus exotics that can only be driven as their makers intended on a closed race course, but these rare birds don't seem to draw anywhere near the ire that enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike love to heap on trucks like the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Sure, SUVs are heavier, and are burdened with the cornering handicap of a higher center of gravity, but Bentley and Rolls-Royce built two-ton high-speed behemoths for decades with nary a wag of the automotive community's scornful tongue.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT might seem like an odd duck - a high performance people mover built by a company more known for fording rivers than jumping over them, Dukes of Hazzard style - but it's also an incredibly practical machine that unlike a Ferrari or a Lamborghini doesn't ask its owners to reserve a garage spot for a second ride to take to work during the week. It's also something of a bargain when compared against its competition, checking in at tens of thousands of dollars less than the Mercedes-Benz ML63 and the BMW X5 M without giving up much in terms of absolute thrills.
I had the chance to drive the Grand Cherokee SRT over 1,200 miles from Montreal, Quebec to Bar Harbor, Maine and back, spending a week Downeast to sample the versatility and power of this well-engineered machine. My time with the Jeep left me convinced that there's more method than madness to this hot-rod SUV.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review: Models and Prices
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT comes in a single trim level that sits at the top of the mid-size SUV's lineup. For a starting MSRP of $63,195, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT includes heated and cooled leather sport seats, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows and door locks with keyless entry and push-button start, the Uconnect touchscreen interface, Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system, power adjustments for both front buckets with memory for the driver's side, satellite radio, heated rear seats with rear seat climate controls, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, adaptive HID headlights, 20-inch rims, Brembo brakes, an adaptive suspension system, special LED running lights, adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, and a limited-slip rear differential. If that seems like a lot of gear, it is - the SRT is loaded to the brim with features, with only a few stand-alone options available to boost up its price.
The vehicle I drove for a week featured a dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a Harman/Kardon audio system as additional equipment, bringing the total as-tested price to $67,780. If you're comparing the SRT to its European rivals - and I am - it's illuminating to note that a base BMW X5 M costs $88,850, while a starter Mercedes-Benz ML63 will set you back a stunning $97,250. Neither model approaches the Jeep in terms of standard gear, requiring the addition of numerous, and expensive, options packages to provide a comparable level of comfort and technology.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review: Design
- The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT has seen several updates to its interior and exterior styling for the current model year.
Sometimes a nip and a tuck is all it takes to help a particular design reach its full potential. While last year's Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT certainly wore its malevolence on its sleeve, for 2014 the vehicle sees a number of changes made to its visual personality that add detail and class to its overall presentation. The biggest changes can be found up front where a new set of highlights take on the narrower profile of the SUV's revised grille, adding even more sport to the SRT's gaping front fascia and sculpted aerodynamic body kit. LED lights surrounding the headlights glitter like pearls around the neck of a gorilla, while a matching LED treatment in the tail light area is also a welcome addition to the Jeep. My test vehicle's deep black paint and tinted windows made me feel as though I was part of some type of elite paramilitary group - or futuristic presidential motorcade - each time I approached the automobile.
Those familiar with the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT will immediately notice the improvements that have been made to the new model's passenger compartment. Jeep has gone out of its way to ensure that almost every surface that might be touch by the SRT's occupants feels softer and more upscale than it did the year before, and the leather used on the Grand Cherokee's seats is also a cut above what one would expect from the automaker. A flat-bottom steering wheel and brushed aluminum trim remind you - if the SRT badges stitched into the headrests and covering the airbag didn't - that you are riding in the most powerful Jeep ever built.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT gains new seats, but maintains its interior dimensions.
It wasn't until 200 miles into my trip that I realized the reason my back was so uncomfortable in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT's driver's seat was because I had neglected to properly adjust the lumbar support. Once that had been taken care of, I very much enjoyed the time I spent inside the SUV's cabin, as not only did the Jeep's seating position offer a commanding view of the road ahead, but its ventilated buckets kept me cool and dry throughout the humid and at times rainy week that I spent in Maine. My rear passengers were also in for a treat, as the reclining second row of accommodations were quite comfortable for full-size adults and also provided a decent view out of the windshield. The vehicle's panoramic sunroof saw lots of action during the trip, letting in enough light to expand the vehicle's black-trimmed passenger compartment but shutting out glare and unwelcome heat thanks to its polarized glass.
For reasons that even I don't fully understand, I decided that I needed to buy a queen-size bed frame in Bar Harbor and bring it back home with me to Montreal. When I showed up in the showroom with my tape measure and my father's Ford F-150 pickup (as my parents were also vacationing with me for the week), I discovered that there was no way the solid wood unit would fit inside his five-and-a-half foot truck box. Fortunately, it was Grand Cherokee SRT to the rescue, which gave me more than 84 inches from the armrest back to the tailgate within which to load the bed's long side pieces. I carried the entire frame - headboard and all - back home with no problems, and even managed to load a week's worth of luggage, book shopping, and antiquing on top of it within the spacious confines of the Jeep's 68.3 cubic feet of total cargo space (with the rear seats folded forward). The next time someone tries to tell you that your high performance SUV isn't practical, feel free to inform them of the time mine out-hauled America's best-selling pickup truck.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee features the next-generation Uconnect system.
- A redesigned shifter has been installed for 2014.
- The Performance Pages app is also new.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT's feature set revolves around its heavily-revised Uconnect touchscreen interface. Boasting an 8.4-inch screen mounted on the center stack - and paired with a smaller TFT screen that replaces a traditional speedometer directly in front of the driver - Uconnect is your window in the entertainment, communications, climate, navigation, and other more specialized features of the Grand Cherokee SRT. The original Uconnect was already quite decent, but the updated version takes things to a new level in terms of graphics, response-to-touch, and intuitive menus.
I very much appreciated that the navigation system was capable of accepting GPS coordinates in addition to street addresses, as the cabin in which I stayed in Maine wasn't accessible through the feature's software maps. I was also impressed by the clarity and power of the optional Harmon/Kardon stereo system that came with the Jeep, as even with the subwoofer turned up I never felt like the rest of my music was drowned out by a wall of bass. I was less enamored of the fact that, like so many of its brethren, Jeep has elected to make heated/ventilated seat controls on-screen only. I would much prefer a physical button, especially when wearing winter gloves. I also encountered a glitch wherein the satellite radio display became stuck on a single station despite the tuner bringing in the audio from the new selection. This was solved by turning the vehicle off and then starting it back up again, much like rebooting a desktop PC or laptop.
The TFT screen in the gauge cluster not only allowed me to choose between either a digital or a digitally-reproduced analog speedometer, but it also provided me with access to detailed fuel consumption and trip data as well as a 'green' analysis of my driving habits. A number of engine readouts could be displayed on the screen, and I could additionally choose to time my 0-60-mph runs, quarter-mile jaunts, and braking performance on the same TFT real estate. Even more performance information was available via the Performance Pages app, which transforms the center LCD screen into a veritable cornucopia of stats and figures about the SRT, including a real-time horsepower and torque gauges. Jeep also lets you upload your high speed exploits online to share with other SRT enthusiasts.
Not every change made to the inside of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee could be considered a resounding success. Notably, the vehicle has now gained the same vestigial shifter that can be found in other Chrysler products that share its updated transmission. Protruding from the center console, the small handle and vague electronic gear selection make it really, really easily to accidentally shift from Park to Drive when you originally intended to hit reverse. More worrisome is its ability to facilitate going from Drive to Reverse instead of Park, a mistake that I made more than once during my extended period piloting the SUV. Why can't we just have a shifter that works like any other automatic tranny selector since time immemorial? I shouldn't have to constantly have my guard up when simply putting a vehicle in Park because of the design of its switchgear.
I also had an unnerving experience with the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT's horn - or rather, lack thereof. While driving through downtown Ellsworth, Maine a compact sedan pulled out in front of me suddenly, and when I went to use the horn to alert the other driver to my presence absolutely nothing happened. Restarting the Jeep didn't work this time, and I drove the rest of the week with no functioning horn, relying on the rumble of the SRT's exhaust to serve as my audible calling card.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT adds a 911 assist button to the rearview mirror.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT comes standard with front side impact airbags, dual forward airbags, and side curtain airbags, along with electronic stability control, traction control, hill descent control, and hill ascent control. Active safety gear that is included free of charge with the SRT model includes blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and cross-path detection while reversing.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Crash-Test Ratings:
The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT earns a four-star crash test safety rating (out of five) from the NHTSA, while the IIHS awarded the SUV Top Safety Pick status due to its crash test performance.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT gains an eight-speed automatic transmission.
- Launch control is also new for 2014.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is equipped with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that generates 470 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. This formidable output is harnessed by a standard four-wheel drive system that includes a number of driver-selectable modes designed to facilitate both daily driving and track performance, as well as a launch control system for ultra-rapid acceleration. Helping to improve the Grand Cherokee SRT's fuel economy - that's not a typo - is a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage for the Jeep now checks in at 13-mpg in city driving and 19-mpg on the highway.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review: Driving Impressions
When I mentioned to friends and colleagues that I would be using the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT as my road trip chariot, a collection was taken up in order to help me pay for the gas I would need to make it to Maine and back without having to take out a home equity loan. They needn't have worried, as Jeep's move to put an eight-speed autobox between the truck's V-8 and the road saw me actually beating the factory's 15-mpg combined rating by an incredible four and a half miles per gallon. In the past, I have had enormous difficulty matching the advertised EPA figure on a fair number of hybrids, so besting the window sticker by 30 percent in a 470 horsepower, 4,000 lbs-plus SUV was a real shocker. To be fair, my jaunt to Maine included a fair amount of highway driving, I used the Eco mode (second gear starts, more aggressive cylinder deactivation, etc) as much as possible, and when pushed around town the Grand Cherokee SRT was only too willing to drink fuel at a more rapid pace. Still, my overall mileage for the 1,350 mile journey stood at 19.5-mpg at the end of the trip.
I didn’t baby the vehicle, either. That 19.5-mpg feature included a solid hour of 0-60-mph testing during a video shoot using the vehicle's new launch control system. Honestly, I couldn't see much of a difference between using launch control and simply flooring the Jeep with the four-wheel drive system set to Track (it also offers Sport, Auto, Snow, and Tow settings), as either method saw me ticking off 5.5-second times. With more practice, I might have been able to get the Grand Cherokee below five seconds, which is where Jeep tells me it should be.
In addition to allowing the SUV to consume less fuel, the eight-speed automatic transmission attached to the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT also helps the vehicle deliver a much smoother driving experience compared to last year's model. No more hunting for gears or lurching through the cogs after stabbing the throttle - the 2014 edition of the performance truck simply surges forward confidently when accelerating from any speed. Around town the Jeep is less jarring than before, and its highway behavior is above reproach, strengthening the case for it to be used as a daily driver.
I didn't push the handling too hard during my week with the SRT, but after having taken the Jeep for a few laps around the track at Circuit of the Americas last spring I knew that the grip was there if I needed it. Torrential rain marked several of the days and nights that I spent in Maine, and the Grand Cherokee SRT never got out of line even with all of those horses raring to go under its hood. I would have liked a more aggressive exhaust note to go with its storm trooper looks - the vehicle's cabin was surprisingly placid at speed - but other than that I have no complaints about the formidable, and comfortable, driving experience that the SUV had to offer me and my family.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review: Final Thoughts
With the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, the SUV brand has gone ahead and built a high performance truck that is truly at the top of its game. With excellent utility thanks to its towing capacity (7,200 lbs), its cargo-friendly interior, and its spacious passenger accommodations, the Grand Cherokee SRT is a drag-friendly people mover that can break into the 13's in the quarter mile and then take your whole family camping that same evening.
From a value perspective, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT stomps all over the 500-plus horsepower sport-utility vehicles on the market, as few can match its combination of speed, comfort, and standard features for the price. Avoiding the fact that the Grand Cherokee SRT can punch well above its weight with vehicles costing as much as $40,000 more, it's important to note that the fit and finish on this model have surpassed the 'premium' tag and are now well into the 'luxury' sphere. Sure, it doesn't offer quite the same level of handling as the Porsche Cayenne, but re-reading that sentence reveals that a Jeep is bested only by a Porsche in the fun department, which is an excellent place to be if you are a domestic automaker.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review: Pros and Cons
- Very attractive sporty
- Dramatically higher class luxury interior
- Excellent Uconnect vehicle interface
- Startling straight-line speed, well-behaved cornering and wet weather grip
- Fuel mileage not so dire on the highway
- Extremely practical from a cargo and passenger perspective
- More affordable than any of its competitors
- Around-town fuel mileage somewhat alarming
- It's lots of fun, but it's not a sports car
- Irritating shifter mechanism
- Dude, where's my horn?
Chrysler Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.
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