2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk: First-Drive Review

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Driving the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk on the road and track confirms that this is the Hellcat-powered SUV of our dreams.

While the Hellcat Hemi-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk didn’t actually make a formal debut until the New York International Auto Show last April, it has been one of the most commonly discussed performance vehicles in the U.S. market over the past two years. Even when there was absolutely nothing to prove that Jeep was planning a Grand Cherokee with the supercharged Hemi from the Hellcat Challenger and Charger, the performance world was eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Last week, I traveled to Maine to test-drive the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk on the road and on the track, and I can say without question that every bit of the hype over the past two years was well-founded. The Trackhawk is every bit as impressive as you can imagine, if not more so.

Gentlemanly Road Manners, Unrivaled Passing Power

My time driving the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk began on the roads of Portland, Maine, where we set out on a twisty drive to Club Motorsports in New Hampshire. We weaved our way across 100-plus miles of roads ranging from busy highways to desolate country roads, allowing us to experience the 707-horsepower SUV in pretty much any summer setting that an owner will encounter.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

As you might imagine, the Trackhawk is “don’t blink”-fast. I’ve driven a handful of high-performance SUVs from the various European automakers, and none of them pulls from a stop or through the mid-range like the supercharged Grand Cherokee. However, when you are not mashing the throttle, the Trackhawk is just as smooth, comfortable and luxurious as any other loaded Jeep Grand Cherokee.

While the SRT suspension setup is a little stiffer on road than some of the non-performance packages, the Trackhawk offers a nice, smooth ride when the drive mode is set to “Auto.” Most surprisingly, the exhaust tone is fairly quiet during a light-throttled cruise. Even if you put the supercharged Jeep into Sport mode, the ride quality is still smooth enough to meet my needs, and the needs of many people who buy 707-horsepower SUVs.

 

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is every bit as good
of a daily driver as the rest of the award-winning lineup.

 

Basically, the Trackhawk drives very much like the SRT 392 version while having a slightly stiffer ride than the non-performance models, allowing it to make for a great daily driver. Parents will have no problem hearing their kids talk about their day after they pick them up from school, and co-workers will be able to talk about the guy no one likes in the office while carpooling.

Speaking of interior comfort, the plush leather seats are comfortable, there’s plenty of room for four adults and, and like so many SRT products, the sound system is fantastic. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is every bit as good of a daily driver as the rest of the award-winning lineup.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Where the Trackhawk differs from the rest, of course, is in the supercharged 6.2L Hemi under the hood. Known as the “Hellcat” in the Dodge Challenger and Charger, this monster Mopar mill delivers 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque, losing 5 lb-ft compared with the Dodge cars due to a slightly more restrictive exhaust manifold design, but I promise, you won’t miss it.

When you are creeping through city traffic in the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, it’s a bit louder than the SRT 392 model, but in every other way, the functionality is the same. However, when you get to the open road — such as a three lane highway with a bunch of slow drivers holding you up — the Trackhawk will blast around them like no other SUV in the world.

 

There are few cars in the world that will challenge
the Trackhawk during a highway pull, making this full-sized
SUV one of the most stunning performance vehicles in the world.

 

While the supercharged Jeep is a thousand (or so) pounds heavier than the Dodge Hellcat cars, the passing acceleration on the highway is very comparable from the seat of your pants. Even when in auto mode, flooring the throttle causes the new 8HP95 transmission to pop down a few gears, and as the RPMs soar, the dual exhaust system roars.

Within a few seconds of swinging around slower traffic with the hammer down, the Trackhawk quickly reaches speeds well beyond any posted limit in the United States, so when it comes to passing performance, there is no SUV in the world that will challenge the supercharged Jeep. In fact, there are few cars in the world that will challenge the Trackhawk during a hard highway pull, making this full-sized SUV one of the most stunning performance vehicles in the world.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk offers incredible highway passing power, but where this all-wheel drive, supercharged SUV really shines is when accelerating from a stop. After we got away from the city of Portland, Maine, we found ourselves on some empty country roads, and along the way, we found a chance to leave stop signs with a little more urgency than we could have in city traffic.

Even in auto mode when throttle inputs, transmission shift programming, and overall performance are at their “lowest”, the Trackhawk uses that 707 horsepower to get up to 60 mph in the low-four-second range or high-three-second range. Switching the blown Jeep to track mode engages the launch control and torque reserve systems, and offers the sharpest throttle response, the quickest shifts, the ideal suspension settings for weight transfer, and the ideal front-to-rear power distribution for the best acceleration.

Jeep claims the Trackhawk has an official 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds, but in three runs to 60 (on a closed course), the launch control allowed the supercharged Jeep to hit 60 in just 3.4 seconds. Based on how well the all-wheel-drive system holds the ground, I would guess the Trackhawk is capable of getting to 60 in the mid-3s on pretty much any dry, paved surface.

Our 0-60 testing with the launch control and torque reserve systems took place on the big front straightaway of Club Motorsports in Tamworth, New Hampshire. That long, straight stretch allowed us to experience the acceleration capabilities in a safe environment, reaching 1.3Gs on launch and hitting 60 mph more quickly than the Hellcat cars. But we weren’t at the 2.5-mile road course just to play on the front straight. The majority of our day was spent traversing the entire course, showing the full performance capabilities of the world’s most powerful SUV.

Trackhawk on the Track

I don’t know how many Grand Cherokee Trackhawk owners will spend much time on a road course, but to give the media the best chance to experience the full range of this supercharged Jeep’s performance capabilities, the destination of our road drive was Club Motorsports. This relatively new, 2.5-mile road course in Tamworth, New Hampshire has 15 turns and considerable changes in elevation, with both steep uphill climbs and steep downhill descents.

For a 5,000-lb-plus SUV which can comfortably haul a family of five and tow more than 7,000 lbs., the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk handles the turns of Club Motorsports very well, but anyone who’s driven the current SRT Jeep hard through the twisties will expect that. Where the Trackhawk shines much brighter than the SRT 392 model is in how well it climbs the hills, brakes coming down the hills, and rockets along the straights.

With 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque, the Trackhawk screams up the steep hills with ease. With the massive Brembo brakes, the 5,000-lb. SUV gets down from big speeds in a hurry. Where some performance cars might lose momentum when climbing a big hill on a race track, the supercharged Jeep climbs the hills just as quickly as it covers the straights, and when you hit a sharp turn, the brakes bring the full-sized SUV down to manageable speeds in an instant.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Club Motorsports offers more extreme terrain than almost any road in America, so after spending time racing around that road course, I’m confident the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk will offer intense performance on pretty much any road in this country.

The Ultimate High-Performance Daily Driver

After spending the day driving the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk on the road and on the track, I believe it might just be the best high-performance daily driver option in America … if not the world. The supercharged SUV combines the comforts and luxury of the Jeep brand with one of the most powerful production engines in the world, a state-of-the-art suspension setup, and a high-tech AWD system that makes it nearly unbeatable on the drag strip (compared with stock production vehicles). It’s also unstoppable on the road, whether it’s sunny and 85 or snowy and 15 below.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk combines performance, functionality, and comfort like no other SUV in the world, and with a loaded price as-tested of around $100,000, it is tens of thousands less than the slower European competitors.

Photos and videos for JK-Forum by .

A lifetime automotive expert, diehard Dodge fan, and respected auto journalist for over 10 years, Patrick Rall is highly experienced in the automotive world. He has clocked in time as an auto mechanic, longtime drag racer and now auto journalist who contributes to nearly a dozen popular websites dedicated to fellow enthusiasts.

“Before I was old enough to walk, my dad was taking me to various types of racing events, from local drag racing to the Daytona 500,” says Rall. “He owned a repair shop and had a variety of performance cars when I was young, but by the time I was 16, he was ready to build me my first drag car: a 1983 Dodge Mirada that ran low 12s. I spent 10 years traveling around the country, racing with my dad by my side. While we live in different areas of the country, my dad still drag races at 80 years old in the car that he built when I was 16. Meanwhile, I race other vehicles, including my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and my 1972 Dodge Demon 340.

“Although I went to college for accounting, my time in my dad’s shop growing up allowed me the knowledge to spend time working as a mechanic before getting my accounting degree, at which point I worked in the office of a dealership group,” adds Rall. “While I was working in the accounting world, I continued racing and taking pictures of cars at the track. Over time, I began showing off those pictures online and that led to my writing.

“Ten years ago, I left the accounting world to become a full-time automotive writer and I am living proof that if you love what you do, you will never ‘work’ a day in your life. I love covering the automotive industry and everything involved with the job. I was fortunate to turn my love of the automotive world into a hobby that led to an exciting career, with my past of working as a mechanic and as an accountant in the automotive world provides me with a unique perspective of the industry.

“My experience drag racing for more than 20 years coupled with a newfound interest in road racing over the past decade allows me to push performance cars to their limit, while my role as a horse stable manager gives me vast experience towing and hauling with all of the newest trucks on the market today.

“Being based on Detroit, I never miss the North American International Auto Show, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Roadkill Nights, along with spending plenty of time raising hell on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue with the best muscle car crowd in the world.”

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