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2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk: First Drive and Review

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been around in SRT guise since 2006 but someone at Jeep got the notion that sticking the 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat engine under the hood of the Grand Cherokee was a good idea. This steroid-injected beast is the third recipient of the mighty Hellcat engine. Judging by the amount of fun driving the Hellcat Challenger was three years ago, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was a welcome sight in the HM Garage. The question is, was it as much fun to drive as the Challenger?

What Is It?

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk comes equipped with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 pumping out 707 horsepower and 645 lb.-ft. of torque. This power plant is coupled to a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission that’s built to handle all that horsepower and torque being thrown at it. The 2.3-liter supercharger can generate up to 11.6 psi of boost. The Trackhawk also comes with Jeep’s Quadra-Trac on-demand four-wheel drive system which features an electronic limited-slip rear differential and a single-speed active transfer case.

How Does It Perform?

It boggles the mind how this 5,400 pound beast can go from 0 to 60 in a mere 3.4 seconds and sprint the quarter mile in 12 seconds. And with all-wheel drive, you feel more in control of all that power under the hood. Punching the Grand Cherokee from a dead stop in Sport mode launches the SUV with little to no tire spin. The Trackhawk’s front end rises slightly and from there, the Pirelli P-Zero three-season tires grab hold and everything is a blur once this thing takes off. It’s like watching the Enterprise go into warp drive. In Sport mode, the Trackhawk puts the power to the pavement using a 35/65 torque split. Saying the Trackhawk is fast is an understatement. It’s wicked fast. The top speed is a mind-blowing 180 mph.

The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk features the Selec-Track system with five driving modes and Bilstein adaptive damping suspension. Auto mode can automatically adapt to any driving condition using a 40/60 torque split. In Sport mode, transmission shift times are greatly diminished, the suspension gets a bit firmer, and steering gets a bit tighter with a 35/65 torque split. Track mode reduces shift times by 68 percent. Steering, stability controls, and the four-wheel-drive system are also maximized for the track with a 30/70 torque split. Tow mode manages torque delivery when pulling loads and regulates the suspension to alleviate pitch and yaw using a 60/40 torque split. Snow mode increases traction on snow and ice with decreased horsepower using a 50/50 torque split.

Once you’re done hooning this beast, you’ll find that when driving around town, the Trackhawk drives like a “normal” Grand Cherokee. Dialing up Auto mode keeps the SUV civil, the cabin is fairly quiet, and the ride isn’t harsh thanks to the Bilstein adaptive damping suspension. Even on rough roads, the suspension isn’t jarring or brutal when going over potholes or dips in the road. Steering is also light, but responsive. If you feel the need to go off-roading, the Trackhawk has 8.1 inches of ground clearance.

With all its sheer ferocity, the Trackhawk is quite composed when cruising down the highway. Even with performance exhaust, it’s surprisingly quiet thanks to active noise cancellation. And just because it’s a performance vehicle, Jeep didn’t skimp on features that make the driving experience more pleasant. Adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay, and an 8.4-inch Uconnect system are all standard.

In case you’re wondering, the Trackhawk only averaged 12.1 mpg in combined city and highway driving. That falls a bit short of the EPA’s rating of 13 mpg combined. We doubt most folks will buy the Trackhawk based on its mpg rating. However, we do suggest filling up before heading to parts unknown or you may find yourself calling AAA for extra gas.

Is It Useful?

Even though the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a performance-minded SUV, it’s actually somewhat practical. It’ll seat five adults, tow 7,200 pounds, and has 36.3 cubic-feet of storage space behind the second-row seat. You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. In addition, there’s a wealth of infotainment features available including SiriusXM, Travel Link, Traffic and Guardian Connected Services.

Interior

Our Trackhawk came equipped with two-tone black and sepia with Nappa leather seats with suede inserts and stitched Trackhawk logo. They’re quite comfortable, have plenty of width, and feature eight-way adjustability with power four-way lumbar support. They are also heated and ventilated. The standard Premium Metal Package adds metal accents throughout the cabin and enhances the Trackhawk’s masculine interior feel. The flat-bottom steering wheel is thick and provides plenty of grip. All things considered, the Trackhawk’s interior has just the right mix of sport and luxury features. Granted, it’s not as luxurious or upscale as other sport luxury SUVs such as the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLS 63 or the BMW X5 M, but the Trackhawk gets our vote in the sport SUV segment.

How Does It Stack Up Against the Competition?

There isn’t much competition out there for the Trackhawk unless you count the Tesla Model X. Sure, the Model X is a little faster from 0 to 60 (3.2 seconds) and can outpace the Trackhawk by 0.2 seconds in the quarter mile. However, the Tesla also empties your wallet a lot quicker compared to the Trackhawk. Tens of thousands of dollars more, that is.

What Does It Cost?

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk has a base price of $87,445, including destination. Tacking on additional options such as signature leather, rear-seat DVD, high performance audio, and dual-pane sunroof can drive the price close to the $100K range. That’s still cheaper than a comparably equipped BMW X5 M or the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE 63.

The Verdict

One thought that kept coming to mind is who really needs an over-the-top, 707 horsepower SUV. Well, the question that should be asked is who wants it. The Trackhawk is so much fun to drive that it would be hard not to want one after you’ve experienced it. Sure, it’s excessive and a bit over the top but sometimes, you just have to say what the heck and have fun on your own terms. If you find you’re having that midlife crisis, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk just might be the cure for what ails you.

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