2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Patrick Rall's picture

A review of the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: the ultimate sport utility vehicle

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the founding members of the sporty utility vehicle segment and with the 2013 Grand Cherokee SRT8 – it is clear why this is the most awarded SUV ever considering that it is one of the few on the market that emphasizes both sport and utility.

The sport utility vehicle segment has slowly been inundated with vehicles that are really not very sporty while also not being all that capable of offering much utility but the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is a high performance SUV that boldly stands out against the segment of drab soccer mom vehicles. Mind you, there are plenty of larger SUVs available in American that offer plenty of utility (towing, hauling, passenger space, etc) while also offering a somewhat sporty look while there are others that offer a very sporty driving experience but they sacrifice the ability to do any real work. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 combines the performance of a sports car, the capabilities of a half ton pickup and the interior space of a large luxury SUV all into one incredibly exciting, great looking package.

The Exterior
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the top selling SUVs in America and there is a good chance that if you are reading this review, you know what the Grand Cherokee looks like. The SRT8 package takes the basic sporty design of the Grand Cherokee and adds some subtle features that make a tremendous difference in helping the SRT8 stand out from your average Grand Cherokee.

The alterations begin across the front end where the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 sports a unique hood with a pair of fully functional heat extraction openings that break up the sharp, linear design of the hood. A body colored hood with the traditional 7 slot Jeep grille connects the vented hood to the heavily styled SRT8 front fascia – a look that is so popular that this front end design will be featured on the entire 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee lineup. For 2013, this look is unique to the GC SRT8 and it begins with a set of LED driving lights set in a contrasting gloss black bezel in the middle of the front bumper. Joining the strip of LEDs is a more traditional fog light mounted on the outer edge of the bezel while the headlights mounted directly above these black bezels feature HID projection low beams and halogen high beams – combining for a very high tech look. Finally, the SRT8 front end features a deep diving front fascia with a large central opening that funnels air through the radiator, flanked by a set of chrome trimmed openings that help cool the high performance Brembo brakes. All of the grille openings are filled with a matte black mesh and while I like the look of the current Grand Cherokee – I absolutely love the front end design of the SRT8 package.

Along the sides, the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 wears a great looking set of 20” SRT wheels with a design that is unlike anything else on the market today. The five split spokes each have long openings cut through them to improve brake cooling and aerodynamics – which also looking awesome. Nearly everyone who checked out the SRT8 while I was driving it immediately commented on the great looking wheels. These wheels are wrapped in high performance rubber while the SRT8 package adds body colored wheel opening flares that give the Grand Cherokee a wider stance. These flares are connected by a body colored lower rocker sill that adds to the sporty design and the package is capped off by body colored mirrors and door handles.

Out back, the changes made to the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 are the most minimal but if the vehicle is running – the odds are good that anyone standing behind this Jeep will be more enticed by the sound of the 392 cubic inch Hemi than the physical design. The SRT8 does wear a unique lower rear fascia that extends across the trailer hitch receiver, wrapping around the large dual exhaust tips in a way that bolsters the performance SUV look. When you need to access the trailer hitch receiver with both a 4 and 7 pin connector, the central bumper piece (which has the SRT logo stamped into it) pops off with the twist of a few connectors mounted under the fascia.

The changes that differentiate the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 from the non-SRT models are fairly subtle but there is no question that they give this large SUV an aggressive design that is fitting of one of the most powerful SUVs in the world.

The Interior
Much like the rest of the Chrysler Group Street and Racing Technology lineup, the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 features a luxury level interior spread. This is true of all higher end Grand Cherokee models but the SRT8 package adds a touch of sporty styling to emphasize the high performance nature of the SRT brand.

The two most significant features of the Grand Cherokee SRT8 are the angular, flat bottomed steering wheel that is found in all of the current SRT vehicles along with the high back sport bucket seats. The steering wheel features a huge array of hand positions to make sure that every driver can be comfortable with their hand placement while a set of paddles mounted on the back allow for full shift control of the 5-speed automatic transmission. This leather wrapped steering wheel is heated and has buttons on the back of the wheel to control the sound system while the front buttons control the adaptive cruise control and the driver information center.

The all black interior is finished off with carbon fiber trim running across the middle of the dash and through the upper portion of the door panels of the Grand Cherokee SRT8. The front seats have deep bolsters with leather outers, suede inners and full power control along with the option to both heat or cool your buns. Rear riders don’t get the sport seat treatment but they do get the same suede and leather design with a heated base in the 60/40 split bench design. The front and rear seats all offer tons of head, elbow and leg room even for tall passengers and if the large cargo area isn’t enough for you, the back seats quickly and easily fold down to make for a massive total cargo space. You can’t haul a sheet of plywood but you can haul a bunch of full length 2x4s with tons of space around the sides to haul all of the goodies for a home improvement project – or a place to store grippier tires, jack stands and a jack for a day at the track.

As you would expect from any current SRT vehicle, the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 features a top of the line 19 speaker sound system with a rear subwoofer and an 825 watt amp. This works with the large touchscreen infotainment setup to pump out your favorite radio station, satellite station of MP3 files via USB or iPod connection. This sound system hits hard whether you are listening to hip hop or classic rock and does so all of the way up to the higher volume levels. Add to this package a sunroof, a rear seat DVD system with a centrally mounted monitor and wireless headphones.

The Drive
The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is unlike models in many ways but none are as significant as the drivetrain. This begins with the mighty 392 cubic inch Hemi that funnels 470 horsepower and 465lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a 5-speed automatic transmission and an advanced all wheel drive system. Helping to make the Grand Cherokee SRT8 so capable is the drive mode selector mounted on the center console which gives the driver his or her choice of five modes - Snow, Tow, Auto, Sport and Track. Each of these modes has a specific preprogrammed setting for the adaptive suspension system, the transmission shifts, throttle response, transfer case torque distribution, rear differential lock up and the cylinder deactivation system. In snow mode, throttle response is slowed to prevent wheel spin while the torque is split between the wheels evenly. When you switch into towing mode, the shift points are optimized to make for easier towing while transferring some of the torque to the rear wheels. In the Auto mode, the system adjusts on the fly to optimize performance based on driving style while the Sport mode stiffens the suspension, quickens the shifts, increases throttle response and sends more power to the rear wheels. Finally, the Track mode provides the hardest, quickest shifts, the most throttle response, a torque split that sends some 65% of the power to the rear, and a suspension setup that is as stiff as possible to make this big SUV right at home on a road course. Finally, a huge set of Brembo front and rear brakes allow the Grand Cherokee SRT8 to go from 60 miles per hour to a complete stop in right around 120 feet – in 10 degree weather.

Generally, when I look at the drive portion of a review, I have a focus such as towing, performance, the ability to deal with weather, etc but with the 2013 Grand Cherokee SRT8 – we have to look at all of those situations to emphasize just how incredible this vehicle is in every way.

First off, the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is best recognized for its high performance capabilities and honestly, there is a good reason for that. Figures of 470 horsepower and 465lb-ft of torque make for a very entertaining sports car but with the advanced all wheel drive system of the SRT Jeep, you can truly make the most of every bit of that power. With vehicles like the Chrysler 300C SRT8 or the Dodge Challenger SRT8, that power has to be put to the wheels very delicately due to how easily those rear drive sports cars will put a serious smokin’ to the tires. That is a not a problem with the Jeep SRT8. Stick this sucker in Track mode (which disables the traction control system), bring the RPMS up a bit and let it rip and this large SUV dashes from a stop to 60 miles per hour in just 4.5 seconds according to the on board performance timing system (a feature that I absolutely love in all of the SRT vehicles). Also while using the built in timing system, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 is able to run a standing quarter mile in 13.3 seconds with a trap speed of 102 miles per hour. That is fast enough for the roomy Grand Cherokee to keep up with many of the performance cars sold in the US and those figures were recorded on a 15 degree day on a private road where traction would have been near impossible for many other low 13 second vehicles.

In addition to hauling some serious ass in a straight line, the adaptive suspension system of the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 allows this roomy ute to handle like a sports car when supreme handling is needed while also offering a nice, smooth ride when you are just out for a leisurely cruise. Honestly, while the ride in Sport and Track mode is stiff, it isn’t stiff enough to dissuade me from keeping the knob locked to track mode nearly all of the time that I was driving the SRT Jeep. When driving around town or on the highway, keeping the Grand Cherokee SRT8 in Track mode gives you a great feel for the road that will be appreciated by anyone who truly loves to drive. While I spent time in Auto, Snow and Tow modes – the Track mode was by far my favorite under normal driving circumstances. When hitting even the hardest corners on a closed circuit course, there is almost no noticeable body roll and based on how well the SRT Jeep takes corners, you would think that you are in a low slung sports car and not a two and a half ton SUV. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 is an awesome high performance daily driver but it is also just as comfortable on a road course or a tight autocross course so if you want an SUV that has REAL high performance capabilities – look no further.

What you would not expect from the high performance 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 – or from any other high performance vehicle – is the ability to tow a heavy load but with a max towing capacity of 5,000lbs, the SRT8 will tow as much as many half ton and smaller pickups. That’s right…the exact same SUV that will effortlessly run through the quarter mile in the low 13 second range will hook up to a 5,000 pound trailer and pull it like there isnt any weight back there. While performing my trailer testing, the Detroit area was pounded with a sudden, wet snow and with the drive mode selector set to Tow, the GC SRT8 was able to accelerate and stop without any issues on icy roads with the 5,000 (closer to 4,600lb, but still) load out back. I was most concerned when I found myself sitting at a stoplight with an uphill grade with a heavy duty pickup in front of me. Due to the wet snow over the icy road surface, I could see the large four wheel drive truck spinning all four tires as it eased away from the stoplight. I was concerned that the 4,600lb trailer out back would serve as too much of an anchor on the slippery roads but those concerns were unfounded as the Jeep pulled away more easily than the heavy duty truck in front of me. I also had a chance to pull the trailer down a sloppy, muddy road and not surprisingly, the SRT Jeep continued to shine.

Finally, a concern of many people who are considering a high performance SUV is that when the snow falls hard, all of that power will make it impossible to drive something like the Grand Cherokee SRT8 on sloppy roads. The first night that I had the SRT8, the area was blanketed in 6 inches of snow – something that would have meant a long nap in the driveway until the roads were cleared. However, the SRT8 in Snow mode had no problem accelerating in the slop nor did it struggle to maintain reasonable speeds on the snow covered roads. No worries about 470 horsepower making traction impossible as the 50/50 torque split makes this high performance Jeep as capable as any other Trail Rated SUV in the company lineup.

The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting vehicles that I have ever driven. It roars from 0-60 in the low 4 second range with quarter mile times in the low 13 second range while also being incredibly capable in muddy or snowy conditions so this is a vehicle that you can enjoy year round…even if you live in the Snow Belt. Add to that the simple fact that the Grand Cherokee SRT8 can tow 5,000 pounds without batting an eyelash and you have a vehicle that truly fill the role of several different vehicles at once. Honestly, between the snow, the work of towing and the simple fact that I couldn’t get enough of all 470 horsepower, I didn’t get very good mileage. The EPA expects an average of 14 miles per gallon but with very little highway driving and a great many 0-60 blasts, I only averaged around 12 mpg while driving the SRT8. However, this SUV is so much fun to drive that I can promise that you will quickly forget about the lackluster fuel economy. Best of all, if you don’t want to monitor the live fuel economy figures in the driver information center, you can switch over to the performance gauges that measure 0-60 times, 60-0 distance, eighth mile time and speed, quarter mile time and speed and G forces both front to back and side to side. While the fuel economy gauges might not always have good news – the performance gauges always have something nice to say about the Jeep SRT8.

Plain and simple – the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is one of the most entertaining and most capable vehicles sold in America today.

The Final Word
In all reality, the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is the ultimate sport utility vehicle with the ability to do as much work as some far less powerful pickup trucks while also being able to handle itself on a rack track like a finely tuned sports car. Add to those beautiful aspects the fact that the advanced all wheel system allows this high performance SUV to be amazingly capable in any weather condition and you have a vehicle that is unstoppable year round.

While the price tag starting around $60k is a bit steep for some buyers, you have to look at what you are getting. The 2013 Grand Cherokee SRT8 can be your sports car, your tow vehicle, your off roading toy and a capable daily driver in even the worst snow with enough room to get the family safely from point a to point b….and the SRT8 can get them there in a big hurry. The closest competition for the Grand Cherokee SRT8 would be the slightly more powerful Porsche Cayenne Turbo which can offer similar fun to drive factor, impressive towing capacities and similar interior passenger/cargo space but the Porsche has a starting price of roughly $111,000 – almost twice as much as the SRT Jeep.

When it comes down to pulling the trigger on a new high performance sport utility vehicle, The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 will go head to head with any other high end SUV available in the US in terms of performance while also providing a roomy, luxurious interior and the towing capacity of a half ton truck – for roughly half the price of the competition. For me, there is no question that the 2013 Grand Cherokee SRT8 is the most exciting, most engaging and most capable high performance SUV on the market even when compared to vehicles that cost substantially more.

If you are in the market for a sport utility vehicle and you can fit a $60,000vehicle into your budget, there is no other SUV on the market that will give you more than the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.

Click any thumbnail on this page for a closer look at our Grand Cherokee SRT8 inside and out!

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