Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - DRIVE WAY - Bill Buys

IT was a dark and stormy night.

The line from Charles Schulz’s fa­mous Snoopy car­toon could have been penned with the Jeep Grand Chero­kee SRT Night in mind, be­cause it sure is a dark num­ber, with a storm of power un­der its mus­cly hood.

The Night lim­ited edi­tion has dark 20inch wheels and most of the shiny body bits blacked out, even the ‘SRT’ badge on the tail, but the big Brembo calipers, a pair of how­itzer-sized ex­haust trum­pets and a bold ‘6.4litre Hemi’ badge on the side give the game away.

Based on stan­dard Grand Chero­kee SRT, the 128-model Night edi­tion is priced at $97,000.

The blacked-outs bits and big wheels aside, it comes with sil­ver-stitched Swedish leather seats, black chrome and sil­ver bezels on the dash and a hot-shot 825W Har­mon/Kar­don au­dio sys­tem, which ad­dresses the car’s oc­cu­pants via a to­tal of 19 speak­ers.

There’s also a spe­cial in­stru­ment clus­ter, which fea­tures a ‘valet’ set­ting to pre­vent in­ci­dents such as the one on TV where the potato chip-eat­ing lad goes on a wild ride with the sports car he was sup­posed to care­fully park.

The re­con­fig­urable dig­i­tal dis­play has an ex­panded ar­ray of real-time per­for­mance timers and gauge read­outs, among them dy­namic han­dling, brak­ing, en­gine power, torque and ac­cel­er­a­tion, bat­tery volt­age, oil pres­sure, coolant and in­take air tem­per­a­ture.

We set­tled on the dig­i­tal speed op­tion be­cause the speedo it­self has tiny dif­fi­cult-toread num­bers, and with the nat­u­ral re­in­free gait of the Night, it's es­sen­tial to keep an eye on the ve­loc­ity to stay on the good side of the law.

The ve­hi­cle also has all-new drive modes – Auto, Sport and Track – the lat­ter which al­ter the sus­pen­sion, torque dis­tri­bu­tion, sta­bil­ity con­trol, en­gine map­ping and elec­tric steer­ing, and an­other set­ting is Cus­tom, which lets the driver select and lock in his or her favourite set­tings.

Plus there’s an Eco mode, Snow, Tow and an­other for fuel sav­ings.

The nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated V8 gen­er­ates 344kW and 624Nm, which is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic.

Use the built-in launch con­trol, brace your­self and the 2.2 tonne Grand Chero­kee will bel­low its way to 100km/h in less than five sec­onds, run the quar­ter mile in the low 13s and top out at 258km/h. Rock­et­ship ter­ri­tory, with au­dio pops like a .38 Spe­cial as it runs through the lower ra­tios.

The eight-speeder works just fine on its own, but you can switch to man­ual mode via the pad­dle-shifters if you reckon you can do bet­ter than the classy ZF trans­mis­sion. For a big lad, the SRT han­dles very well with its Bil­stein sus­pen­sion and fat road-bi­ased Pirelli lo-pro tyres pro­vid­ing lots of grip.

What else? Good space and com­fort, big boot, great vis­i­bil­ity, top-notch re­vers­ing cam­era and all the lat­est elec­tronic driver aids, plus stan­dard stuff such as sat­nav, Blue­tooth, heated and ven­ti­lated seats, even a heated flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheel.

But the grand­est part of the Chero SRT is its sheer drive­abil­ity and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing roar of a rag­ing bull – maybe even a red one – in its el­e­ment.

Fuel econ­omy doesn’t re­ally mat­ter in ve­hi­cles of this kind, but we av­er­aged 14.4 litres/100km.

The Night’s road pres­ence is con­sid­er­able. Ya­hoos take one look and just wilt as they recog­nise the SRT's author­ity, while grans smile at the glo­ri­ous paint­work.

Ver­dict: Packed with all the good stuff, and much cheaper than its Euro ri­vals, it's a prac­ti­cal high-per­for­mance SUV to make old fo­geys feel 10 years younger.

Jeep's exclusive Grand Chero­kee SRT Night.

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