We test a lot of vehicles but at the end of the year looking back only a handful are truly special and memorable.

The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is our first test of the year where we felt the earth truly move under us and the magic resonated long after we handed back the keys.

And I knew when I walked into the press briefing and got my first glimpse I was in lust.

Full Gallery Of Official Photos of The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The ultimate test for me when I review a ride is that:

1. It moves me visually enough to plant the seed in my head that makes me fantasizing about owning it


2. That after the driving it, I am reticent to want to give the keys back and after I do I can't get it out of my mind.

If those two variables are met in my mind, then that ride is going to be a winner.

The SRT is one of those that did from the moment I set eyes on it.

And I can't honestly say that about too many cars or trucks made in America.

But this one had it. That secret sauce, that unique taste, that look and feel and that lingering afterglow.

Let's look at the specs from the press release first before I give you more insight to my experience on road and on the track:

2014 Jeep® Grand Cherokee SRT: A Powerful Performer Cloaked in Luxurious and Muscular Skin

New eight-speed automatic transmission delivers smoother, more refined shifting and improved fuel economy
Innovative Eco Mode optimizes new transmission’s shift schedule and expands range of Fuel Saver Technology activation for further fuel economy gains
Towing capacity rating improved 44 percent, up to 7,200 pounds
Improved and retuned Selec-Track system delivers more torque to the rear wheels in Track Mode for optimal rear-wheel-drive characteristics
New, standard launch control delivers enhanced and consistent acceleration performance
Aggressive, upscale exterior appearance enriched with new signature LED lighting
Luxurious interior offers new levels of advanced user-friendly technology and connectivity highlighted by an 8.4-inch touchscreen that accommodates SRT’s exclusive Performance Pages, plus a 7-inch programmable multiview gauge cluster
All-new Uconnect Access Via Mobile streams preferred music into the vehicle via smartphone
Introducing breakthrough cloud-based voice texting and Bing connected search via Uconnect Access
Enables direct, one-touch connections with local 9-1-1 service providers, roadside assistance dispatchers and Uconnect specialists
Features state-of-the-art safety technologies such as Forward Collision Warning and Rear Cross Path detection

Awe-inspiring powertrain

For 2014, Grand Cherokee SRT owners get three additional gears from their transmission: an all-new 8HP70 eight-speed automatic. Fully electronic, it features on-the-fly shift-map changing.
For an even sportier, more driver-controlled experience, the 8HP70 eight-speed transmission can be manually shifted using newly redesigned, more pronounced, ergonomically efficient steering-wheel paddle controls.

The Grand Cherokee SRT features a new Eco Mode for 2014 that optimizes the new transmission’s shift schedule and extends the range of Fuel Saver Technology, which deactivates four cylinders when conditions allow. A button on the center stack allows driver’s to engage Eco Mode for improved fuel economy.

The new eight-speed automatic transmission is specifically engineered to optimize shift quality and shift points for fuel economy, performance and drivability. The intelligent software takes into account variables including engine torque gradients, kick-down events, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, grade changes, friction detection and downshift detection to determine the appropriate shift map.

Additional parameters integrated into the control strategy include vehicle speed control, electronic stability control interaction and temperature. The result is automatic shifting that is ideally attuned to the performance requirements of almost any driving demand.

The new transmission is mated to the proven and powerful 6.4-liter HEMI® V-8 with Fuel Saver Technology delivering 470 horsepower (351 kW) at 6,000 rpm and 465 lb.-ft. (630 N•m) of torque at 4,300 rpm and helps deliver greatly enhanced towing performance of 7,200 pounds – a 44-percent improvement over the 5,000-lb. towing capacity from the previous model.

For 2014, the new electronic T-handle shifter provides the flexibility for drivers to choose a transmission shift schedule independent from the Selec-Track system. Drive and Sport shifting can be selected via the T-handle with no effect on the chosen suspension, stability control and driveline torque split settings.

Also new for 2014 is a launch control system that mimics a professional driver’s inputs to optimize Grand Cherokee SRT’s performance by bringing engine, transmission, driveline, stability control, and suspension in line for a textbook launch. Controlled by a button behind the new T-handle shifter on the center console, the result is improved and more consistent straight-line acceleration. The performance experience of the 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT is further accentuated by a change in transfer case proportioning and dynamic controls for the Selec-Track system when the vehicle is in Track Mode. When this mode is selected, 70 percent of the engine’s torque is delivered to the rear wheels for a more pronounced rear-wheel-drive experience. Grand Cherokee SRT drivers will notice a vehicle that is more responsive from
mid-corner to exit.

Aggressive and functional exterior

The Grand Cherokee SRT sports exterior styling enhancements for 2014. Its signature,
seven-slot upper grille with black screen insert has been shortened and is flanked by slimmer, adaptive, bi-xenon headlamps that are surrounded by a signature LED character lamp treatment. The grille itself is brawnier and the headlamps feature a unique black background to distinguish SRT from other 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee models while further accenting their jewel-like appearance.

The new styling also enabled designers to incorporate the headlamp washers into the headlamp housing for the first time – rather than on the bumper – for a cleaner more functional appearance.

Race-inspired and high-performance interior

The most significant interior enhancement on the 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT is the new Uconnect 8.4AN radio touchscreen. The 8.4-inch display shows a wealth of SRT-exclusive Performance Pages, including recent track times, lateral acceleration, 0-60 mph times and much more. All data is shown in full-color and can now be shared with other SRT enthusiasts via a built-in 3G connection.

The same screen accommodates Uconnect Access Via Mobile, an all-new feature that makes its debut. With it, customers can stream their favorite music into the vehicle using the acclaimed apps Aha, iHeart, Pandora and Slacker.

The display also affords drivers access to Bing Internet searches and facilitates cutting-edge cloud-based features such as voice texting – the transmission of text messages using natural speech.

On the center console, drivers will find a new, leather-wrapped T-handle shifter for the eight-speed transmission that allows the driver to select two driving modes including Drive and Sport.

Also new is the redesigned, SRT-exclusive heated three-spoke steering wheel with a flat bottom that features a bevy of comfort, convenience and connectivity controls and more pronounced, more ergonomically efficient paddle shifters.

The new steering wheel is designed and positioned to provide optimal view of the new gauge cluster that now features a 7-inch, full-color, customizable instrument display. This new screen allows drivers to select from a multitude of layout and information to be shown in the center of the gauge cluster.

True carbon fiber trim accent sweeps across the driver’s door, instrument panel and front passenger door.

So as you can see, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT has quite a feature list and is about $20k LESS than the X5M's and Cayenne Turbo's of the world.

Yet the same amount of fun and driving gratification is included for a LOT less dough.

What I liked best:

The SRT is equally comfortable in and around town as it was on the track and BOY did it GO and handle beautifully on the Circuit of the America's racetrack outside Austin!
The fit and finish is pretty darn close to the X5M and Cayenne Turbo. You won't get in and say it's another American wannabe. It's VERY well done inside.
It had the perfect balance of kick ass performance when you hit the gas pedal and asked it to master the twisties combined with a very comfortable and luxurious driver/passenger experience. It can easily be a daily driver and track star.
Dash display integration is wonderful but I still prefer the Cayenne in that department.
It sounds sooo good when you depress the pedal.
It's really SEXY on the street! REALLY sexy.
LED's are killer.
LOVED the Audi R8 Style steering wheel. Special.

What I disliked:

When I looked at the MPG's you realize it is NOT a super high performance diesel engine with fuel economy numbers to go with it. Maybe in the next gen...after all, the X5MD is coming...
Not to belabor the gas mileage point but even though I can afford it, it still would bug me to see that 11MPG number around town. It's a psychological thing with me.
I wish they had one or two UNIQUE colors like the 'M's' in the lineup although if I were buying one I'd buy white and enhance it with a custom racing stripe treatment.
$70k+ for anything American is still hard to swallow, but for the first time this one is worth it because it's $20k less than the competitors.

In closing, it's SO refreshing to see an American company not just bringing out one world class vehicle but doing the right upgrades and changes across all of the product lines like Jeep/Chrysler is doing right now.

EXTRA PROUD to be an American when I see them bringing out great new stuff and the execution is there.

As I said, no longer are they building wannabe contenders, they're finally starting to build WINNERS.

And you'd better believe it.

Now they just need to stay humble and keep it up!

Take a look at our gorgeous 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Photo Gallery and let us know your thoughts on the SRT...

Full Review Of 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Also, be sure to check out the full gallery of shots from the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Press Launch...

Full Gallery Of Official Photos of The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Full Gallery Of Official Photos of The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

*Chrysler provided airfare, food and lodging to to facilitate this review at the USA media launch in Austin, Texas.

REVIEW: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-The FIRST American SUV That Can Challenge The Porsche, BMW And Mercedes?

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