THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: 707 hp makes this the most powerful SUV on the planet; launch control in a Trackhawk is an experience you won’t soon forget.
- What’s Bad: Drinks its weight in fuel; Price as-tested makes it just as expensive as rivals that have similar performance but offer much better luxury experiences.
There’s nothing obvious distinguishing the Trackhawk from the rest of the Jeep Grand Cherokee lineup whose familiar shape has been a staple on North American roads for decades.
For families, there’s a lot to like. They’re spacious, comfortable, have excellent packaging, and go-anywhere capability. Outfit one with the right options and it will double as a rock-crawler while also boasting one of the best tow ratings in its class.
So, at first glance, a Trackhawk looks like nothing more than your run-of-the-mill kinder-schlepper but there are a few ways to tell you’re not looking at a plebian Grand Cherokee: “Supercharged” badges on the doors, a Trackhawk badge on the tailgate, quad exhaust outlets, yellow Brembo brake calipers clamping pizza-sized rotors, and air intakes on the front bumper where foglights would normally reside. Passersby will likely pay you no attention.
They also won’t notice that under the vented hood lurks a supercharged Hemi heart producing an irresponsible 707 hp and 645 lb-ft of torque. This 6.2-L boosted V8, the same one you’ll find in the Hellcat and Demon muscle cars makes the Trackhawk the most powerful SUV on the planet. This is Q-ship taken to the extreme and it might be my favourite thing about this SUV.
Discreetness carries over inside as well. There’s a Trackhawk badge on the steering wheel and on the front floor mats, and it’s also embossed on the front seats but that’s it. Apart from some nicer materials and trim pieces, this is just a normal Grand Cherokee interior but the presence of a button marked “Launch” near the shifter with a picture of a dragstrip Christmas tree on it is decidedly not normal.
Pushing this button will let you know exactly what the Trackhawk is all about in just 3.5 seconds or about the time it will take to reach highway speeds from a standstill when activated. The Trackhawk can be launched over and over again and with the aid of the onboard computers and the full-time 4WD system, you’ll get consistent drama-free launches every single time.
But before you do this, you’ll need to mentally prepare yourself because at full chat the effect of the Hellcat motor on your senses is profound. Like many of these launch control systems, you’ll need to depress the brake pedal as hard as you can while flooring the gas. The supercharger spools up and builds max pressure while the big Hemi bangs off a pre-set rev limiter. The Trackhawk tugs at the reins like a wild stallion raring to go, the big Brembos barely able to hold it in place.
When you’re ready, release the brakes and hold on. Like a cigarette boat, the hood of the Trackhawk reaches for sky as you blast off on a tsunami wave of torque. The first time you do it, your mind will have a difficult time processing things as it gets left behind in the Jeep’s wake.
I’ve launched vehicles that are lighter and faster, and ones with more power but launching something this high off the ground and with this much mass behind it feels more brutal than all of them.
When you’re not impressing friends and onlookers with launch control antics the Trackhawk does an impressive job of acting like any other Grand Cherokee. It’s not overly loud, power comes on smoothly and linearly, and the ride is firm but comfortable
The big V8’s rumble is subdued but supercharger whine is ever-present. Push the go-pedal closer to the carpet, however, and the Hellcrate motor does little to hide its presence, the quad pipes emitting ever-angrier noises as the tach needle sweeps closer to redline.
The default drive mode is Auto, and there’s actually an Eco button which is, let’s face it, a laughable attempt at saving fuel in a vehicle seemingly designed for customers that are able to refine their own crude. Luckily for me, gas prices at the time were in free fall as the novel coronavirus moved out of China and started to become a global threat. But I still struggled to get anywhere under 22L per 100 km. Easily the worst fuel mileage I’ve ever encountered in any vehicle.
Sport and Track mode will speed upshifts from the 8-speed automatic, firm up the steering, stiffen the Blistein adaptive dampers, and shuffle more power to the rear wheels. Snow mode and tow mode round out the selections and explain their functions well enough without me having to.
Of course, Jeep didn’t just stuff in a Hellcat motor and forget about everything else. Under the skin, the Trackhawk benefits from a strengthened drivetrain, including a stronger driveshaft and rear axle and an upgraded suspension with those Bilstein dampers. The Grand Cherokee SRT uses a similar setup albeit with different tuning.
I didn’t expect the Trackhawk to be a corner-hunting machine and it isn’t, but the handling will leave you pleasantly surprised marred mainly by a steering wheel that provides little in the way of feel and is also a bit too large to feel sporty. With that said the Trackhawk will hold on a lot longer in the corners than you think it will but can feel a bit off-putting to throw around because there’s still quite a bit of body roll and you’ll constantly be aware of its heft.
All of those vehicles also have upscale cabins using much better quality materials more convincing of their six-figure price tags.
Yes, the Trackhawk will cost you over a hundred grand before adding options, which puts it out of reach for many and spending that kind of cash on a product bearing a Jeep badge seems, well, nuts.
But that’s what the price of entry is for one of these low-volume vehicles, and as outlandish as it may seem, stuffing a 700-plus horsepower supercharged Hemi into something where it really doesn’t belong and then backing it with a full factory warranty is something you will not find anywhere else, ever.
As ridiculous as the Trackhawk may seem we are glad that the stars aligned and this automotive rarity made it through the armies of lawyers and production red tape unscathed. This is one of the most exciting SUVs on sale today and we’re just happy it exists.