What is it: The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is the performance SUV for folks who want to obliterate tires without trying to blend in with the uber-luxe SUV crowd. Its launch-control function optimizes the Jeep's performance by coordinating the engine, transmission, driveline and suspension for a perfect launch and consistent straight-line acceleration.
Key Competitors: Dodge Durango SRT, Chevrolet Tahoe RST, and Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR
Base Price: $86,995 As-Tested Price: $90,995
Full Review: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk first drive
Highlights: The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk gets 707 hp from its 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat Hemi V8. Despite its Hellcat power, the folks at Jeep stuck with a four-wheel-drive system, which means you can rocket this hulking SUV to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. On top of that, you can tow your Demon to your local dragstrip, then make an 11.6-second pass with your tow rig.
When Dodge introduced its 707-hp Hellcat Challengers and Chargers in 2015, it was only a matter of time before the potent powertrain made its way into other Fiat-Chryslers. With a never-ending hunger for SUVs, Jeep was the obvious target for a Hellcat-ified ‘ute. Of course, the Jeep Grand Cherokee with a Hellcat 6.2-liter Hemi was teased and coyly dismissed by anyone working for the company. But eventually, Sergio Marchionne relented and said that there would be a Hellcat Jeep, dubbed the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, and it’s here.
Sure, Jeep didn’t break new ground with the Trackhawk — high-performance SUVs have been around for years, with Jeep’s own Grand Cherokee SRT8 keeping up with the pack of Range Rover Sports and AMG-prepped Mercedes-Benz ‘utes.
But unlike the German and British competition, the Trackhawk doesn’t sway you with luxury refinement. The interior isn’t much nicer than the regular Grand Cherokee, which isn’t to say it’s no nice, just not much nicer. No, with the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, you’re buying a heavy-duty SUV with 707 hp and massive brakes. The Trackhawk does seem to creak and groan when going over bumps, very un-Mercedes-like, but the suspension does well enough over Detroit potholes.
Surprisingly, moderating the Trackhawk’s throttle isn’t hard to do. Unlike my experience with the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, the Jeep seemed easier to drive around in normal traffic. That’s likely due to the extra size and heft of the Jeep, as well as its power going from the eight-speed automatic and into a four-wheel drive system. While it does feel more manageable with traffic, I did find myself downshifting to bring up the 6.2-liter V8’s revs and hear enough blower noise and exhaust note to make running errands fun.
That’s probably the best part of the Trackhawk, and what sets it apart from the German performance competition. With this Jeep, there’s some tongue-in-cheek nod to excess: no one needs a supercharged V8 making more horsepower than most people’s sports toys. That hilarity makes cracking the throttle while tooling around even more fun in Jeep’s most expensive toy.
While it is a toy, it’s not just a big engine stuffed in a full-size SUV. Six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers grip massive rotors: 15.75 inch fore and 13.78 inch aft. You might want to invest in some performance pads if you do plan on tracking your Jeep, as the 5,300 pound Grand Cherokee will be hard on them. Driving around, it’s not even an issue — under normal commuting and spirited street driving the brakes don’t show any fade despite the weight and power. Surrounding the brakes is a set of 20-inch-by-10-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Pirelli three-season rubber. Throwing down for the more aggressive tires might be worth it if you’re in warmer climes, but the standard all-seasons make more sense up north.
If you think the regular Grand Cherokee’s all-wheel-drive system would be taxed by the extra output of the Hellcat mill — you’d be right. To help keep the Jeep’s drivetrain alive, the Trackhawk gets beefier half-shafts, wider chains in the transfer case and a stronger rear axle.
If you’re looking to impress your friends and the other parents at PTA meetings or soccer practice, you’re probably better off looking at the German and English uber SUVs. The interior, too, makes this less of an option for someone looking for something with enough luxury credentials to make people jealous. However, if you’re looking for the most fun SUV you can find today, or something to drag your Dodge Demon to the Mopar Nationals in style — this is the rig for you.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $86,995
As Tested Price: $86,995
Powertrain: 6.2-liter supercharged V8, 4WD eight-speed automatic
Output: 707 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 645 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Curb Weight: 5,363 pounds
0-60 MPH: 3.5-seconds
Options: high performance audio ($1,995) 20″x10″ black stain aluminum wheels ($995), 3 season tires ($895)
Pros: It’s a 707 hp Jeep.
Cons: The interior isn’t as nice as the other performance SUVs.