• Review 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Review: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

For true Mopar fans and fast-vehicle fans alike.

Dan Heyman By: Dan Heyman August 17, 2018
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THE PROS & CONS

    • What’s best: Power and sense of occasion. But mostly power.
    • What’s worst: Not inexpensive, and not all that smooth-riding, either.
    • What’s interesting: Supercharger whine at 1,100 RPM ‘round town speeds, because why not?

You can hear it. When tottering about town at 1,000 rpm, you can hear it. When smashing through the countryside at 100, you can hear it. Oh, and when you sample the launch control system, you can definitely hear it. That telltale whine. To the uninitiated, it sounds like something’s broken. Of course, to those in the know, it sounds like all hell’s about to break loose.

I speak, of course, of the supercharger whine in the latest bonkers SUV from the nutbars at Dodge’s SRT division: the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk (GCT) and its 6.2 litre V8 crowned with a supercharger that looks as big as a Civic’s engine block. In the litres sense, it’s about a third of the size of the Trackhawk’s engine itself — 2.7L  for the supercharger, 6.2 for the engine. Needless to say that with 707 hp and 645 lb-ft under the hood it’s not cultured, but darned if that’s not exactly the idea.

Insanely quick, but you may not know it from looking at it

Review 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

What’s strange about the Trackhawk is that it actually kind of shirks the image that hot Dodges and Chryslers have always had; that of bright, retina-searing paint, racing stripes and decals and biiiiiig rims. Think of the Charger SRT8 Daytona, or the Challenger Scat Pack Shaker. Or even the Trackhawk’s various Trailhawk siblings.

My Jeep had none of these things; the Velvet Read Pearl in which it’s finished is more apologetic than shouty (the Redline Pearl option sounds shoutier, and it is), the optional black wheels are a slight indicator as to what could be lurking underneath and those tailpipes are large, but really the yellow brake calipers are the only real eye-catchers, here. Look more closely, of course, and you’ll see the z-rated Pirelli rubber, darkened grille, new front splitter, deleted foglamps and “supercharged” badge on the lower doors. Even in early morning light, though, you’d have a hard time identifying this as anything other than a pretty run-of-the-mill Grand Cherokee.

Step inside, however…

Review 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Review 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Bit of a different story, here – especially in my tester, whose “Demonic Red/Black” interior leaves little to the imagination. What basically amounts to the entire lower half of the cabin (including the seats) is finished in a very red red, while the top half including the roof lining is all black. The whole schlamozzle is neatly bisected by proper carbon, for a seriously purposeful interior.

Infotainment-wise, the Trackhawk sees the addition of Uconnect 4.0, which in turn sees the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. Unfortunately, it also sees the departure from a Garmin-based native navigation system. The new system doesn’t look quite as good, and the buttons are much smaller than previous. I guess FCA would argue that most people will use CarPlay for navigation, but I know I didn’t during my test; not once. That costs me data. The native GPS system does not.

A look in the back seats of my tester reveals that it has the family-hauling bases covered, too, what with the bench seat, dual rear Blu-Ray entertainment system and roomy environs. I don’t know how many people are going to put up the almost $2,200 required for a DVD system in an SUV with the word “track” in its name, but you never know.

What they might be more likely to do, however, is go for the $825 Trailer Tow Group IV package, which adds 4 and 7-pin wiring harnesses, a class IV hitch and compact spare tire. Thanks to all that, the Trackhawk gets a 3,266 kilo tow rating.

Really, though – the navigation and infotainment systems in a car like this are probably the last things GCT drivers are going to bother with when it comes to infotainment; much better they should spend their time examining the performance pages; that’s where you can set your launch control revs, track Gs undertaken and acceleration times. Much more “Trackhawk” stuff, then. As is the red keyfob; Hellcat connoisseurs will remember that those cars came with two keys – one black, one red – with the red version freeing up all the available horsepower. The Trackahwk? It just gets a red one. There’s no fooling around, here.

Anti-establishment

Review 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Skeptics will undoubtedly question the sense, the very existence of this fastest of Jeep SUVs (actually, that’s not really fair as the Trackhawk will not only give other performance SUVs a run for their money, but proper performance cars, too). There are already two cars in the FCA world that use that engine – the Charger and Challenger Hellcat twins (and Demon, though its quite heavily modified there), and they are much more likely to have their performance clout tested at the track than the Grand Cherokee. Plus, there’s already a non-Trackhawk SRT version and it’s mighty good.

Thing is, while the Trackhawk weighs nearly a ton more than the Charger and Challenger, it’s got a trick up its sleeve: AWD. Couple that with a fairly easy-to-use launch control system, and you’ve got acceleration times that rival not just its FCA cousins, but much more committed stuff like a Porsche 911 GTS or Chevy Corvette. You’ve also got a confidently-delivered finger to anyone who says the V8 is dead; the characters of Mad Max: Fury Road would be proud. And no, I didn’t mind that I saw 21.5L/100 km, because what do you expect? It’s got 707 freakin’ horsepower and weighs almost 2,500 kilos!

With a 0-100 km/h time of about 3.5 seconds, the figures are impressive but you don’t even need to get close to 100 from stop to feel just how manic this is. Indeed, holding that brake and stomping the gas pedal (after selecting Track Mode) and feeling the Trackhawk hit 80 as it pops and bangs through its quad tailpipes every upshift is engrossing; I can only imagine what it must feel like to really push the boundaries on a dragstrip.

With 700 (seven-hundred!) plus horsepower, it goes without saying that it will be high on acceleration thrills. More surprising is how well it handles; a heavy vehicle like this should feel as lumbering as it looks, but trick add-ons like stiffer dampers and those massive Brembo brakes mean this most manic of Jeeps acquits itself well as the bends start to increase.

Of course, all that big rolling stock and damper stiffening makes for not a harsh ride, but one that I would say is less-than-luxurious, especially on the rough and trolley track-laden streets of Toronto. I wasn’t surprised that this was the case, but oven more so than when considering the performance side of the Trackhawk, I wonder if it would behoove Jeep/FCA to look at an adaptive damper system. It would make a world of difference.

It’s got it all

Review 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Thing is, all that’s somewhat secondary to the fact that used to be when thinking about performance SUVs I’d often banish them to a part of my brain barred with a door that says “European manufacturers” on it. The GCT, for its part, has barrelled through that door like a 707-hp linebacker, and there really is nothing you can do to stop it.

Having said that, at $110,845 base and $127,845 before taxes as tested (you can save almost $7,000 if you skip the red seats, however), this is far from inexpensive as it sits right around the base cost of a Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S or Porsche Cayenne GTS. The Trackhawk, of course, makes more power than both of these – more power than the top-flite Cayenne Turbo S, in fact – and it is the rarer vehicle. For true Mopar fans and fast-vehicle fans alike, that tends to mean something. Plus, it’s absolutely mental in the best possible way, and that means a whole lot.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

BODY STYLE: Five-door performance SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-mounted motor, all-wheel drive.
ENGINE:  6.2L V8, supercharger; Power: 707hp; Torque: 645 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION:  8-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 1,028-1,934 litres 
FUEL ECONOMY (EST): 20.9/13.8 L/100 km city/highway 
PRICING: $110,845
WEBSITE: Jeep.ca

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