THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: It’s not hype. This is the fastest, most powerful SUV on the market.
- What’s Worst: Like all Hellcat engined FCA vehicles, make sure your auto insurance provider is your best friend.
- What’s Interesting: It goes from 0-60 mph in 3.5 second and stops from 60-0 mph in 114 feet.
PORTLAND, Maine: Jeep calls the 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk “the most powerful, quickest SUV ever.”
And even including the potent 475 hp Dodge SRT Durango, there is literally nothing like it on the road or track.
While the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk takes off-roading in style to the max, the Trackhawk does with the same on pavement with leather-wrapped luxury and blinding acceleration and handling to match.
The Grand Cherokee is available with a wide range of engines from a 3.6-litre V6 or 3.0-litre V6 diesel to three Hemi-derived overhead valve V8s. At the top of the tree is the “Hellcat” 6.2-litre supercharged V8 with 707 hp and 645 lb/ft of torque on 91-octane premium fuel.
Each hand-built engine is tested on the dyno for 42 minutes and drivetrain for five hours before it goes into the Trackhawk.
To feed air to the supercharger, the foglight on the front driver’s side is replaced by a vent that leads to a “cool box” inside the upper wheel well.
It is fitted to a beefed-up eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel-drive with the ability to tow up to 3,266 kg (7,200 lb) and a payload of 612 kg (1,350 lb).
Standard are truly massive 400 mm (15.75 in) front rotors with Brembo six-piston calipers and 350 mm (13.78 in) rear rotors with four piston Brembos. Exclusively on Trackhawk, the calipers are painted bright yellow.
Front suspension is short- and long-arm independent (SLA) with aluminum lower control arm, aluminum knuckle, aluminum clevis, coil springs, Bilstein adaptive damping suspension (ADS), upper- and lower-control arms (“A” arms) and hollow stabilizer bar
At the rear, you find a multi-link rear suspension, coil springs, Bilstein adaptive damping suspension (ADS), aluminum lower control arm, independent upper links (tension and camber) plus a separate toe link and hollow stabilizer bar.
Accommodation is generous for two at the front and three in the second row. Maximum cargo volume behind the front seat is 1,930 litres (68.3 in) and 1,030 litres (36.3 cu in) behind the second row.
With a gross weight of 2,994 kg (6,600 lb) you’d think this isn’t the kind or vehicle you can throw around a track — and you’d be wrong.
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As part of the press preview, we drove Trackhawks from Portland, Maine, into New Hampshire to Club Motorsport, a track so new; it didn’t open officially until a week later.
Carved into the side of a mountain, the member-owned facility has elevation changes like few other circuits I’ve ever seen.
The weight distribution is 55/45, front-rear, making the Trackhawk well balanced from the outset.
The electronically modulated torque converter clutch has seven available drive modes – Auto, Sport, Track, Snow, Tow, Eco and Valet.
With the 4WD, torque split varies, but in Track mode it is 30 per cent front and 70 per cent rear with P295/45VR20 Pirelli Scorpion Verde all-season run flat tires standard.
Yes, the Trackhawk was unseemly fast on the track, but the eye-opener came when we used Launch Control.
First, open the “Performance Pages” on the Uconnect 8.4-inch centre stack touchscreen and punch in Track.
Next, launch revs are selected (in this case 2,100 rpm) and you’re ready to go.
Next, you punch the Launch Control button on the centre console and then literally stand on the brake pedal with the left foot until you see more than 1,000 lb of pressure shown on the screen.
Holding down the brake with all your strength, you then push the gas pedal to the floor with all your might until the engine starts to stutter.
Then you lift both feet simultaneously and explode forward with 1.4 g slamming you into the seat.
The engine and drivetrain does the rest automatically.
What a rush!
Jeep says the Trackhawk goes from 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds and covers the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds with a top speed of 290 km/h (180 mph).
And remember those Brembos? They can haul the Trackhawk down from 60-0 mph in 36 metres (114 ft).
On the road to and from the track, it was easy to drive with supple handling and a surprising lack of exterior tire noise despite riding on performance rubber.
Put your foot down, however, and the twin screw supercharger, that can go through 30,000 litres of air a minute at full bore, starts to emit the kind of rising whine you only get from a big blower.
Who would buy something like this you might ask?
It looks like a lot of people already have raised their hands and opened wallets ($109,990) including a journalist on the event who had already purchased one sight unseen.
When I asked him why, he said, “It does everything I want, and besides, I know and respect of the guys who built it.”
I don’t think you can find a better testimonial than that.
So if you’re into copious utility, not to mention being the fastest guy on the block SUV or not, the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is what you’re looking for.
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
BODY STYLE: Four-door, five-passenger high performance mid-size crossover SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, full-time four-wheel-drive, eight-speed heavy-duty TorqueFlite automatic transmission
ENGINE: 6.2-litre “Hellcat” OHV Hemi supercharged V8 (707 hp, 645 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) TBA
TOW RATING: 3,266 kg (7,200 lb)
PAYLOAD: 612 kg (1,350 lb).
CARGO VOLUME: 1,930 litres (68.3 in) behind front seat, 1,030 litres (36.3 cu in) behind the second row
PRICE: $109,990, not including $1,795 destination fee
WEB SITE: www.jeep.ca