When people think of SRT products, the first thing that may come to mind is a sports car or sedan that's been given the high-performance treatment. However, those who are fans of the Grand Cherokee SRT8 have been eagerly awaiting the introduction of the newest version of the most capable SRT on the market. Sure, a term like capability depends on how you define it, but there is no other vehicle in the SRT lineup that can tow 7200 pounds (up from 5000 in 2013), drive off-road, and hit 60 mph from a stop in 4.8 seconds.

The 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT (the 8 is gone from the name) marks the first time the Street & Racing Technology engineers and designers have developed the hi-po model at the same time as the regular version. The vehicles are noticeably different from one another, and Jeep and SRT have worked to make this SRT sport/utility more functional, with more towing capacity, while making it more fun to drive at the track.

It does get some of the same changes as the standard Grand Cherokee, such as the new front fascia, headlights, taillights, and interior styling. However, as was the case with previous SRT Jeeps, some cues differentiate the SRT from the other Grand Cherokees. The headlights are on a black background here, and the taillights have black surrounds. The SRT will be offered in seven exterior colors, two of which -- Maximum Steel and Redline -- are exclusive to the SRT.

This looks meaner than a regular Grand Cherokee

The interior also gets the upgrades the regular Grand does, except there are exclusives here as well. In the hi-po Grand Cherokee, the new 8.4-inch touch screen in the center stack adds a few extra pages of SRT-specific info, including 0-60 times, track lap times, lateral acceleration, and more that the owner achieves with his SRT. It can also display current horsepower and torque data. Your track times can be shared with other SRT fans through the 3G connection in the vehicle, or saved on an SD card or flash drive. The white Jeep we drove had a black interior with silver-toned accents and some real carbon fiber, too. The steering wheel is unique to the SRT as well. In this Jeep, the heated wheel has a flat bottom, much like in luxury models on the market (Audi, for example). In addition, the seats are firmer than in other 2014 Grand Cherokees.

We had the opportunity to test the new SRT on the street and on the track. The styling differences are subtle, but they make you think, "This looks meaner than a regular Grand Cherokee." Once you get in, you realize that the SRT-specific seats and wheel, plus the all-black interior, make it look meaner inside, too. (Another interior color choice, called Sepia, is available.)

Then you start the Jeep, and the raucous rumble of the 6.4-liter V-8 paired with the 4-inch exhaust makes the SRT sound as if it's ready for trouble. Because it is. The 470 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque are sent through the new ZF eight-speed automatic that's in the rest of the Grand Cherokee line. While the engine hasn't changed for this new model, the use of the new transmission could improve 0-60 times. The manufacturer's estimate is 4.8 seconds, but we think it might be faster than that. It is very quick off the line, and the shifts are smooth, but definite. You can use its paddle shifters, but in Auto mode, the shifts seem to be at all the right times. The suspension is firmer than in the other Grands and uses Bilstein Adaptive Damping Suspension front and rear. You feel more bumps on the road, but the way it handles makes you want to takes turns fast -- and often. Steering was also redone for the SRT version, and the numbness in the Grand Cherokee's steering is gone here. The brakes feel noticeably more responsive in the SRT, too. While the regular Grand Cherokee's brakes are good, the SRT's 15-inch six-piston front Brembos and 13.8-inch four-piston rear Brembos are excellent. They hide behind 20-inch wheels.

Like the rest of the line, it has a dial that controls different terrain functions, but here it includes different modes. There is a Snow mode, but the others in the updated Selec-Track system are Auto, Tow, Sport, and Track. Track sends 70 percent of the torque to the rear wheels, and Sport adjusts the throttle, transfer case, and transmission programming, and also adjusts the adaptive damping, stability control, and how the electronic limited-slip works. There's also a launch control.

Like in the other Grand Cherokees, there is an Eco mode, which seems a bit silly in the high-performance SRT. But unlike the other Grands, which have Eco On as the default mode, the SRT will remember what mode you left it in. If you set it to off, it stays off. Another nice feature, for those who prefer driving with Eco On when not at the track: If you have Eco On and put it in Sport mode, Eco mode automatically shuts off. When you put it in Park, it returns to Eco On.

Resident track-tester and sports car enthusiast Mike Febbo also drove the SRT and noted "This is probably the best sounding of the SRT Hemis. It might be the least efficient because of the use of a cast exhaust manifold instead of tubular headers, but, man, does it roar. If I owned one of these, I don't think I would touch it. It would be hard to make it any better than it is. I would likely just do wheels and brake fluid and call it a day. Is it as good as a Cayenne? If I had the money, there is a good chance I would still buy the Cayenne GTS, but it would be a really tough choice."

Because SRT developed its version at the same time as the regular version of the Jeep, you won't have to wait long to get your hands on one. This means the SRT will go on sale approximately a month after the 2014 Grand Cherokee. The base price is $63,990, including destination. That may sound like a lot, but considering at that price you can hit 60 in under 5 seconds, tow 7200 pounds, carry five people, and haul almost 70 cubic feet of cargo behind the front seats, it's a steal.


2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Base price $63,990
Vehicle layout Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 6.4L/470-hp/465-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Curb weight 5150 lb (mfr est)
Wheelbase 114.8 in
Length x width x height 191.3 x 77.1 x 69.1 in
0-60 mph 4.8 sec (mfr est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 13/19 mpg (mfr est)
CO2 emissions 1.28 lb/mi (est)
On sale in U.S. May 2013 (est)