It’s seldom that you drive a high-performance vehicle like the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and find yourself reveling not in the rush of horsepower, but in the in-car tech features.
Typically, it’s the engine technology and mechanical magic that takes place under the hood that defines a high-performance vehicle.
Even the SRT name, which stands for Street & Racing Technology, speaks to the go-fast technical elements of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. The idea of swooning over the technology features found inside a car are usually reserved more for automobiles that fall more into the “luxury” category.
That’s not to say that the new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT doesn’t have any premium features because it does, but I’d hardly considered it in the same context as say a Mercedes Benz ML or even a Range Rover Sport for that matter – despite some of the competitive comparisons made with those SUVs.
After all, the SRT brand has been built on a heritage of pure American muscle like the Viper — the brand’s halo vehicle — and while we’ve now come to expect loads of technology in most of today’s high-performance cars, it’s that feeling of raw power that draws you to a nameplate like SRT. The rumbling of the motor when you start it up, the exhilaration of hitting the gas and that rush you get from finding yourself on a desolate road with nobody in sight for miles.
Make no mistake about it: the 2014 SRT Grand Cherokee has the kind of performance attributes that leaves you wishing for a lot more of those kind of moments, moments I had an opportunity to experience on some of the twisty canyon roads in Malibu, California.
Better yet, the fact that it’s more than roomy enough for four makes it easier to justify the $70,000 if you’re typically the one charged with picking up the kids after school.
Equipped with a 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 with Fuel Saver Technology (13 /19 mpg), the new SRT Grand Cherokee delivers 470 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 465 lb.-ft. (630 Nm) of torque with a 0 – 60 mph time of around 4.8 seconds.
For 2014, three additional gears have been added to the Grand Cherokee SRT’s automatic transmission for a total of eight. It also features a standard drive and sport mode, for improved performance attributes. Even the steering-wheel paddle shifters (for those of us who like a bit more manual control when behind the wheel) are much more responsive than the previous model.
The new Grand Cherokee SRT features a number of software improvements to the Selec-Track system that enhance the SUV’s five dynamic modes – Auto, Sport, Tow, Track, and Snow. The system allows drivers to choose the best setting for their driving conditions.
The new model is also equipped with a new launch control system that mimics a professional driver’s inputs for quicker starts for those Walter Mittys out there who might think they’re the next Mario Andretti but are in reality far from it.
In addition, the SUV’s towing capacity has improved to 7,200 pounds, an increase of 44 percent compared to the 5,000-lb. capacity of the previous model.
While much more refined than previous models, the Grand Cherokee SRT still has a lot of that raw power you expect from American muscle when you hit the gas. The SUV’s exhaust note gives you some indication of what to expect. But nothing quite prepares you for the Grand Cherokee SRT’s performance capabilities.
Whether it’s acceleration or cornering, it’s easy to forget you’re even driving an SUV when at the wheel − despite the Grand Cherokee SRT weighing 5,000 plus pounds. Switching the all-wheel-drive SUV to Track mode, which splits the front to rear power 30/70, gives you more of a feel for the vehicle’s Viper-like attributes.
The Grand Cherokee SRT’s ride quality in normal driving situations makes it as appealing as an everyday family hauler as it is as a weekend thrill ride− although sitting idle in traffic with all that power on tap is a bit frustrating.
Still, it’s all the stuff featured inside the SRT that leaves you reveling in the SUV’s technology.
Anchored by the new Uconnect infotainment system, the Grand Cherokee SRT’s 8.4-inch display is the driver’s window to a world of in-car connectivity and entertainment options like no other vehicle in its class.
The system, which debuted in the SRT line-up on the new Viper, features a data screen that displays SRT-exclusive Performance Pages like recent track times, lateral acceleration and 0-60 mph times. All the data is shown in full-color and can now be shared with other SRT enthusiasts via a built-in 3G connection that can also be shared later on social networking platforms like Facebook.
The screen is also the central display for Uconnect Access Via Mobile, an all-new feature that allows customers to stream their favorite music into the vehicle using apps like Aha, iHeart, Pandora and Slacker.
The new UConnect system, which will be switching from a Bing-based service to Yelp in the upcoming months, also affords drivers access to Internet searches and facilitates cutting-edge cloud-based features such as voice texting.
The new system also features a number of improved navigation features with 3D city, landmark, and terrain modeling, one-step voice destination entry, one-step POI (Points of Interest) search and a Speed Alert that allows you to set a speed over posted limit to be audibly reminded when you’re exceeding the limit.
The Jeep features a new steering wheel designed to give the driver a better view of the gauge cluster, which now features a 7-inch, full-color, customizable instrument display. The new screen allows drivers to select a variety of different layouts and information displayed in the center of the gauge cluster.
Overall, the UConnect worked pretty well, but the voice-activated system seems to recognize a few words better than others. For example, on one particular occasion when requesting a new hotel in Beverly Hills, it wanted to direct me to somewhere in Colorado, seemingly confusing the state with California. After failing to pull up the location on numerous tries using the voice activated system, I had to input the address manually.
Still, UConnect works a lot better than most in-car voice recognition technology systems and is pretty easy to use even with all the features.
The system’s only real downfall is that like many other automakers, the UConnect system is more suited for Android, Blackberry and WP based devices. The texting feature isn’t compatible with Apple and will only allow users with iOS 6 iPhones to receive texts via a paired Bluetooth connection to the car.
Many of the new connectivity tech features also require a monthly subscription after the six to 12 month of trial service.
When it comes to engine technology, the Grand Cherokee SRT also features a new Eco Mode that can be activated on the center stack. Eco mode optimizes the new eight-speed transmission’s shifting to extend the range of the SUV’s Fuel Saver Technology, which deactivates four of the cylinders.
Interior details like the carbon-fiber trim accents across the driver’s door, instrument panel and front passenger door give it a more premium sports feel.
Other new technology features include a new Uconnect Access mobile app that allows owners to do things like lock and unlock doors, start and stop the engine and remotely activate horns and lights. There’s also an optional 825-watt, 19-speaker premium SRT performance audio surround-sound system from Harman/Kardon.
True to its roots
More importantly from a branding standpoint, the new Grand Cherokee still stays true to its Jeep heritage even with host of new exterior design elements aimed at giving the SUV a more aggressive look.
Abandon its roots and the Grand Cherokee SRT runs the risk of being compared to SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne, which it really was never intended to be.
For 2014, the SRT’s signature seven-slot upper grille’s black screen insert has been shortened and the Jeep’s face features slimmer, adaptive, bi-xenon headlamps that are surrounded by a signature LED character lamp treatment. The SUV’s headlamps feature a unique black background to distinguish SRT from other Grand Cherokee models.
The 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT also features larger tail lamps with signature LED lighting and a black trim surround the tail lamps that give the SUV a more menacing look. A new rear spoiler integrated into the liftgate caps off a few of the new design features on the 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT.
But what’s most impressive about the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is that the concept of the brand’s “Street & Racing Technology” is no longer confined to just what’s under the hood.
- New 8.4-inch display UConnect System
- New Launch Control System
- New Fuel Saver Technology
- Some in-car tech features not compatible with iPhone
- Vehicle registration required for some in-car tech features