Brash Big Yank Performance with an Elegant Aura; Stuff the Greenies, Vani Naidoo Finds Plenty to Love about This Sporty Wagon

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Vital Statistics

Model: Jeep Cherokee SRT8.

Details: Five-door four-wheel drive performance SUV.

Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Engine: 6.4-litre petrol V8 generating maximum power of 344kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 624Nm @ 2900-6000rpm.

Consumption: 14.1 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 328g/km.

Bottom line: $76,000.

YOU know there is a good car parked in the garage when you send the other half on a manufactured mission to find the three-year-oldas favourite stuffed toy, knowing full well it is languishing at the bottom of your bag, just so you can quickly ensconce yourself in the driveras seat.

You know there is a good car in the garage when you hide the keys and feign ignorance, when you deliberately forget to buy the milk just so that you can go out to the shops again and when you happily make space for reversing vehicles during the school car park shuffle for once caring not a hoot that you are late.

You know there is a good car in the garage when your husband offers to do the after-school activities drop rather than play golf, when he strokes the sides absently as he brushes past it on the way into the house and when he offers to be the designated driver on a night out.

And so went our week with Jeepas flagship Grand Cherokee SRT8, a week of clandestine activity and very nice surprises.

Comfort

Chrysler Jeepas forced union with Italian schmoozers Fiat as a result of the crushing effects of the Global Financial Crisis has been good for the Grand Cherokee with the interior of the SRT8 presenting a standard of quality and sophistication which has eluded the American product until now.

There is soft stitched nappa leather wherever you look a on the seats, door trim even the dash. Carbon fibre accents work well to highlight standout features but also help create an aura of quiet elegance in lieu of that American brashness.

The steering is chunky and nicely weighted with the controls most used close to hand. The surrounds of the instrument binnacle and sat-nav system were a disappointment, their cheap plasticky feel spoiling what is essentially an air of exclusivity. Seats are generous and comfortable with the back pew benefiting from the asupersize mea mantra which is so prevalent stateside. The boot, too, is properly proportioned with depth and height eclipsing competitors.

On the road

The SRT8 may seem big and bulky but boy can it move. Only the slightest urging is needed for the 6.4-litre V8 to take flight powering from standstill to 100km in five seconds.

It has a great turning circle, is nimble on crowded roads and demonstrates a penchant to run when the way is clear. Steering can sometimes be a bit loose but cornering ability, especially for a vehicle of this bulk, is spot-on with the Grand Cherokee using its wide berth and weight to plant itself firmly.

Some 90% of the torque is available between 2900rpm-6000rpm for improved straight-line performance.

You have the option of five modes a Auto, Sport, Tow and Snow to cover most weather conditions and terrains or Track (if you really want to show off) with the dampening tightening to deliver more performance-driven rides.

There are paddles to manually work your way through the gears but we found both their position and underwhelming negotiation of the gearboxes slightly irritating. …