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Tales of Midland Avenue

1951-64 Plymouth Savoy

Hellcat Jeep: The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk in New York, with Q&A

by David Zatz

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk launch didn’t get quite as much press as it could have, following the Dodge Challenger Demon party as it did. Jeep and Ram chief Mike Manley got up and talked about past performance Grand Cherokees, starting with the 1998 Grand Cherokee 5.9 (0-60 in 6.8 seconds).

torque reserve

A video was shown, and the wrapper was pulled off a Trackhawk on the right side of the stage. The driver hit the gas — the Jeep was on rollers — and the supercharger whistled as the engine revved on four cylinders; the video showed a countdown to the quarter mile, and then the driver let it loose for 11.6 seconds, the announced quarter-mile time.

trackhawk on rollers

Jeep did the presentation in a large room off the normal show floor, and they needed all the space they had; this was a demonstration few were willing to miss, including reps from other automakers and suppliers. The media mobbed the stage as soon as they could and stayed for longer than usual. The Trackhawk was well received, to say the least — though it did suffer from being shown a day after the Demon.

crowd

trackhawk on stage

The Jeep press release was fairly thorough in covering the Hellcat-powered Trackhawk, but it left some questions un-answered — such as snow handling, badging, and how they managed to run 707 horsepower through a transfer case that still fit underneath the midsize SUV (and, at that, an SUV that is one inch closer to the ground than a stock Grand Cherokee).

hellcat engine

A Jeep engineer told us that the problem was not as hard as many had assumed it would be. We knew about the wider chain and forged internals, but as for how they made everything fit — it’s actually a smaller transfer case than the company uses on other Grand Cherokees. They made it all fit by taking out the unused low gear; past Jeep transfer cases without the low gear had “dead space” inside, where that gear would have been. A low gear wasn’t seen as necessary for the Trackhawk.

hellcat engine in jeep grand cherokee

The transfer case itself is made by Magna, which purchased the former (and innovative) New Venture Gear from DaimlerChrysler.

Upgrades were not challenging, according to the engineer, because they knew what to do; upgrade the rear driveshaft, higher capacity rear axle with a four-point mount, new half-shafts, new brakes, and such. “It’s straight math, I don’t think any of it was a challenge. We wanted to get as much out of that engine as possible, we knew the torque coming down the driveline, so it’s just getting the correct components lined up for it. It actually worked out really well.” 

from below

Pete Doll’s big question is, “Does the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk run on snow?” The engineer told us he’d taken it out and run it in the snow, both in the appropriate mode and in track mode, and it had been fine — no problems. It’s always best to be careful on snow and ice, but apparently the Trailhawk doesn’t sacrifice too much of its utility when it gets an extra 222 horsepower.

mike manley

As for badging, some may have noticed a distinct lack of external “Hellcat” and “SRT” markings — and the switch from red Brembo calipers (as on Dodges) to yellow ones. Allpar’s speculation was that Jeep and Dodge target different customers with different desires; Jeep Grand Cherokee, in particular, competes with BMW and Mercedes as much as Ford and Chevy, leading past marketers to leave the word “Hemi” off the badges.

press with Jeep

In this case, the lack of Hellcat and SRT badging was deliberate, according to a Jeep spokesman, to keep the brands separate; he added that the Hellcat logo on the engine was a late addition.

Related: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk • Other car shows

 

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TV Mopars Tales of Midland Avenue 1951-64 Plymouth Savoy