Auto review: Jeep’s GC Trackhawk soars into Hellcat party

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

May 28, 2018

       

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Jeep calls it the fastest and most powerful SUV in the world. The 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk does have an insane 707 hp engine and top track speed of 180 mpg. And it comes with a launch-control button and 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds.

So maybe they ain’t lyin’.

Jeep borrowed its supercharged 6.2-liter Hellcat engine, good for 645 pound-feet of torque, from the muscular Charger/Challenger cousins and dropped it into the Grand Cherokee. The result was a thrilling, neck-jarring straight-line speed to 60 in 3.5 seconds — or less — and a quarter-mile in 11.8 seconds.

That’ll run down anything in its class — Porsche Cayenne Turbo, BMW M-Class and Mercedes AMG — and will send many sports cars limping home, too.

Trackhawk looks menacing enough, with its racy fascia and heat-extracting hood scoops. Fog lights were removed and replaced with additional air intakes. Quad exhaust tips belch out the sounds, and "Supercharged" badges mark the door wall and sills. Inside, a flat-bottom wheel and swaths of carbon fiber affirm its identity.

So let’s cut to the chase: Put it in Track mode, plant your left foot firmly on the brake pedal and press the launch button in the center console. The brake pressure builds and the engine revs to 2,000-plus rpm, then a new torque reserve system holds that rpm while allowing it to build additional boost. Now, with your right foot, press the accelerator to the floor and free the brake.

The front end lifts up, your head pulls back and you let out a whoo-hoo! (For the record, this should be done on a track, with a helmet). Trackhawk times are said to top the Grand Cherokee SRT by a full second on 0-60 and the quarter mile.

Power gets distributed by Jeep’s TorqueFlite 8-speed transmission which is capable — in Track mode — of shifting in microseconds. Torque split is flexible, sending 60 percent to the rear in Auto mode but keeping a 50-50 split in Track mode.

Now big power needs big brakes and Trackhawk has the largest brakes ever planted on a Jeep: 6-piston Brembo brakes with monster 15.4-inch rotors up front, 4-piston in the rear, all with yellow calipers.

Trackhawk, not unexpectedly, lags in one competition: fuel economy. EPA figures put it at 11 mpg city, 17 highway for a combined 13 mpg. Being the fastest SUV doesn’t come cheap.

But, other than being thirsty, the ’Hawk behaves reasonably well as a daily driver. While a bit stiff, the Bilstein adaptive system keeps the ride comfortable on most surfaces. The supercharger doesn’t whine as much during regular driving. And, five drive modes accommodate most any condition. Beyond Auto and Track — which adjusts suspension, steering and torque — other modes include Sport, Snow and Tow.

Trackhawk has all the space for passengers and cargo as the regular Grand Cherokees, plus a towing capacity of 7,200 pounds. An 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen is one of the best in the industry, and it features performance pages to monitor your exploits at the track.

It is well equipped with standard safety equipment, too, including adaptive cruise with forward collision warning and braking, blind spot and cross traffic monitors.

A Jeep spokesman couldn’t provide early figures, but said Trackhawk sales are expected to be "stout" in this first full year of production.

Not bad for an $86K SUV with an options list that can quickly jack up the sticker to $100K. Consider a fully leather-wrapped interior ($4,995), rear-seat dual-screen DVD player ($1,995), Harman Kardon sound system with 19 speakers and 825-watt amplifier (another $1,995), and dual-pane sunroof with suede headliner ($2,095) and you get the picture.

Guess that’s life in the fast lane.

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FACTBOX:

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Base Price: $85,900

As tested: $101,555 (with full leather interior, dual-screen entertainment system, 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound, dual-pane sunroof)

What’s all the excitement about? The new Trackhawk is billed as the fastest and most powerful SUV in the world

Powertrain: 707-hp, 6.2-liter supercharged engine mated to 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic engine with launch control feature

How’s the performance? Crazy fast: 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, quarter-mile in 11.8

What about fuel economy? Did you have to ask? EPA-rated at 11 mpg city, 17 mpg highway; combined 13 mpg