There’s not an in-house tuner as absurdly crazy as Fiat-Chrysler’s SRT division. Just think about what they’ve been doing lately, with products like Hellcat and Demon the names speak for themselves which leads me to this next SRT creation; a Jeep you don’t want to take off-road, the 707hp Trackhawk.
In terms of pointed branding, no one does it better than Dodge; a flag waving, in-your-face, muscle car mecca that lives by the tagline “Domestic. Not domesticated.” But they’re not the only FCA division to get in on the SRT fun. Jeep has been offering the Grand Cherokee SRT for many years now and they still do…if you can live with a mere 475 horsepower. For those with an extra $20,000 and an even greater desire to eviscerate foolhardy sports cars, the Trackhawk is now yours for the taking.
So as not to bury the lead, the Trackhawk is awesome with a capital A. Much more than simply a Grand Cherokee with a ridiculously powerful force-fed engine the Trackhawk is a piece of engineering excellence; a rolling example of “why the heck not” in an evolving era of more altruistic automobiles. Its Fuel Economy & Greenhouse Gas Rating couldn’t be worse. Its Smog Rating couldn’t be lower. And yet it has a naughty charm about it that even my EV-driving friends can’t deny. Expensive, thirsty and farcically fast, this is a Jeep for a select few.
Here’s your Trackhawk primer: there’s a 6.2-liter twin-screw supercharged pushrod V8 under the hood and an upgraded 8-speed automatic transmission with fortified driveline components designed to assuredly handle the 645 pound-feet of torque it generates. Brembo brakes, Bilstein adaptive dampers, and a 5-mode Selec-Track system are also key ingredients. The body has been lowered by an inch, the fog lights have been killed in favor of a cold-air scoop in the lower fascia, and a quad-tip exhaust is ready to rumble. But by in large, designers have shown great restraint here – the kind that’ll let you leave that Corvette driver dumbfounded at the stoplight.
Jeep claims this as the most powerful, quickest SUV on the planet with a 0-to-60mph of 3.5 seconds. Let’s give launch control a try and see how we do.
This engine’s Torque Reserve system is an added bonus to the standard launch control features. By pre-conditioning the supercharger it can deliver instantaneous torque from a standing stop. My best time was 3.2 seconds, albeit on a slight decline. The quarter mile can be hit in 11.6 seconds at 180 mph. And braking from 60mph takes only 114 feet. Handling attributes are sharp and precise with very little body roll though the heavier nose briefly feels disconnected when you hammer it coming out of a bend. Steering feel has been SRT tuned for a crisp, quick turn-in with the Pirellis an excellent fit. The sheer weight of the vehicle is only subtly present in the curves and not a hindrance to driving fun…this is a 5,300 pound Jeep after all.
What’s so impressive about the Trackhawk is that it has that tenacious all-wheel drive grip that allows for easier point-and-shoot operation whereas the other Hellcat powered cars can be a rear drive handful. The immediacy of the power delivery is a close 2nd with that awesome supercharger whine rising with each press of your foot. Thirsty doesn’t begin to describe it though – parched is more like it. But it’s not always hyped up – it plays nice in casual driving with the adaptive suspension willing to give you whatever you want. And with its sleeper looks you’re guaranteed to surprise.
With these all-season tires and over 8” of ground clearance I surprisingly had no problem getting through the snow which fell late in the week. The Snow mode makes this possible by tweaking the Trackhawk’s vitals and splitting the torque 50/50 between the axles. Normally, it’s biased 60% to the rear. In Track mode that goes up to 70% with traction control disabled. There’s even a Tow mode because this Jeep can handle 7,200 pounds. A 1-trick pony it is not and that’s perhaps the biggest takeaway here. Jeep offers a very well-rounded Grand Cherokee here bathed in luxury with most of its utility still intact. The $5,000 Signature Leather Wrapped Interior Package with the soft Laguna Performance Seats truly gives it a big price tag look and feel. And with options, my tester arrives at $99,965 – audacious money for sure, but a lot less than other so-called high performance SUVs that can’t hang with the Jeep. This one is fully loaded with industry-leading infotainment and electronics, an ear-opening 19-speaker, 2 subwoofer Harman Kardon stereo system, all of the modern safety tech and a very quiet cabin that’ll take you down the highway with a refined elegance. The Trackhawk has multiple personalities and they’re all good…well, gas mileage is a dark side rated at 11mpg city/17mpg highway on recommended premium. Otherwise the Trackhawk is a bit of automotive fancy deserving of applause.