The Aussies love a V8 – but will they love Jeep’s new 468bhp 6.4-litre Hemi-powered Grand Cherokee SRT? We headed to the Southern hemisphere to find out.
Our 1500-mile round trip up the coast of Western Australia didn’t have the most auspicious of starts, when we discovered that the Jeep’s Brembo brakes weren’t enough to avoid an incident involving a 50kg kangaroo. The unfortunate animal came off rather worse than the Jeep in the head-on collision; the SUV sustained relatively little damage aside from a smashed grille and battered bonnet air intakes.
We’d started at the state capital of Perth and were heading north to the Cape Range National Park, near the town of Exmouth. Our route took in the Coral Coast road, whose dramatic Indian Ocean backdrop makes it one of Australia’s most spectacular drives. It was deemed the perfect test ground for the monster-engined SRT – and definitely more suited to this version of the Cherokee than England’s M25. Although the £66,865 model will be available in the UK, most buyers here will undoubtedly prefer the cheaper and more forecourt-friendly 247bhp 3.0 CRD diesel.
Efficiency is less of a concern in Australia, where unleaded costs less than 90p a litre. Just as well; Jeep claims 20.9mpg for this model, despite the ‘efficient’ eight-speed gearbox, Eco Mode and Fuel Saver Technology. The naturally aspirated V8 may be relatively high tech, but it has a delightfully old-school feel, and still manages to charge from 0-60mph in five seconds.
With Australia’s once-robust car industry virtually buried under the influx of Far Eastern imports, this muscle-bound SUV is a throwback to days of old – although its rocky terrain-unfriendly 20in low-profile tyres, not to mention lack of spotlights and ’roo bar, didn’t go down too well with the Sportage, Santa Fe and Qashqai-driving locals we quizzed en route.
Australia has many long, straight, interminable roads, which rendered the Jeep’s paddleshifters somewhat pointless. However, we gleaned some performance fun from the grin-inducing launch-control system. Step down on the brake and apply full throttle; the V8’s sheer punch felt addictively naughty.
The Hemi’s endless grunt was plenty to get us past Australia’s 100ft-plus-long trucks, known as ‘road trains’, with the sprint time displayed on an 8.4in touchscreen on the dash. Unfortunately, at one point a police patrol hauled us in for our bad behaviour, as we’d fallen foul of the lowly 110km/h (68mph) maximum speed limit. Cruise control is an essential aid in Australian, we quickly realised.
The few corners we encountered gave us an opportunity to experiment with the SRT’s Selec-Trac system. This tweaks torque, engine mapping and suspension settings – the latter including active damping that closes the dampers’ valves to firm up the ride.
Inside, the Jeep’s premium cabin is lavishly kitted out. Plush fitments include cooled leather seats and a 19-speaker 825W Harman/Kardon sound system. The carbonfibre dash feels contemporary and stylish, and at the rear is a huge luggage area.
In a no-nonsense country where SUVs are the real deal and regularly tackle the rough stuff, the SRT may be a little too bling for the average Australian, but we had a ball. Kangaroo collisions and speeding tickets aside, of course…