2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
6.2-liter supercharged V8 (707 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 645 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
11 city / 17 highway / 13 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
11.2 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $86,995 (USD)
As Tested: $90,880
Prices include $1,095 freight charge.
That’s the word that kept flowing from pen to notepad as I tried to collect my thoughts on this 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. The thought of 707 supercharged horsepower in a midsized family SUV is nothing but absurd.
And yet, if you don’t mind getting friendly with both your neighborhood gas station owner and your local replacement tire shop over your ownership term, the Trackhawk is a compelling choice. Unless you relish anonymity.
Especially in bright red, the Trackhawk announces its presence with authority. I was constantly aware that I was wheeling a vehicle that would never blend into any background. While the standard Grand Cherokee is a familiar sight in mall parking lots everywhere, those demure cruisers don’t wear 10-inch-wide wheels wrapped in 295-section Pirelli performance tires. They don’t have bright yellow six-piston Brembo brake calipers shouting from the wheelwells.
And they certainly don’t have a supercharged Hemi V8 under the hood. Shared with the Hellcat models from Dodge, 707 horsepower makes this the fastest Jeep ever. I’ll admit, I’d love to have gotten this on a dragstrip to see what it can do when properly flogged, but Jeep quotes 11.6 seconds in the quarter-mile, and 3.5 seconds 0-60. With my Racelogic Driftbox, I was able to turn 3.4 seconds in the 0-60 run using launch control.
Yes, launch control. In an SUV. Absurd.
It took some driving to get the Trackhawk to a flat, straight, and most importantly deserted farm road so I could properly test that launch mode. A bit of manipulating of settings both on the console dial — TRACK MODE! — and on the center touchscreen would enable launch mode, and also enable my rear deep into the seat.
Driving into the hinterlands reminded me of one more inescapable fact — creating this much power takes bucketfuls of premium unleaded. The EPA estimate of 17 mpg on the highway may be achievable on a long enough cruise, but I struggled to keep the onboard calculator to approach the 13 mpg combined figure. With the hooning one would expect from a guy who is given this after a week in a subcompact economy car, I only managed 11.2 mpg over my test. Again, absurd.
Despite its prodigious thirst, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was reasonably docile when driven with restraint. While the exhaust note and supercharger whine are noticeable when hustling, the sound is restrained on start-up and when driving calmly through the neighborhood. I had no complaints from my wife or the neighbors when I started the Jeep each morning.
The ride was a bit harsh when encountering pavement that would better suit the trail-rated Jeeps, but was otherwise firm and controlled. It’s not a luxury cruiser, but neither will it punish you. It’s loud when cruising, however, as those steamroller Pirellis, the supercharger, the big frontal area, and the lope of the V8 combine into a cacophonous roar.
The seats are comfortable, though I could do without the Alcantara seat inserts. While comfy, they seem to soak up the sun’s rays and apply them directly to bare thighs. The ventilated (and heated, though I didn’t try the heat) seats do well, but the initial seating can be toasty.
The cargo space is a bit narrow — the subwoofer over the right rear wheel well seems to cut into the given area. While I fit coolers, chairs, and sports bags for a weekend of multiple sports tournaments, there wasn’t much extra room.
Similarly, the space in the second row was a bit tight. While the kids didn’t have their legs jammed into the rear of the front seats, it was close. Moving around like kids often do wasn’t as comfortable as in most similarly-sized crossovers. Changing from softball cleats to soccer cleats when racing at unmentionable speeds from one venue to another was a struggle for my eldest.
Otherwise, the Trackhawk worked well as a commuter. It’s not a track-specific beast that can’t handle the more banal parts of our driving, though it’s certainly one of the only SUVs I’d consider taking out on the track.
Perhaps the best example came on the first night I drove the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. I took the family out for pizza. As we filled our drinks, I noticed a young twenty-something man and his girlfriend get out of a spotless first-generation Chrysler 300. While my eye was drawn to the decade-old full-sizer that had inexplicably escaped the beater-and-massive rims fate that most of these have fallen to, I noticed the couple wander to the Jeep.
The youths walked around for several long moments, then came into the restaurant. His line as he opened the door will remain with me forever — “I don’t ever want to own an SUV, but if I had to, that’s the SUV I’d own.”
Finally, SUVs are as uncool to this generation as minivans are to mine, and wagons are to my parents.
So, excusing myself from the wife and kids, I invited the couple outside to take a closer look. I fired it up, and the young lady was visibly shaken by the HellJeep’s sound.
Once again, absurd.
[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]