Cars 

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Sometimes you drive a car and wonder what or who it’s for. Sometimes you drive a car and know exactly who it’s for. Then you drive the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and realise that sometimes, there just isn’t another reason apart from “Somebody is going to buy this because it’s bonkers.”

I’ve often wondered what the point of the Grand Cherokee SRT was. I’ve driven various Jeeps over the years, including the Grand Cherokee. It’s alright, but you have to wonder why you’d want any more than its stock petrol V6 or the new 2.0-litre turbo petrol.

Jeep didn’t wonder. They first went with the 6.4-litre Hemi-engined SRT and then went all in with the Trackhawk’s 6.2-litre supercharged Hellcat Hemi V8.

Who needs it? Nobody. Who is it for? I have no idea. Not even Steve knows and I thought this would be right up his alley.

One thing is for sure though – I am very pleased I drove this thing. Because it’s hilarious.

Words: Peter Anderson
Images: Matthew Hatton
Co-pilot: Will Grillo

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Specs

No matter where you buy this car, it’s properly loaded. Airbags and safety gear everywhere, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, leather all over the place, sunroof, climate control, huge towing capacity and a big performance menu.

It’s big and it’s comfortable like the donor car, carrying five people without drama.

It doesn’t look much different to the SRT or a top-spec Grand Cherokee. New front and rear bumpers look after brake cooling and a new set of quad exhausts respectively.

A couple of lurid Supercharged badges and a Trackhawk badge help passers-by work out what it is. If they hadn’t already heard it.

  
UK£89,999
Australia$134,900
USA$86,650
New Zealand$169,990
Canada$110,845
South AfricaR2,200,000

Drivetrain

Just look at it

When I popped the bonnet, I hooted with laughter. This thing is a lot of engine. Just the complicated auxiliary belt that runs the supercharger looks like something that an eight-year-old dreamt up.

The 6.2-litre Hemi is topped with alloy heads and sodium-filled valves. Forged alloy pistons do the up and down work, but for some reason there’s nothing fancy about the propshaft. Which helps explain the massive heft of the Trackhawk.

The supercharger displaces 2.4-litres and spins up to 14,600 rpm and howls like a banshee is stuck in the belt.

Between the V8’s full-chested baritone and the howling soprano of the supercharger, you can hear this fat lady singing a duet with a positively obese fellow in tow. The name Hellcat suddenly seems perfectly reasonable.

With all of this at your disposal, you’re unleashing 522kW (707PS) and 868Nm. 0-100km/h (0-62mph) arrives in an improbably frantic 3.6 seconds.

There are few cars on the road with more power than this and even fewer with this kind of torque – only the whacky triple-turbo V8 Audi SQ7 engine – it betters the Hellcat with 900Nm – springs immediately to mind.

An eight-speed Torqueflight transmission handles the bit between engine and propshaft and Jeep’s Quadra-Trac Active all-wheel drive system starts with a 40/60 front to rear torque split. The rear axle also scores an electronic limited slip diff.

Chassis

Here’s something to think about – all that power is fed through a set of 295/45 Pirelli P Zero tyres on 20-inch alloys. Each wheel has to handle more torque than an entire Jeep Renegade.

That’s…well, that’s a lot.

The suspension has obviously come in for some serious attention, with active damping and a new set of springs. Naturally, the steering has had some work, too, with the various drive modes adjusting the assistance.

The drive mode select dial has plenty of options – Tow, Snow, Auto, Sport and Track. The first three are obvious, with Auto keeping things (relatively) tame.

(This isn’t an offroad review for three reasons – 1. those tyres aren’t really up for it and 2. there are no offroad modes and, most importantly, 3. would you?)

The big Brembo six-piston calipers grip slotted discs, the largest ever fitted to a Jeep.

Driving

When I first heard about this car, I thought it was a bit silly. All that power in a car that isn’t famed for its on-road prowess (look, it’s alright, but the Germans and Koreans are better) seemed excessive.

It is absolutely excessive. When you hit the starter button, the Hellcat bursts into life with a roar, the same way an Italian V12 rouses itself from slumber. The whole car shimmies before settling.

Things aren’t perfect. They’re not even great. Even in Auto, the throttle is far too enthusiastic. My wife hated it – you have to tickle it to get the car moving otherwise it suddenly lurches like a kangaroo-hopping learner.

The big steering wheel feels oddly foamy in the hand and I am Not A Fan. I despise the all-in-one stalk for indicators and wipers and have never been a fan of the weirdly laid-out dash. The seats don’t hold you in properly, either.

Cornering is best served carefully, the slow-ish steering not really matching the engine’s threats. The big body rolls enthusiastically but the ride isn’t too flash. Having said that, it will out-ride a few AMGs and the odd X-badged M car.

In Track mode the eight-speed Torqueflite (aka the famous ZF eight-speed) is dumber than a crate of drunk cats. You have to pull the paddle-shift almost a second before you hit the redline or you crash into the hard limiter. It guzzles fuel faster than a university student sinks free alcohol after exams and it doesn’t really corner that well. And the brakes feel spongy, even if they work really well.

So it sucks, right?

My giddy aunt, no. Few cars will make you laugh like the Trackhawk. It’s so utterly improbable, so silly. It’s the sort of car you see built on YouTube, except it keeps everything from the donor car. It delivers an 11.6 second quarter mile out of the box. 0-100km/h (0-62mph) is over in 3.7 seconds.

Every time you drive this car you will enjoy yourself immensely. Once you learn to breathe at the throttle in traffic, you’ll be fine. You will deliberately time things so you get a stop light so you can roar off the line.

Few cars are so tremendously, viscerally accelerative. Even on part-throttle, the V8 rumble and supercharger scream are worth the oil tanker’s worth of fuel you’ll need over the life of this car. When your foot is flat to the floor, the people left in your aerodynamic wake, ears full of Hemi will be having nearly as much fun as you. It’s fun for everyone.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is silly and excessive. Cars that are silly and excessive, however, are part of the reason I started The Redline. We don’t need them, but dammit, we want them. And they don’t come sillier or more excessive than this – except you don’t have to pay the earth to get one on your driveway.

Images by: Matt Hatton

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