2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Review

The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is the automotive equivalent of stunt casting. Stuffing a 707 horsepower supercharged V8 under the hood of, well, anything is roughly analogous to tapping in The Rock to take over Robin William’s role in the inevitable remake of Mrs. Doubtfire, a move so outrageously over the top that it’s going to draw attention whether it succeeds or fails.

Of course, the overlap in the Venn diagram describing those who appreciate outrageous feats of strength and FCA fans is essentially an eclipse, as evidenced by the unstoppable sales generated by the automaker’s SRT division and its various Hellcat, Redeye, and Demon terrorizers. That the already SRT-ified Grand Cherokee would eventually see a blower join its equipment list was a given, once the engineering team figured out how to make everything play nice together between the SUV’s front fenders.

It was also never in doubt that this 5,300-pound behemoth would scoff at the laws of physics on its way to ridiculous straight-line speeds, or that its four-wheel drive system would help it plunge its adrenaline-tipped talons deep into the asphalt at each and every curve. With a 0-60 time hovering around the 3.5-second mark and the ability to munch a quarter mile in a mere 11.6 seconds, the performance bonafides of the Trackhawk could not be denied.

Still, after you’ve finished flogging this top-heavy beast on a race track you’ve got to drive it home, park it in the garage, and then get back behind the wheel for a much more subdued trek to the office the next morning. How does the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk behave when the checkered flag is in the rearview mirror, traffic is piling up, and, uh, it’s snowing? I spent a week trying to domesticate the world’s wildest SUV in a bid to find out.

You Thirrrrsty, Bro?

There’s something delightfully anti-social about remote-starting a barely-muffled, 6.2-liter V8 in a residential neighborhood, but on the flip-side, if you do it early, and often enough it will certainly have you interacting with your neighbors in ways you may not have previously anticipated.

Someone else you’ll get to know very well during any period of Trackhawk stewardship? The owner of your local gas station, as the truck’s 13-mpg city and 17-mpg highway ratings are at best optimistic and at worst cruel harbingers of false hope. It’s an expensive vehicle to operate on premium octane, but presumably, if you can afford the $86,200 window sticker you’re also OK with a fuel bill that approaches half your monthly payment.

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I’m not often one to get off on the bad foot when discussing a vehicle’s merits, but in the case of this Jeep I wanted to get those not-so-proud points out of the way, because there’s really not much else about the Trackhawk experience to dissuade you from choosing one as your daily driver.

It Won’t Kill You

‘But what about the reams and gobs and bushels of power waiting under your right foot, ready to explode forward and blur space/time around you at any given moment,’ you might ask? It’s a legitimate question, but it’s also one that has been soundly considered by the engineers at FCA ever since the Hellcat drivetrain cribbed by the Trackhawk first entered the public consciousness.

The short answer is “four-wheel drive,” but the longer response is “4×4 plus electronics plus reinforced everything even tangentially related to the chassis plus a transfer case that’s been hardened to the point where it could cut diamonds in the Marianas Trench.”

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As a result of this suite of stability-inducers, it takes a lot of work to get the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk out of shape. This is true even when flossing rock-hard 295/45ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero tires at temperatures just above freezing on a rain-soaked stretch of cratered asphalt. Whomp the throttle and the Jeep stutters and bucks under your butt but remains stubbornly pointed in the proper direction as it parses your request for passing power into something a little less likely to exceed the civil liability limit on your insurance policy.

Likewise, all that adamantium underneath the Trackhawk ensures that ham-footed action antics will have little chance of damaging the drivetrain. Even engaging the launch control system with snow splattering against the windshield – a move that activates the ‘torque reserve’ feature and allows 6.4 psi of boost to build from the supercharger while the vehicle is stationary – results in harmless spurts of wheel spin and minor hop before settling down into a rocket ride towards a date with local law enforcement, with a prominent supercharger whine calling out ahead to let them know to get the stockade ready.

Break Free

The civility with which the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk allows you to sample its incredible off-the-line speed (building to 180-mph in full flight) is matched by the comfort of its cabin. There’s little to set the Trackhawk apart from the ‘standard’ SRT version of the SRT in terms of features, but this is hardly a disappointment. The attractive red leather in my tester was soft enough to feel part and parcels of its ponderous MSRP, the Uconnect infotainment system was free of the glitches that have affected other recent Jeep models, and the range of safety, climate, and luxury-oriented features (adaptive cruise control, heated and cooled seats, various parking cameras and sonars) helped deliver a pleasing commute.

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Then there’s the fact that the Trackhawk doesn’t make any sacrifices when it comes to either passenger room (excellent at all five positions) or cargo (quite competitive with 68.3 cubic feet available in total). Really, unless you’re completely irresponsible – and you will be, for at least the first week or so of ownership – the supercharged Jeep doesn’t behave all that differently from its showroom siblings.

The Verdict: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Review

That being said, the drama is definitely there waiting for you to activate the moment you feel a little bored with life’s inevitable march towards death and taxes. Stealthy on the outside (few will identify the Trackhawk’s yellow brake calipers and modest hood intakes as anything of note), Jeep’s devastating disturber of suburban peace offers a way to act out against the sea of same-same SUVs inundating public roads, and rage against the dying of the yellow intersection light.

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