Drive Time: SRT shortens road for Grand Cherokee
June 17, 2017
Yep, the road's open to Glen Haven and Estes Park, and it seems shorter than before the winter closing.
The road hasn't been shortened; it only seemed that way in the powerfully quick 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 4X4 I drove there Thursday morning.
Traffic was heavy in the Big Thompson Canyon and continued so after the turnoff to Glen Haven. "We're having July business in June," said Steve Childs, longtime owner and operator of the New Haven General Store, referring to the busy early-season pace in the normally quiet community.
The Grand Cherokee SRT is a performance-oriented SUV, built to compete with higher-end models, such as the Range Rover Sport Supercharged, BMW X5 M and Porsche Cayenne Turbo. The Jeep is equipped with a 475-horsepower, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission and sport-stiffened suspension.
Those many, many twists in the road once I departed U.S. 34 at Drake and headed up the Devil's Gulch Road for 8 miles to Glen Haven are ideal for the manual-mode-shift-capable Grand Cherokee. I used 3rd, 4th, 5th and occasionally 6th in manual-mode both going to Glen Haven and descending back to Drake. To have remained in automatic-shift mode, the Jeep's 8-speed transmission would have opted for higher gears and required considerable braking.
Jan recognizes the advantage of lower-gear choice in curvy mountain driving to save heated brake wear; the only request she made was for use of the comfort setting for a bit of softness in the built-firm suspension setup.
At the general store, we enjoyed one of the famed homemade cinnamon rolls, for which Childs' wife, Becky, is famed, and visited with Ron Holzschuh, who had driven from Loveland to the store for his birthday.
Since its introduction in 1993, the five-seat Grand Cherokee has been a favorite among sport-utility vehicles. Only the Ford Explorer outsells the Grand Cherokee among midsize SUV/crossovers. Five-month sales totals are 111,266 for Explorer, 96,203 for Grand Cherokee, 82,378 for Toyota Highlander, 57,846 for Ford Edge, 53,098 for Toyota 4Runner, 47,426 for Hyundai Santa Fe, 44,946 for Honda Pilot and half a dozen others follow.
The Grand Cherokee is sold in six trims levels — the Laredo, Limited, offroad-special Trailhawk, Overland, Summit and performance-special SRT. Beginning price for a Laredo 4×4 is around $34,000.
The SRT is, by far, the highest-priced Grand Cherokee, with a base price of $66,795. Adding high-performance braking, 19 Harmon Kardon speakers with subwoofer, dual-pane panoramic sunroof, rear-seat dual-screen Blu-Ray DVD player and trailer-tow group pushed the sticker total to $78,335. Jeep points out that is considerably lower than a Range Rover Sport Supercharged.
Behind the Grand Cherokee's two rows of seats are more than 36 cubic feet of cargo space. The Jeep, 191 inches in overall length on a wheelbase of 114.8 inches, weighs a heavy 5,104 pounds. It rides on Pirelli 295/45ZR20 tires.
An interior highlight are its deeply bolstered seats of suede and leather, finished in a lighter sepia color.
A lane sense safety addition will add torque to the steering wheel in an effort to turn the vehicle back into its driving path when it ventures to a highway line without its turn signal being engaged.
All that excess Hemi power cost the Jeep in fuel mileage, 17.4 overall. Its EPA estimate is 13/19.
The Grand Cherokee is built in Detroit.
The highway up Big Thompson Canyon was closed all winter for repairs from damage in recent years' flooding. Plans are for closing the road again next winter.
Bud Wells, a native of Wray, is a former Page 1 editor of the Denver Post and has reviewed automobiles for the past 40 years. He can be contacted at email@example.com.