2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk First Drive

Turning a Family SUV Into a Bona Fide Muscle Car


The Jeep Grand Cherokee is no stranger to horsepower. It comes standard with a 295-hp V6, and there are two optional V8s: a 5.7-liter V8 that puts out 360 hp and a 6.4-liter V8 rated at 475 hp. When equipped with the latter, the Grand Cherokee boasts a sub-5-second zero-to-60 time. That's certainly enough for most buyers, but for the people at Jeep, it clearly wasn't enough. Luckily for them, they had another engine at their disposal.

The 707-hp, supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that powers the Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcat vehicles has now been transplanted into the 2018 Grand Cherokee and dubbed the Trackhawk. Connected to Jeep's all-wheel-drive system, the Hellcat-sourced V8 is capable of propelling the nearly 5,400-pound SUV to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. It's not just a straight-line drag racer, though. The Trackhawk is a thoroughly reworked version of a class-leading crossover that's in a class of its own.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

More Than a Big Engine
Jeep has done more than just plug in a high-horsepower, fire-breathing motor up front — it has made several changes to the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk to set it apart from the pack.

For starters, Jeep made a few functional changes to the Trackhawk's design. Its foglights have been replaced with air inlets that feed an oil cooler and an engine intake. Bright yellow Brembo brake calipers (six-piston calipers up front and four-piston calipers in the rear) and high-performance Pirelli tires also set the Trackhawk apart from other Grand Cherokees. With its high-performance brakes and the optional Pirelli P-Zero tires, Jeep says the Trackhawk is capable of stopping from 60 mph in just 114 feet — a short distance for a 2.5-ton SUV.

Unlike its Charger and the Challenger cousins, the Trackhawk's sound is somewhat restricted. Even the folks at Jeep admit that it is a bit muted in comparison. There is a more linear supercharger noise, and the engineers modified hardware like the camshaft and exhaust manifold to make for a more stable and comfortable car. Those modifications also result in slightly less torque, with the engine down to 645 lb-ft, a 5-point drop.

Underneath, the Trackhawk also sees several suspension and drivetrain changes. It gets new springs, active Bilstein adaptive damping, a reworked version of the eight-speed automatic transmission built specifically to handle the 707-hp and 645-lb-ft output, a new single-speed transfer case, and a revised rear limited-slip differential.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

What Is it Like on the Road?
On the highway, this Trackhawk is as comfortable as any other Grand Cherokee. It is quiet and easy to drive if you keep your right foot on a short leash. It doesn't have much steering feel, but the wheel returns to center well and there is a big chunky steering wheel to grab. Find any bit of open road and the Trackhawk's power is relentlessly entertaining. It's always a thrill to feel the surge of 707 hp followed by the rumbles, pops and crackles from the quad-tip exhaust. The supercharger whine that surges up from under the hood is endlessly amusing. Helping rein in all that speed, the Brembo brakes respond quickly and with decent pedal feedback.

Should you ever feel like trying your hand at a track day or tackling a local curvy road with your Trackhawk, there's no getting around the Trackhawk's curb weight of 5,363 pounds. It may go fast in a straight line, but this is not (as the name suggests) a racetrack-dedicated machine.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Is It Still a Jeep?
Sitting at the top of the Grand Cherokee lineup, the Trailhawk is an over-the-top version of the already high-class Grand Cherokee. Interior materials, build quality and driving dynamics are all best in class. We've come to expect a high-end vibe from the Grand Cherokee, and this one is no different. Unfortunately, there's no way to combine the Trackhawk's engine with the Trailhawk's off-road capability, but that's the only functional drawback.

When it comes to towing or hauling, the Trackhawk hasn't lost any capability. It can still tow 7,200 pounds, which was a class-leading number to begin with. Storage space, both for small items and overall cargo space, is average. The Grand Cherokee offers 36.3 cubic feet of cargo storage behind the rear seat, which is more than enough space for your groceries or some camping gear. In short, Jeep hasn't ruined a perfectly good SUV by going all Wile E. Coyote and strapping an Acme rocket to the roof.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Should You Buy One?
The Trackhawk has an MSRP of $86,995. That's a premium of $18,600 over the high-performance SRT model and an eye-watering $56,400 more than the base Laredo model. That's even a $3,695 premium over the 840-hp Dodge Demon. You do get a decent amount of equipment, including Jeep's excellent 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen, upgraded interior trim and all the Grand Cherokee's available safety equipment (adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning). Unfortunately, the Jeep doesn't feel as refined as luxury rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Then again, none of them offer a 707-hp V8.

Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, a panoramic sunroof, a rear-seat Blu-ray entertainment system, upgraded leather upholstery with carbon-fiber trim, and a Class IV tow hitch receiver. Add all that on and you've got a Jeep Grand Cherokee that tops out over the $100,000 mark.

For that price, however, you get something pretty special. Press a few buttons, mash the brake, mash the throttle, and you can launch this plush SUV from zero to 60 mph faster than most dedicated sports cars. That's an impressive feat even by modern sports car standards and it's a platitude worth repeating. For an SUV of its size, the Trackhawk is more than fast; it's downright astonishing. If you've got the money to spend the better part of $100K on a five-passenger Jeep and you want something preposterously unique, the Trackhawk won't let you down.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

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