No matter how you look at it, 707 horsepower is an insane number for a factory vehicle that isn’t classified as a supercar.
When the “Hellcat” name was first announced in 2014, many thought that the lovely folks at Fiat-Chrysler had gone absolutely crazy – they would be correct. A supercharged V8 was stuffed under the hood of both the Dodge Challenger and Charger, and from a strict horsepower number, changed the game for modern muscle cars. These cars sold fairly well, but this year the FCA engineering team demonstrated that they not only have a sense of humour, but would have no issue producing one of the fastest SUVs in the world.
This 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is the result of nothing short of passion and insanity. The regular Grand Cherokee (reviewed here) is one of our favourites in itself, available in series of trims and with a variety of powertrains including V6s and V8s. This happens to be a $130,000 (including options) version of that SUV, and one where the price of entry is absolutely justified.
From an aesthetic perspective, not much has changed from the standard SRT model (reviewed here). The fog lights have been replaced by an oil cooler and a cold air intake, and there are quad exhaust outlets. The cues are all subtle, but the telltale signs that this is a special machine are the yellow brake calipers and the “Supercharged” badges on the front doors. The Brembo brakes are absolutely massive too – 15.7” front rotors and 13.8” out back (the latter number is identical to the Grand Cherokee SRT.
At 5,250 pounds, the Trackhawk is no lightweight. Even still, the massive SUV is capable of a 100km/m hit from a standstill in about 3.5 seconds, which is serious for an SUV of any sort. The 6.2L V8 mated to a 2.4L IHI supercharger is good for 707 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 645 lb-ft. of torque at 4,800RPM. This is serious power, but what’s truly astonishing is how this truck launches from a stop. A launch control button makes for consistent starts by forcing 6.4psi of boost, and the SRT Drive Mode can be set up to the driver’s liking for optimum performance.
The ZF eight-speed automatic has been made stronger, now codenamed 8HP95. It shifts on command and every upshift is complemented by an angry bark from the exhaust. Other unique powertrain bits include a more aggressive transfer case, reinforced differential, CV joints, half-shafts and more. As such, this Jeep does things you would never expect a 5,000-pound SUV to do. Handling is surprisingly sharp and the steering has some good feel in it. It all comes together to feel very obviously American muscle, but just with more brute force under the hood.
We actually had the chance to drive the Trackhawk in a closed course setting at FCA’s proving grounds in Michigan, and even hustled it around an auto-slalom they had set up for media. It corners in a sloppier manner than say, a 124 Abarth (reviewed here), but is absolutely crisper and more poised than BMW’s X5 M. A square tire setup (295 width) comes together with a unique SRT suspension to create complacent ride quality in a track setting. On the street, it rides quite a bit firmer than you’d expect, making longer commutes a little bit tiresome.
Then again, nobody buys a Grand Cherokee Trackhawk for their daily commute and complains about the ride quality. Officially rated at 20.9L/100km city and 13.8L/100km highway, our mostly-city test resulted in 19.7L/100km over 500km. This average was brought down by a few airport runs near the end of our week, but for the most part, it was showing numbers north of 22L/100km. The Trackhawk’s large tank requires 91-octane premium fuel, and at current prices costs well over $100 to fill.
It was fairly unanimous among our team that the Grand Cherokee in any configuration has a fantastic interior when compared to most rivals. This one is no different, though the $130,000 price tag brings in some serious luxury players including the full-size Range Rover (reviewed here). Regardless, materials and all controls are exactly as expected, with the excellent Uconnect infotainment screen now having improved graphics and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Rear seat legroom is more than adequate for adult passengers, but those expecting a third row will need to look elsewhere.
In Canada, the base price for a Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is $110,845. Our test vehicle was painted in a gorgeous Velvet Red Pearl ($100), and was also heavily optioned. I personally would skip the rear DVD entertainment system ($2,150), and the gloss black painted wheels ($995). A CommandView panoramic sunroof costs $1,695, and a Signature Leather Interior Package at $6,995 adds Laguna leather throughout the cabin. A high-performance audio package is $1,995 and is well worth it, as well.
Interestingly, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk can even tow up to 7,200 pounds when properly equipped with towing packages. Many will remember that the first-generation SRT model had center-outlet exhaust and therefore could not fit a hitch in any way, so this is just affirmation that the Trackhawk is a one-trick pony. It really can do it all, from driving you to work to attacking the local autocross scene on weekends, and then tow the family boat up to the cottage over the holidays.
This modern iteration of real Mopar muscle won my heart over far more than I expected it to. Just looking at the spec sheets it’s easy to assume that it will be fast, but the sheer amount of speed this thing can build in such little time is almost physics defying. Other cars like the Tesla Model X (reviewed here) can pull off similar acceleration, but there’s something about the sensation of an American V8 with a blower that tickles the fancy of purists. The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is most certainly a niche market vehicle, but every single buyer will get serious value for the dollars spent.