It’s no secret that I’d take just about any and every SRT-labeled product that FCA currently sells if I could swing the costs. Pick your poison, you can’t go wrong. Two door coupe, four-door sedan, sport-utility vehicle, and the lowest, most basic version still has 485 horsepower and enough torque to keep you satisfied for many miles to go. They are effortless cruisers that are barely at work when you behave yourself and when you let that little devil on your shoulder persuade you to drop the act, you can get as wild as you want to. With the loss of the Chevrolet SS sedan, your only other options to play in this field involve going to a foreign manufacturer, into a Corvette or supercar, or to go cram an LS with a turbocharger into whatever you can fit it into while cranking the boost to the moon. Hope that works out for you, because you won’t have a warranty when your connecting rod is slicing through the block like a manic buzzsaw.
Once again, Scott at Martin Dodge hooked me up, this time in a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT that had just been traded in for a Trackhawk. The GC was so blindingly white that the photos actually suffered as a result, but I wasn’t driving the Jeep to review it…it’s just a slightly shorter version of the SRT Durango I drove at the beginning of the year. What I did do with it was done with Scott’s own suggestion: go out and play with this one. I treated the Durango with kid gloves because it was brand new…so long as the Jeep returned in running fashion, I was safe here. Don’t have to tell me twice!
With the 6.4L drinking the good premium stuff, I made a deviation from my normal test loop and instead hit the Interstate and headed north at a responsible pace, past NCM Motorsports Park. I drove the Jeep on a Tuesday, and NCM hosts a deal called “Trek on the Track” on Tuesdays…which meant tons of people exercising and no room for hooning. Instead, there are a few very empty roads just beyond the city proper, very straight, very open, and importantly, very empty.
Yes, I tested the launch feature in the Durango once. But I was in a parking lot that had zero runoff. Here, I was looking at a minimum of a mile to give it a shot. I wasn’t going to use even a fraction of that space, but I had the room. The application is simple: press the button on the console with the Christmas Tree symbol on it. When prompted by the gauge cluster, mash the brakes, mash the throttle, get off of the brakes and enjoy the g-forces. On the initial hit, my keys and coins in my pockets were sent directly to the backseat and the SRT started climbing the tach with impressive speed, yours truly slapping the upshift paddle while trying to not laugh like a homicidal maniac. The noise…All you could hear was the full anger in baritone, rage increasing until I shifted to the next gear, click-click-click. I was told that this specific unit was good for twelves, and there’s no doubt in my mind. I don’t know how fast I was going when I got out of it, but I was going fast enough that the Brembo brakes had to work to slow the SUV down. I pulled over to the side of an intersection and sat there for a few minutes, collecting up what I just experienced.
I’ve done 174 miles an hour on an Interstate in broad daylight before. I’ve done burnouts in an artillery landing zone before. I’ve jumped a car, I’ve rolled over a car, and I’ve done things on dirt bikes that twenty years later I’m not sure I’d ever attempt again. The rush from this Jeep….a f***ing JEEP SUV, of all things!…pretty much trumped all of them. It might not have trumped the high-speed stupidity run, but the feeling was the same: I had gotten away with murder in broad daylight.
I didn’t need to do any more. The Jeep needed to go back to the dealership, right now, because otherwise I was going to wind up with Officer Friendly having a pleasant chat with me in short order. On the way back a memory kept popping into my head: my cousin Vance’s 1973 Chrysler Newport. When I was a very young kid (five years old or so) he would occasionally take me for rides that involved him dipping deep into the big-block Chrysler and flying into speeds far beyond what was legal in Colorado Springs. That tank may have been fun, but at best, even with a worked-over 440 that Newport wasn’t going to be half of the riot this SRT Grand Cherokee was going to be. Yet this is the vehicle of the moment, the SUV…and if you put five-year-old me in here, I’m not sure if I would be enjoying the ride or would be concentrating on not wetting myself during the launch sequence. I’m not convinced that owning an SUV is something every last family needs to do. But I’m convinced that if you do end up biting that bullet, skip the fake outdoorsy types, skip the self-righteous models, and go straight for the throat with one like this Jeep. You won’t regret that call.