New Grand Cherokee Trackhawk runs with Hellcat power

New Grand Cherokee Trackhawk runs with Hellcat power

The 707-horsepower supercharged V8 puts it on the top rung of high-performance SUVs

These days, an outrageous muscle car can be made from of just about any vehicle.  Modern drivetrain technology, advanced electronics, creative suspension and brake engineering, even high-performance tires, can be deployed to develop such wild and crazy beasts as this: the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. 

Who would ever think that you could take such a mainstay of family SUV life, or of off-road adventure, and transform it into one of the hottest muscle machines on the road today? But here it is, and boy, is it fast.  Dodge Challenger/Charger Hellcat fast.

New for the 2018 model year, the Jeep Trackhawk and its twin-supercharged, 6.2-liter Hemi V8 engine holds a horsepower record for production SUVs. At a stunning 707 horsepower, it’s the top dog among 2018 high-performance SUV models.  Trackhawk eclipses the former SUV horsepower champ, the Mercedes-Benz AMG G-Class with its measly 621 horsepower. 

Jeep

Bright-yellow brake calipers reinforce the performance look | Bob Golfen 

With the same high-output V8 as the Hellcat twins, this hulking Jeep is startlingly quick, bellowing from its dual exhaust as it rockets quickly past any sort of reasonable highway speed. It’s like takeoff in a jumbo jet. Uphill freeway ramps become a roaring romp.

The zero-to-60 sprint on level ground is rated at 3.5 seconds, according to factory specs, which is doubly impressive when you considerate this vehicle weighs more than two-and-a-half tons.  The power comes on in a snap at any speed.

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The top speed is set electronically at 180 miles per hour, not that I came anywhere close to that on the roads in and around Monterey, California, where I had the opportunity to enjoy the Jeep during the most-recent Monterey Car Week.  This was a perfect vehicle for stopping off at the various upscale collector-car shindigs, where even the Ferrari crowd stepped back.

Jeep

The supercharged Hemi heart of the beast | Jeep 

I also discovered on the winding back roads in the area that the burly Trackhawk handles remarkably well, not just for its height and heft but for any vehicle.  The amazing suspension technology is specially tuned for the Trackhawk, as well as Grand Cherokee SLT models.  Those foot-wide Pirelli tires don’t hurt any, either.

Yes, this Jeep with its massive load of performance upgrades drives fantastically, its power and agility putting many acclaimed muscle cars in the rear view.  It’s fun to drive from the moment you crank up that booming big block and hear the insistent whir of the supercharger belts. 

Yet there is a downside, and that would be pocketbook issues.  First off, there’s the fuel mileage.  Now, I didn’t expect it to be all that impressive, and the EPA rates it at 11 city, 17 highway and 13 combined.  But according to the onboard computer, my average mileage during a week of admittedly not-too-conservative driving showed 8.5 mpg.  That’s pretty bad.

Jeep

The wheels and tires are appropriately huge | Bob Golfen 

I can’t remember driving any passenger vehicle that sucked up so much fuel. Even the 808-horsepower Dodge Challenger Demon has a better EPA estimate.  You’d have to get into exotic hypercar territory to do worse. 

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Then there’s the price of entry.  The base price for the Trackhawk is a solid $86,200, which includes a load of premium features along with the performance tweaks.  This Jeep came with a $5,000 luxury-leather interior package, a $2,000 Harman Kardon audio system, a $2,100 panoramic sunroof and $2,000 worth of 20-inch black-alloy wheels and fat, grippy tires, plus a nearly $1,500 delivery charge.

What we end up with is a Jeep that costs just a smidge under $100,000, and more when you consider local taxes.   That seems like a lot for a Jeep Grand Cherokee, even one as toweringly awesome as this one.  But for those among us with lots of cash to spare, this could be the latest, greatest plaything. 

Jeep

The luxury-leather interior package is impressive | Jeep 

The Trackhawk does uphold its pricing in other ways besides performance, such as the luxury interior with all the trimmings.  Wondering whether the splendidly furnished cabin is worth such a steep price is one thing, but recognizing that it is truly quite special is something completely different.

Besides the gorgeous-looking and substantial-feeling upholstery and metallic trim, the Jeep is loaded with impressive electronic features, most of them accessed via the 8.5-inch video screen. Among them, a myriad of  controls that allow you to personalize the power delivery, including launch control, and to monitor such things as G forces.

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The seats felt solid and supportive, and comfortable even in dense Monterey Car Week traffic, and there were plenty of cubbies and other places for stowage.  Major plus for the extra tall or big driver: there’s plenty of room in here.

Jeep

Launch-control mode for track fun | Jeep

The test Trackhawk’s paint scheme would have been fairly conservative in Anthracite Gray Metallic, if not for the oversized bright-yellow brake calibers showing through the black-spoked wheels.  The brake discs are gigantic.

The Jeep also is noticeably hunkered down over its huge wheels, technically about 1.5 inches lower than the standard Grand Cherokee, yet looking so much more aggressive.

The Trackhawk has about as many muscle car bona fides as anyone could possibly desire. That is, if one has a hankering for the fastest, most-bad-ass SUV in the entire playground.

Jeep

Modern muscle machine in the guise of an SUV | Bob Golfen

You might wonder why such a thing exists, but if you can afford it, and don’t mind frequent fuel stops, Trackhawk will provide extreme driving excitement, and best-of-class bragging rights, just as it was designed to do.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Vehicle type: five-passenger, five-door crossover, four-wheel drive
Base price: $86,200 Price as tested: $99,615
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8, 707 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, 645 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 114.7 inches Overall length/width: 189.8 inches / 76.5 inches
Curb weight: 5,363 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 11 city / 17 highway / 13 combined
Assembled in: Detroit, Michigan

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