When rumors started circulating a few years ago that Jeep was going to introduce a Hellcat variant of their Jeep Grand Cherokee, everyone brushed them off. They said that they’d never be able to engineer a reliable transfer case that would handle the 707-horsepower and 645-pound feet of torque that the 6.2L supercharged engine produced. They also said that same mill would never fit under the bonnet and that if for some reason they did get it in there, that the Cherokee as a whole would cease to be anything more than a show pony that would be a warranty department’s best friend.
But this is FCA, the company that brought you the Dodge Viper ACR, the Hellcat twins and the newly crowned drag race King, the Dodge Demon. That’s why when Jeep invited me to drive their newest all-wheel drive hammer, I jumped on a plane and flew 3,000-miles across the country to check it out.
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk Exterior
The fog lamps have been eliminated. New 20-inch alloy wheels running 295/45-series Pirelli P-Zero tires fill the wheel wells. There are now quad-tipped exhaust ports in a new diffusor out back and on the hood are a couple of heat extractors to help keep things cool. This is the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk and from the outside a non-enthusiast would be hard-pressed to tell it apart from the standard Jeep GC SRT aside from a few little giveaways.
A bad thing however this is not because instead of giving the TrackHawk a completely separate persona from the 6.4L JGC SRT they instead infused a few subtle changes that would tip off those in the know that this is indeed the most powerful SUV ever produced.
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk Interior
When I think of Jeep as a brand I think of one thing – utility. From the 2017 Compass to this new TrackHawk, every vehicle they produce needs to work the way that Jeep vehicles do. It needs to haul cargo, be comfortable and all-weather capable, and of course, maintain that rugged spirit the company is known for. Building this into an SUV with supercar performance, though, is a challenge. How does one do this while still maintaining the feeling of a brand that was born off-road?
A big hat-tip goes to the interior design team because regardless of the fact that the TrackHawk will run to 60mph in just 3.3-seconds, they’ve still managed to keep enough grizzly stubble in the interior so that you won’t mind throwing bags of mulch in the back when you go to Home Depot.
Electronically adjustable leather bucket seats offer heat, ventilation and enough bolstering to keep you planted whether you’re ripping down the ¼-mile or flogging it around your favorite road course. They’re TrackHawk branded and depending on your option list can be had with video monitors that allow rear passengers full HDMI connectivity. There’s double-stitched leather everywhere, along with carbon fiber inlays, a massive 8.4-inch touchscreen for the interactive UConnect System and a banging Harman-Kardon sound system. Thanks to the 60/40 fold-flat heated rear seats, the Grand Cherokee still provides all the utility you could ask for (up to 68.3 cu-ft.) while still feeling upscale. How upscale? That would be $85,900.00 (base price)**.
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk Performance
707-hp and 645 lb-ft of torque, 0-60mph in 3.3-seconds, a quarter mile time in the 11’s and a top speed of 180-mph- these are the performance numbers found in supercars, not 5,300-pound SUVs. And while the numbers are quite amazing, it’s how the new 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk drives that makes it something special. This thing is a total teddy bear until you want it to be a grizzly. On the road the ride is comfortable and compliant. The cabin is quiet and thanks to TrackHawks’ five different drive modes that divvy up the torque split to the all-wheel drive system (Track 30/70, Sport 35/65, Auto 40/60, Snow 50/50, and Tow 60/40) it’s one of the few vehicles that can adapt to fit the consumer’s every need.
Now while the TrackHawk is 100% track capable, don’t go thinking you’re going to be schooling Porsche vehicles and GT350 models on a road course. Instead, look at the TrackHawk for what it is, and break it down by the numbers. It weighs over 5,300-pounds, it’s an SUV, it seats 5 adults comfortably and can tow up to 7,200-pounds. It’s only once you understand this that you’ll truly appreciate how amazing it really is. Sampling the performance of the TrackHawk at Club Motor Sports Park in New Hampshire proved eye opening. First off, there is simply no masking its weight, as this thing is heavy. In track mode the power bias is set-up for a 30/70 front to rear split. This not only allows for some tail-wagging fun, but it also allows for you to steer the TrackHawk with the throttle during track conditions. Smooth is fast in this case, so come into a corner too hot and you’re met with understeer and a whole lot of front-end push. Back off a little; concentrate on using the weight to your advantage, and the TrackHawk will then reward its pilot.
The engine is a gem and basically transforms the TrackHawk into a time machine. If you want to get “there” – wherever that may be – simply flatfoot the skinny pedal. The rush of HP and TQ is immediate, the 8-speed transmission kicks down multiple gears and the Jeep shoots forward with a violent grace that must simply be experienced to be understood. Steering feel is firm without being over assisted and provides a fair amount of feedback to the driver. Pitch the Jeep into a corner, lift off the throttle and allow the mass to rotate through the corner and then BOOM, mash the gas and shoot out. It takes a bit of practice, but get it right and you’ll be giggling as you hammer past a host of two-door sport coupes.
If you’re more of a straight-liner, then simply engage launch control, set your RPMs to about 2,100, mash the brake pedal and then side-step it and you’ll bang to 60mph in 3.3-seconds and run the ¼-mile in 11.6-seconds. Folks, that’s fast for any vehicle regardless of price. Now, Jeep claims a 0-60 time of 3.5, but I did it in 3.3… Just saying.
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk Safety
Aside from massive 6-piston Brembo brakes up front on 15.75-inch rotors and 4-piston units out back, the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk also comes with a host of other safety features to keep you and your passengers safe. With standard all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, airbags throughout the cabin, multiple drive modes, blind spot monitoring and a rear-view camera (plus other features), Jeep has managed to provide blistering performance and safety in one very nice package.
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk Overall
I’ve got to give Jeep credit. The 2018 Grand Cherokee TrackHawk is a full-size SUV that can tow up to 7,200-pounds, run blistering ¼-mile and respectable lap times, seat five adults in pure luxury, and dust off full-blown sports cars and hot-rods at stop lights. When they first announced this thing I was skeptical, but I’ve got to say they’ve pulled it off with flying colors. Well done Jeep, the TrackHawk can now be counted as one of the baddest performance SUVs on this little blue planet we call Earth. Drop by your local AutoNation Dodge dealer today to check one out!
*Fuel economy values (mpg) of 11-mpg city and 17-mpg highway are EPA estimates. Actual mileage will vary and depends on several factors including driving habits and vehicle condition.
**Vehicle MSRP of $85,900.00 excludes taxes, title, transportation, options, and dealer fees.