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Living with the Jeep Trackhawk is Absolutely Awesome, Speeding Ticket Aside

by Patrick Rall on

I recently had a chance to spend a week with the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and this 707-horsepower, all-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle was every bit as much fun of a daily driver as you would expect and I enjoyed every second of it – except for the few minutes I spent getting a ticket for overuse of the supercharged acceleration.

When I first drove the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, I did so in and around Portland, Maine at the media first-drive event. I loved the supercharged SUV while I spent a few hours driving around Maine and Vermont, and I was blown away by the road course experience in the middle of the day, but there is something different about having a vehicle for testing at home. At a drive event, we are navigating along a pre-planned route, generally in an area that we don’t know, but when I get a vehicle to test at home, I can experience it on my local roads as I go through my familiar daily routine.

Sure, the Hellcat-powered Jeep was a ton of fun to drive for a few hours around New England, but would it have the same allure in a daily driving basis?

Spoiler alert – in every way, yes.

In fact, the Trackhawk’s incredible performance capabilities are so awe-inspiring that the supercharged Jeep might lead you to make some bad decisions on the road…decisions which led to this writer getting his first ever ticket in a test vehicle.

Stunning Interior

Since the SRT name was introduced more than a decade, these high performance models have often come with premium interior amenities and with the Trackhawk being the most expensive non-Viper to ever come from the SRT division, it should come as no surprise that the interior is all about combining luxury features with the high performance feel.

The Trackhawk features deep-bolstered sport bucket seats with leather outers and suede center sections, providing a premium look while keeping the driver and passenger securely in place during stints of hard cornering. The front seats are heated, cooled and power adjustable while the rear seats are simply heated. That leather treatment from the seats is echoed through the dash, door panels, steering wheel and center console, with contrast being provided with carbon fiber and satin silver trim throughout the cabin.

The highlight of the Trackhawk interior – as it is with most premium FCA products – is the UConnect infotainment package. This includes an 8.4-inch touchscreen that controls everything that goes on inside of the vehicle, along with adjusting the drive modes and their various parameters. From the heated/cooled seats and the climate control system to the launch control system and the built-in timing system to the premium sound system with an incredible 19 Harman Kardon speaker system, the infotainment interface screen does it all. At the same time, there are traditional buttons and knobs on a panel just below the touchscreen for the sound system and the climate control, along with more controls on the steering wheel and a series of buttons and one large knob for the drive modes and the launch control system. In short, the touchscreen does everything, but you don’t need to use the touchscreen to control everything.

Really, the majority of the interior features of the Trackhawk are the same as the features of the 475-horsepower SRT392 model. Where the Trackhawk is truly special is under the hood, and that isn’t just special within the Jeep lineup or FCA – the supercharged engine under the vented hood of this Jeep Grand Cherokee makes it special in every market around the world.

Driving the Trackhawk

Now, for the part of this review that everyone wants to read – the drive.

As you likely know, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is powered by the same supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi that motivates the Dodge Hellcat cars. Other than the fact that one is a muscle car and the other is a sport utility vehicle, there are two differences between a Hellcat cars and the Trackhawk. The Jeep has 5 less lb-ft of torque, but you really won’t notice. More importantly, the Grand Cherokee comes with a high performance all-wheel drive system that lets you use all 707 horsepower however and whenever you want.

With the Hellcat cars, if you hammer the throttle from a stop, you will smoke the back tires like crazy. If you launch carefully, you can work the big cars down into the mid 3-second 0-60 range, but in stock form, the supercharged fun is limited by traction, driving abilities and road conditions.

On the other hand, the Trackhawk isn’t limited by anything. When you stomp the throttle from a stop, even in cooler weather on damp roads, the supercharged Jeep grips and goes. On a 30-degree day, the Trackhawk will reel off repeated 0-60 runs in the low 3-second range, with my best being 3.1 and many of my runs resulting in 3.2-3.3 results. Mind you, that is just using the pedals – not using the Torque Reserve and Launch Control system. When using those high performance systems, the Trackhawk will launch with far more power, but I found that in cool streets with all-season tires, the extra power that comes with the Torque Reserve system just leads to a bunch of wheelspin. My best 0-60 with the Launch Control system was a 3.4, but on every try, launching with the added power caused the Jeep to smoke all four tires.

Yes, it spins all four tires on a hard launch, and it is glorious.

When you do get traction with the Trackhawk, the acceleration forces of 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque are nothing short of breathtaking. It doesn’t just pin you to the seat – the forces compress your body against the SRT buckets. Those forces continue from the point of launch until you lift, with the shifts from the 8-speed automatic being quick and seamless, keeping engine RPM and power levels high at the supercharged Jeep covers the quarter mile well into the 11-second range.

The feeling of the Trackhawk’s low-to-mid range pull is so intoxicating, that it might lead you to make questionable decisions while behind the wheel. One afternoon while driving the supercharged Jeep, I was waiting at a stoplight near my house. When the light turned green, I entered into the intersection when a pony car coming from the road on my right ran the red light, narrowly cutting in front of me and forcing me to swerve into the left lane. Fortunately, there was no other vehicle in the left lane, but out of frustration, I swung around the rude driver and hammered the throttle, quickly blasting ahead of the other car. Unfortunately, way off in the distance was a black SUV with a white roof. As I rushed around the slower-moving car, the Jeep effortlessly eclipsed the speed limit, leading the black and white SUV to turn on the red and blue lights in the grille.

My frustrated sprint around the pony car got me my first ever speeding ticket. After more than 20 years of driving high performance vehicles, I got my first speeding ticket (in my own vehicle or a media vehicle) in the world’s most powerful SUV. It was a small ticket, but nonetheless, the intoxicating allure of the Trackhawk’s acceleration forces lured me into my first ever speeding ticket. In other words, when driving the Trackhawk, be careful, as more than 4 seconds of hard acceleration will cause you to break the speed limit pretty much everywhere in the United States.

I have had the pleasure of driving and riding in some incredible performance vehicles, but shy of Ken Block’s rallycross car and assorted six-figure supercars, nothing launches like the Trackhawk. Even though it is a 5,500+ pound SUV, this Jeep accelerates as quickly and with as much brutal force as some of the best-performing cars in the world, making this one of the most incredible vehicles I’ve ever driven. Also, while the abilities of the Trackhawk are most noticeable from a stop, the supercharged SUV pulls like a beast through the mid-range and on the top end, although the weight and size of the Jeep give the Hellcat cars a little more pull when already in motion.

The Trackhawk isn’t incredible simply because it has 707 horsepower or because on a cold street, it will dash from 0-60 in 3.1 seconds. It is incredible because it is an SUV that will comfortably seat five people, tow more than 8,000 pounds and offer these stunning performance measures without compromising daily driving comforts. My Trackhawk test vehicle didn’t have the towing package, so I didn’t get to test it with my horse trailer, but having logged hundreds of miles with the SRT 392 Jeep and the horse trailer, I would expect the more-powerful supercharged model to pull even better.

When you aren’t mashing the throttle, the Trackhawk drives just as smoothly as any other current Grand Cherokee. Whether on paved roads or dirt, the adaptive suspension and four wheel drive system do a great job of monitoring the road surface to provide the smoothest ride and the best footing possible. I learned this when a freak snowstorm blanketed the Metro Detroit area in the white stuff, giving me a chance to experience the 707-horsepower SUV on slick roads. While it wasn’t pulling any low 3-second 0-60 times, it had no issues getting me through my daily routine. When the weather cleared up, setting the Jeep to its natural Track mode allows it to handle as well as most sports cars, even though it is bigger and heavier than many of the cars that it would beat around a road course.

 

In other words, the Trackhawk is an incredible performance machine, but it is also a perfectly civil daily driver in any weather and on any road surface. I know firsthand that it is hard to enjoy a Hellcat Challenger in 15-degree weather with snow flurries, but the Trackhawk is nearly as much fun in the snow as it is on a sunny summer day.

In summary, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is every bit as incredible as you might expect. The advanced four wheel drive system allows you to use all 707 horsepower without concern of traction, even in sketchy weather conditions. For someone who wants the thrill of Hellcat power year-round, even in snowy climates, the Trackhawk is without question the best all-weather performance machine in the world.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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