It has certainly been a season of crossovers, and frankly most of them have been very competent, but rather boring.
There are a few exceptions, including what has to be one of the most interesting and exciting SUVs out there – this 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Where most Jeeps are all about off-road prowess and practicality, the Trackhawk puts a different spin on the old formula with focus shifting away from the gravel pit and onto the drag strip. It’s a pretty wild machine, sharing the 707 horsepower engine with its Hellcat (reviewed here) siblings.
The Trackhawk delivers mind numbing acceleration and a soundtrack that will make most muscle cars sound tame, while still able to haul the family and family boat to the cottage on weekends. This is a formula I can get behind. There are a lot of fourth generation Grand Cherokees on the road, especially since we’re nine years into this generation, however if you’re paying attention the Trackhawk is an immediate standout. It shares its aggressive looking front and rear fascia with the less powerful (475 horsepower) Grand Cherokee SRT (reviewed here), but sits lower hunkered down on wide 20-inch wheels wrapped in 295/45/R20 high performance rubber.
Behind the titanium satin finish wheels sit massive Brembo brakes featuring bright yellow calipers, and a vented hood with gloss black accent color harkens back to a signature 1970s Mopar performance look. Generally, the Grand Cherokee is a handsome SUV, and in Trackhawk guise it’s perfectly brutish and macho looking, exactly like a muscle SUV should look.
Looks hardly matter here, because you’re likely to hear the Trackhawk well before you see it thanks to an absolutely gloriously crude growl emitted from the massive dual exhaust. It’s through this exhaust that the throbbing heart, a 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft. supercharged 6.2-liter V8, breathes. This engine serves no purpose other than to put and keep, a smile on the driver’s face at all times. It propels the beast to 100km/h in a reported 3.5 seconds, and having had the chance to give the Jeep’s launch control a try, the acceleration is worthy of supercar status.
An eight speed automatic handles the power extremely well with lightning quick, yet firm shifts, also accessible through the steering wheel mounted paddles. Power flows through Jeep’s Quadra-Trac SRT Active On Demand 4×4 system. With 707 horsepower at your disposal the system works hard, even on dry roads, to keep the big Jeep going exactly where it’s pointed.
In fact, the Jeep’s dynamics, thanks in part to is sophisticated 4×4 system remain some of the more impressive aspects of it. Despite its mass and obnoxious power, even on a hard launch the Jeep grips like nothing I’ve experienced before planting all of that power down to the road and taking off like a rocket. Straight line grip is truly impressive here, but the Trackhawk isn’t a one-trick pony either. Thanks to stiffened suspension and those big six-piston Brembo brakes, it’s surprisingly playful through the twisty backroads, and even takes high speed on-ramps with outstanding body control.
The electronic steering is quick and responsive, but I would like to have a lot more feedback through the thick leather wrapped wheel, even if just for the added confidence of knowing what the front tires are doing when you’re pushing near the limits of grip. Of course, the downside to this stiffer suspension is a rougher ride, and that’s exactly what you get here. It’s not sports-car rough, but remainss rougher than I’d want for a family hauler, though this is a small compromise to make for the performance the Trackhawk delivers.
Blazing fast the Trackhawk is, but that’s not the only trick in its bag. When equipped with the tow package it’s capably of towing up to 7,200 pounds, enough for most common recreational toys, or even for hauling your other track car to the track. The fancy 4×4 system does have a snow mode, and while we didn’t get much snow this week, apparently with proper winter tires the Trackhawk can take on winter’s worst as confidently as it can take on the racetrack.
Now, all this insane performance and practical capability has to come with a cost. The first is at the pumps; the Trackhawk is thirsty, very thirsty. Even in the post coronavirus apocalyptic suburban traffic, and a reasonably light foot for much of my driving, the best I could muster out of the big Jeep is an average of 19.7L/100km, and of course it needs premium fuel. With fuel prices what they are right now, I wasn’t too upset, but when fuel starts to creep up again, and you know it will, daily driving one of these would get painful fast.
The other place you’ll pay for a machine of this caliber is obviously the price. Without discounts, the starting price for a Trackhawk is $113,745, and from there you can add a few options to round out the bill. Our tester came with the $6,995 Signature Leather Package, which wraps the heated and ventilated performance bucket seats in super-soft Laguna leather, as well as the door panels. There’s also the $1,995 SRT High Performance Audio package which adds a 19-speaker 825-watt stereo system, $1,695 for the panoramic sunroof, $2,150 for the rear entertainment, and $995 for the titanium wheels.
You’ll also need to pay out $3000 in a Federal Green Levy due to the Trackhawk’s fuel consumption. Those packages, plus a few smaller stand-alone options brought our total as tested price to $133,735. That’s a lot of money for a Grand Cherokee; in fact it’s the most expensive Jeep you can buy. Still, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anything else that offers the power, acceleration and capability for less.
I haven’t written much about the Trackhawk’s interior, because it’s basically the same interior you’ll find in a regular high-trim level Grand Cherokee, but with the big soft performance bolstered bucket seats up front, red seat belts, and some Trackhawk logos. That’s not a bad thing, because the Grand Cherokee interior makes for an excellent family space, with a roomy second row and plenty of storage up front. It also has Chrysler’s fantastic Uconnect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
This also means it makes for a decently practical family vehicle; it’ll easily fit a couple of child seats, or even three teenagers on the split rear bench. From an overall fit and finish standpoint, the Grand Cherokee interior is nice, but it’s a little out of its element in this price point, which makes some of the materials, such as the silver plastic finish on the center console, suddenly feel out of place in a truck with a price tag well into the six-figure mark.
At the end of my week it was tough to hand over that bright red Trackhawk-branded key. The raw power and sound from that supercharged V8 is simply intoxicating and I can easily see how someone would decide that they need this in their life. It’s in a niche of its own, though other high-performance SUVs such as the Range Rover Sport SVR (reviewed here) or BMW X5 M, but none of those offerings could hold a candle to the Trackhawk’s outright acceleration. Really then, like most Jeeps, this is an SUV that you buy with your heart. There is no justifying this one – you’ll simply fall in love, and must have it.