Car review: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT; this SUV puts the sport in utility

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New Delhi | Updated: September 30, 2016 7:21:56 AM

The vehicles deployed in the war were Willys MB and Ford GPW (G for government vehicle, P for passenger vehicle, W for Willys engine design).

The vehicles that were field-tested were called Bantam BRC-40, Willys MA and Ford GP.The vehicles that were field-tested were called Bantam BRC-40, Willys MA and Ford GP.

In India, a Mahindra is a jeep, a Force Motors Trax is a jeep, even a Maruti Gypsy is a jeep. But the legacy of the brand Jeep goes beyond the aura of these vehicles. It started 75 years ago, during the Second World War, when American forces fighting in Europe felt the need for a vehicle that could “go anywhere, do anything.” Three companies—American Bantam, Willys-Overland and Ford—started designing such vehicles.

The prototypes were called BRC (Bantam Reconnaissance Car), Quad (Willys) and Pygmy (Ford).

The vehicles that were field-tested were called Bantam BRC-40, Willys MA and Ford GP.

The vehicles deployed in the war were Willys MB and Ford GPW (G for government vehicle, P for passenger vehicle, W for Willys engine design).

But where did the name Jeep come from? Some say it was the slurring of acronym GP (these were also called General Purpose vehicles). Others claim it originated from ‘Eugene the Jeep’, a character from Popeye comic strip, because Eugene the Jeep could “go anywhere, do anything.”

Whatever the origin, the Jeep was hailed by Allied forces as “the saviour of the Second World War” and become one of the most recognised brands in the world.

In 1950, Willys obtained registration for Jeep trademark. Since then,

the ownership has passed from Willys to Kaiser to American Motors to Chrysler. Today, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) owns it.

So, what is the India connection? Mahindra started importing completely knocked down Jeep kits from Willys under licence, and because the brand Jeep was so strong, people started calling Mahindra vehicles as jeeps.

Now, FCA has brought the original Jeep to India, three vehicles to start with—Wrangler Unlimited, Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SRT. We drive the most powerful of the three.

The Grand Cherokee SRT (short for Street & Racing Technology) is a big SUV, very big. What differentiates it from every other SUV in the world is its stance—wide footprint and the sinister ‘blacked out’ front-end. The grille and lower mouth area have a gloss black treatment and sport distinctive headlights. The hood is sculpted with dual heat extractors to help the engine breathe and there is a rear spoiler for improved handling.

Inside the cabin, craftsmanship is of the highest order. The seats are in Laguna leather. Jeep claims these are crafted from leather sourced from one of the world’s finest tanners, Elmo Leather, based in Sweden. The SRT steering wheel is leather-wrapped and flat-bottomed; it gets paddle shifters for manual gear changing.

There’s a lot of technology inside the cabin. For example, the instrument cluster shows you 0-400 metre acceleration time, braking distance, even G-force effects as you steer the vehicle.

Then there is real-time access to performance data. The instrument cluster displays statistics on handling, braking, horsepower, torque, battery voltage, oil pressure, coolant, intake air temperature … you name it.

Performance is awe-inspiring, to say the least. The 6400cc eight-cylinder petrol engine produces a power of 470bhp and a torque of 624Nm. Eight-speed automatic transmission works like a dream.

It has a Launch Control button. Hit the button, hold down the brake, straighten the steering wheel and fully press the accelerator. When you lift off the brake, the SRT will accelerate as hard as possible with maximum torque and minimum tyre spin, taking it from 0-100kph in just 5 seconds. It’s strongly recommended you use this button only on a track, not on public roads.

There is a Brembo high-performance braking system to stop this mammoth of a vehicle.

Performance, however, comes at the cost of fuel-efficiency. Driven sanely, we got 6kpl. When we drove it the way it is meant to be driven, we got 4kpl.

We have one complain, though. Even though it is a driver’s car, there’s no dead pedal to rest your left foot on during long journeys.

Available in five colours, the Grand Cherokee SRT is priced a hefty Rs 1.12 crore, ex-showroom, Delhi. Expensive? Indeed it is, but when you compare it to its immediate competition—Mercedes-AMG GL 63—which is almost half a crore more expensive, you’d realise the pricing starts to make some sense.

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