Hellcat-Powered 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Test Drive

Terry Box | September 5, 2018
Hellcat-Powered 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Test Drive

Big-wheel Jeeps creep up impossibly steep peaks in Utah all day long, defiantly slinging cantaloupe-sized rocks at lesser off-roaders behind them.

Best in the West, they seem to growl.

The ground-pounding 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, though -- a steroidal sort of semi-luxury Jeep SUV -- doesn’t even blink.

The brutal Trackhawk looks to scale 80-story skyscrapers with a supercharged shriek and a window-rattling blast of man-made thunder.

After all, I’m pretty sure 707-horsepower gets you to heaven – even if it comes from hell.

As you probably heard, Jeep decided this year to borrow the menacing Hellcat engine from the Dodge division and drop it into a few all-wheel-drive Grand Cherokees.

When the sparks stopped flying, Maximum Jeep rolled out of a plant in Detroit, bristling with wildly muscled-up American iron and a bad new attitude.

Step lightly, I suggest.

Actually, my wine-maroon Trackhawk seemed pretty well-dressed for a squat back-street brawler.

Like every Jeep on the planet, it flashed the brand’s signature seven-slot grille up front nestled between trim headlamps.

Short, taut overhangs front and rear, as well as a lightly chiseled scallop in the middle of the doors clearly marked the Trackhawk as another Grand Cherokee.

Sharp observers, though, will notice its slightly lower ride height and a large lower grille apparently capable of inhaling enough air to feed a turbine or two.

Meanwhile, the Trackhawk’s sleek sculpted hood sported two large vents scooped out of it and the 5,200-pound SUV crouched on 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped with massive 295-45 tires.

Behind the big meats, bright yellow brake calipers hinted loudly of evil intent.

Still, that’s not much bling considering the extraordinary sizzle beneath the hood, denoted by a simple “supercharged” badge on the lower door.

The Trackhawk just doesn’t really look like a – gasp -- near-$100,000 vehicle, but the gold lies under the hood, as it should.

Think of it as money well spent for the most part. The Dodge Boys put years into preparing the 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 for the supercharged fury it would need to endure as a Charger or Challenger Hellcat.

The Trackhawk is not bashful about announcing its 707-horsepower heritage.

At idle, three-inch diameter dual exhausts spit out a typically ragged Hellcat snarl beneath the intoxicating whine of a serious supercharger.

Don’t even bother with the audio system, I say.

Thanks to its all-wheel drive and sticky tires, the burly Trackhawk practically explodes if you pin its throttle, accelerating with the chest-compressing, eye-flattening force of an airliner.

Sixty miles per hour arrives in a very brief 3.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver, and 100 blurs by in about five cacophonous seconds later.

However, the Trackhawk can do more than just rip up asphalt – its laughable 11-mile-per gallon fuel-economy in the city notwithstanding.

A refined eight-speed automatic managed precise and intuitive upshifts and downshifts – feeling fresh even after 15,000 tough auto writer miles – while a beefier suspension kept the Trackhawk civil in hard corners.

Body-lean was surprisingly minimal and the steering felt quick and capable of placing the maniacal linebacker where I wanted it.

In fact, it felt able to be pushed into a drift, a puckering possibility in a porky, high-riding vehicle.

As you might expect, though, the Trackhawk rode stiffly, occasionally bounding some over bad city pavement, but even with 15,000 bruising miles on it, the super-SUV remained tight and solid.

Hold those fast and furious thoughts when you climb inside.

Although vastly nicer than Hellcat versions of the Charger and Challenger, the black interior in my Trackhawk didn’t quite measure up to true luxury-car standards.

To be honest, it was close enough for me.

A smooth black dashboard, for example, with white “stitching” on its perimeters wrapped around a relatively small display screen.

Faux carbon-fiber trim at mid-dash kind of sparkled with faint gold highlights in it, fitting the Trackhawk’s oversized personality.

Appropriately, I thought, old-school buttons and knobs controlled the audio and climate systems – not distracting sissy touchpads.

Find outr, a straight-forward, conventional shifter protruded from the console along with a knob for multiple modes, including sport, snow, and tow (Trackhawks can pull 7,200 pounds.)

There’s also a button for launch control. Seriously.

The best part of the interior, the seats, offered lightly pleated bolsters and perforated centers, while the back seat provided good leg and head room.

My Trackhawk, of course, came loaded with nearly $13,000 in options, including a leather-wrapped interior package ($4,995); dual-pane panoramic sunroof ($2,095); high-performance audio ($1,995) and a rear-seat dual-screen Blu-Ray/DVD player ($1,995).

As for the Trackhawk’s final price of $99,965, well, that’s your call, but consider this: The bad-boy Trackhawk will outrun vaunted Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo S crossover, which costs $63,000 more.

Someone in the White House would be proud.

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2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

  • What I liked most: The nuclear-reactor of a supercharged V-8 beneath the hood.
  • What I would change: Maybe add a bit nicer leather to the interior, but it’s not a priority.
  • MSRP: Base price, $85,900; as equipped, $99,965.
  • Fuel economy: Rated at 11 miles per gallon in town, 17 on the highway and 13 mpg combined with filler on the left.
  • Official color: Velvet Red Pearl.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 15,679 miles.
  • Weight: 5,258 pounds.
  • Length-width-height: 189.8 inches long/76.5 inches wide/67.9 inches tall.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 24.6 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: 7,200 pounds.
  • Spare tire: Temporary compact.
  • 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk in a few words: A slightly insane Jeep that demonstrates just how good Fiat Chrysler’s engineering can be.
  • Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection.
  • Final assembly location: Detroit, Mich.
  • Manufacturer’s website:
  • E-mail me at [email protected]
  • Up next: 2018 Mazda6
Tags: hellcat, jeep, New Vehicle Reviews
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