2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
There is now a 707 horsepower Jeep.
You read that right, and the first question most folks ask is, Why would Jeep do this?
The answer: Because they can.
There’s no reasonable or logical reason, except that Fiat/Chrysler, which is the overindulgent parent of Jeep and Dodge, has been playing up its youthful exuberance via high-powered vehicles for several years now. Yes, this has a Hemi in it!
First it was the Hellcat, both as a Dodge Challenger and Charger, using the same 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 that powers this Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Then there’s the Demon, another Challenger with even more power and aimed directly at the drag strip crowd. But there’s little chance many folks will be buying a Jeep to race at the local drag strip, especially when the tested Trackhawk’s price tag nudged $91 grand.
Yet a few folks, and you know who they are, always need to have the biggest, well, engine on the block. They are the buyers that previously have snapped up the top-end sports cars and muscle cars of the past. Think Corvette envy.
The Hellcats, Demons and Trackhawks are shoving that with both hands to a new level, and doing so with in-your-face marketing.
Hey, this is what makes America what it is and there’s no denying the GC Trackhawk will move. It roars, it belches and it flat out rockets up or down highway entry ramps like a racer heading out of the pits at Indianapolis. Triple digits are possible, and quickly too.
Most fun though is the serious rumble that churns out the two dual exhausts in back. Start this up and folks in the parking lot look your way. Small children run for cover! Wanna show off? Leave it in Park and rev the engine, this supercharged Hemi burbles and sings a sexy song of power.
There are four drive modes to choose from, all the way from Snow (thankfully none while I had the Jeep), to Track mode. The Automatic default setting is what most of us would use for everyday driving. Power from the 707-horse beast is generous in that mode and the ride is as tame as the Jeep allows, although most people would find it pretty darned stiff and uncompromising on rough city streets. Bilstein provides the competition suspension under the Trackhawk, and competition is what it embraces.
Dial up Sport mode and the 8-speed automatic transmission holds the lower gears a little longer to boost low-end power. You’ll hear a little more engine growl, including supercharger whine, and the steering firms a tad, along with the suspension. Go all the way to Track and steering is as firm as any sports car and the suspension creates a ride best appreciated on smooth blacktop, say a drag strip.
Ah, and then Jeep includes Launch Control, a button that lets you set the Jeep for racing and prevents wheel spin so that the Grand Cherokee will launch away from the drag strip’s tree with efficiency, not a tire-shredding burnout.
Fun is maximized audibly in Sport and Track via the crackle that comes automatically from the engine and exhaust as the Jeep shifts. Hard to avoid smiling when you hear it, and another buddy who rode with me during one highway acceleration run was downright giddy.
From a practical standpoint (yes, there is some practicality) this is still a Jeep, so you have the advantage of all-wheel-drive to help out when streets become slick or roads are snowy. Not sure how many of these will go off road, but there is a bit more than 8 inches of ground clearance too.
The Trackhawk corners well and the steering feedback is sporty so you feel it’s easy to drive aggressively on winding roads. The test ute had 3-season performance rated 20-inch Pirelli tires to aid grip. Those are an $895 option. Certainly the overall power here is aimed for straight-ahead challenges, but handling is rewarding.
Braking is fine too from the four-wheel independent discs with Brembo calipers. These are painted yellow to call a bit more attention to them, and why the heck not?
Outside the tested Trackhawk was a mid-tone gray with a hint of blue that Jeep calls Rhino
clear-coat. There are a couple Trackhawk logos to let passersby know this isn’t your Uncle Jeb’s Jeep. Trackhawk also is embroidered on the front seat backs and there’s another logo on the steering wheel.
Inside, the test sport-ute offered saddle brown leather seats with a perforated suede-type cloth for the center portion. Seats are powered and well contoured for comfort and easily hold a driver or passenger in place if the Trackhawk is being used to its full potential.
Seats are both heated and cooled up front, with the second row seats also heated, as is the thick leather steering wheel. All that is standard along with a couple memory settings for the driver’s seat.
There’s a power tilt/telescope steering wheel with the usual plethora of hub controls for trip computer, phone, radio and cruise control. Jeep includes paddle shifters behind the wheel if you prefer manual shifts and this has a flat-bottomed or D-shaped wheel, which completes the ute’s racy theme.
Dash controls are large and easy to see and use and the radio/nav screen is sizeable too. The Jeep comes with all of today’s normal safety features, including blind-spot warning, a backup camera, lane departure control, adaptive cruise control, park assist and cross-traffic alerts. Remote start also is standard.
Rear seat space is substantial and there’s the usual large storage area behind the folding rear seats for cargo. Trackhawk also will tow 7,200 lbs. and a power hatch is standard too.
What there isn’t is a sunroof. I suppose that wouldn’t be safe when racing on the drag strip. But the sloping roofline also limits the headroom for a short driver crawling into the vehicle. I had to duck and lean as far back as possible to avoid a good noggin thumping each time I got in.
I also found the transmission whine disturbing as I put the Jeep through its performance paces. I originally thought this was supercharger whine, but shifting into neutral and revving the engine confirmed it was not that.
I suppose one would expect low gas mileage in a beast with 707 horsepower and a torque rating of 645 lb.-ft. And your expectations would be spot on. I got 12.9 mpg, a bit better than the trip computer allowed. The EPA rates this Jeep at 11 mpg city and 17 mpg highway.
Pricing is way past luxury levels because this is intended as a racer. The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk starts at $86,995, including delivery. And the test unit ended up at $90,880 after adding the performance tires, black satin aluminum 20-inch wheels for $995 and a high-performance audio system with 19 Harman Kardon speakers, a subwoofer and 825-watt amp for $1,995.
Certainly there are tamer Grand Cherokees available, starting at just $31,690 for the Laredo rear-drive model. Heck, even an SRT model with a 425-horse V8 seems a steal at $68,490. For the record, Jeep claims the SRT will do 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds, while the Trackhawk does it in 3.5 seconds. On the drag strip that’s a lot of time.
Again, there’s no denying the performance and the possible status Trackhawk may bring, but you’d better be serious about getting in some track time!
FAST STATS: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Hits: Power in spades, good handling, AWD and plenty of cargo room. Heated two rows of comfy seats and heated steering wheel, 4 drive modes and launch control – really!
Misses: Stiff ride, no sunroof, low head clearance getting into vehicle, transmission whine, low mpg and high price.
Made in: Detroit, Mich.
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8, 707 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 114.7 in.
Length: 189.8 in.
Cargo: 36.3 cu. ft. (68.3 cu.ft. rear seats down)
Tow: 7,200 lbs.
MPG: 11/17 (EPA)
MPG: 12.9 (tested)
Base Price: $86,995 (includes delivery)
Invoice: $82,778 (includes delivery)
High-performance audio (19 Harman Kardon speakers w/subwoofer, 825-watt amp), $1,995
ZR20 3-season tires, $895
20-inch black satin aluminum wheels, $995
Test vehicle: $90,880
Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com
Photos: Robby DeGraff and Mark Savage