2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Road Test Review
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT: faster living through technology
Scores High: Powerful and advanced drivetrain, high-tech user interface, wide-ranging capabilities
Scores Low: Some interior panels still not as upscale as the MSRP would suggest
Total Car Score Analysis
Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of Chrysler’s SRT brand, describes the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT as “the most flexible, the most capable” model to wear the SRT badge. During the new Grand Cherokee SRT’s introduction he was quick to point out that only about 4,000 are produced every year, not because of a lack of demand but because Jeep wants to control the model’s impact on its CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) numbers. According to Gilles the Grand Cherokee SRT brings an entirely different buyer to the Jeep brand. “These are enthusiasts that love sports cars. They have lots of money, but they don’t like to give up anything. They want a vehicle that can do everything.” The new Grand Cherokee SRT has incorporated several new technologies that the standard 2014 Grand Cherokee received, all of which will further expand its “do everything” nature.
The 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT’s exterior provides more differentiation from the parent model than any previous version. The bi-xenon headlamps and larger taillights, for instance, are distinct from the regular Grand Cherokee by way of a dark background that emphasizes the new LED technology. The headlights are now encased in a blacked-out, seven-slot grille panel with chrome accents. An updated rear spoiler, mounted on the one-touch power liftgate, also features a new SRT badge (note the removal of the number “8” from the SUV’s official name). New “Goliath” 20-inch, 5-spoke polished wheels debut for 2014, but the previous “Spider Monkey” split-spoke design remains available (in either Satin Carbon or SRT-exclusive Black Vapor Chrome finishes). The new Grand Cherokee SRT can be ordered in one of seven colors: Billet Silver, Bright White, Brilliant Black, Deep Cherry Red, Granite Crystal, Maximum Steel or Redline Pearl.
Performance certainly wasn’t lacking in the previous Grand Cherokee SRT8. It already had a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 engine making 470 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque, and the engine carries over largely unchanged. What did change is an all-new 8-speed automatic transmission that far more effectively (and efficiently) sends power to the Grand Cherokee SRT’s four wheels than the previous 5-speed unit. With rev-matched downshifts and smooth, instantaneous gear swaps the new transmission makes everything feel faster and more precise.
We exercised the new transmission at the Circuit of the America’s race facility in Austin, Texas. The highly technical track took full advantage of the SRT’s upgraded drivetrain technology, letting us experience the rapid gear changes while playing with the Selec-Track system to alter suspension, transmission, traction control, throttle response and transfer case behavior. Two of these settings, “Sport” and “Track,” were used to reduce body roll and send more power to the rear wheels (65 percent in Sport mode or 70 percent in Track mode).
Other Selec-Track settings include “Auto” for maximum comfort, “Tow” for reduced pitch and bounce, and “Snow” for conservative power application. There’s also an “Eco” mode available when Selec-Track is in the Auto setting. This remaps the throttle, transmission and cylinder deactivation settings for up to a six percent increase in fuel efficiency. For instance, the transmission will start in second gear unless aggressive throttle is used, but if/when aggressive throttle is applied (for instance, an opening in traffic appears that the driver want to take advantage of) Eco mode will be temporarily overridden without the need to manually disable it.
At the opposite extreme is a new Launch Control system that maximizes engine, transmission, suspension and stability control settings for maximum acceleration in a straight line. Just step on the brake, push the button on the center console and mash the throttle while the computers figures everything out. According to the Jeep folks, if you do that you’ll hit 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and cross the quarter mile in about 13.5 seconds before topping out at 160 mph. But if you keep doing that you probably won’t get the EPA-rated 13 city and 19 highway mpg.
Upgraded brake components from Brembo, including six-piston front calipers and vented rotors at all four corners, let the 5,100-pound Grand Cherokee SRT stop as confidently as it goes, with a 60-to-zero braking distance of 116 feet. The tow rating has also jumped from last year’s 5,400 pounds to 7,200 pounds for 2014, reflecting not only the capable brake system but also the effective use of those three extra gears within the new transmission.
Interior Design and Function
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT benefits from the same interior upgrades seen on the standard Grand Cherokee. These include a larger 8.4-inch central touchscreen display and a 7-inch TFT display mounted in the gauge cluster. These screens, along with upgraded voice recognition technology, make up the new Uconnect Access system – probably the most advanced in-car technology currently offered. The range of features includes everything from voice-activated text messaging to full musical app (Aha, Pandora, iHeart Radio, etc.) integration. Looking for 3D maps? Want a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot? Would you like to get e-mail alerts or remotely start the engine? Uconnect Access lets you do it all, and a lot more. All this technology isn’t just about bringing the “cloud” into the cabin. Enthusiasts will appreciate the reconfigurable gauge cluster and SRT “Performance Pages” that can report (and record) everything from zero-to-60 mph acceleration runs to real-time G-forces and lap times. And, with the built-in 3G connection, Grand Cherokee SRT drivers can instantly share these statistics with like-minded enthusiasts.
Non-connectivity improvements were also made to the 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT's interior. The heavily bolstered, heated/ventilated front seats return, featuring leather and suede covers, but they can now be had in optional Sepia (tan) leather in addition to the standard black. When ordered with the Sepia interior a new black leather headliner is included to elevate the SRT’s premium atmosphere. The SRT-exclusive steering wheel, leather wrapped with a flat bottom, has also been re-engineered to take full advantage of the Grand Cherokee’s latest Uconnect Access features and revised paddle shifters. Some hard plastic surfaces on the lower dash, door panels and center console remain, and we'd like to see them upgraded given the SRT's price point.
Primary Features and Options
The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, starting at $62,995, comes with nearly the full array of performance, luxury and technology features that cost extra on lesser Grand Cherokees. Everything from heated, ventilated and leather seats to the active suspension with dynamic roll control, launch control, 20-inch alloy wheels and the full suite of Uconnect Access features is standard. Options are few, but include a dual-pane sunroof ($1,995), 19-speaker (825-watt) audio system ($1,995), enhanced Sepia leather interior ($1,495), a rear DVD entertainment package ($1,995) and a trailer tow package ($995).
It’s Perfect For…
A vehicle like the 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT is perhaps the best example of how far automotive technology has taken us in just the last few years. This Jeep is as much a statement about in-car information and connectivity as it is a track-ready race machine that goes, stops and turns far better than any 5,100-pound vehicle should. Powerful and nimble SUVs are so 2007. Now they need to deliver zero-to-60 in less than 5 seconds, 0.90 Gs of lateral acceleration and the ability to find the cheapest gas prices or the best local Thai food – without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT does all of those things better than any other high-performance SUV currently available.
Vehicle Tested: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $62,995
Options on Test Vehicle: Dual-pane panoramic sunroof ($1,595), Rear DVD entertainment package ($1,995), SRT High Performance Audio ($1,995), Destination Charge ($995)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $69,575
2014 BMW X5 M
2014 Porsche Cayenne
2014 Range Rover Sport
The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of Chrysler LLC