Unbelieveable Speed: Driving the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk [Video]

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is an angry, badass punk with serious muscle. Some may consider the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk to be an all-wheel drive (AWD) Hellcat . It would be a logical assumption to some extent, but you’re thinking of the wrong vehicle. While the Hellcat and Trackhawk share many components, they are completely different animals. Look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT and imagine it with 232 more horses under the hood – that’s the ticket. It drives a lot like the SRT, which is good and not-so-good if you were looking for a sports car.

A 911 GT3 this thing aint.

The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk has a supercharged 707 horsepower engine that produces 645 lb-ft of torque. The torque is five lbs less than the Hellcat, but the rest of the setup is similar – with the exception of the AWD system. Jeep has gone through a lot of trouble to significantly beef up its AWD system and eight-speed automatic transmission to handle such power. Even the massive brakes, which can haul this 5,500+lbs beast down from 60 to 0 mph in 114 feet, are overbuilt.

The real trick is how Jeep manages the power and how the four different drive modes truly complete four different tasks.

According to Jeep, the Dynamic drive mode configurations include:

  • Auto — Automatically adapts to any condition; uses a 40-percent front/60-percent rear torque split
  • Sport — Transmission shift times are reduced by 50 percent versus Auto Mode; stability control, four-wheel-drive and steering systems are set for typical enthusiast driving style; paddle shifters are enabled and suspension is tightened up without increasing impact harshness to deliver increased vehicle performance capability over Auto Mode; uses 35/65 torque split
  • Track — Transmission shift times are reduced 68 percent versus Auto Mode to 160 milliseconds; stability control, four-wheel-drive and steering systems are set for ultimate track performance; paddle shifters are enabled and suspension is set to full firm to deliver maximum vehicle performance capability on smooth, dry surfaces; uses 30/70 torque split
  • Tow — Alters torque delivery off the line for greater smoothness and adjusts suspension to combat pitch and yaw to deliver maximum towing performance: uses 60/40 torque split
  • Snow — Maximizes traction to deliver optimized performance on snow and ice with reduced engine horsepower; uses 50/50 torque split

I can say, without hesitation, that the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk has different personalities. These drive modes help focus on vastly different needs; however, shove the right pedal to the floor and prepare for mayhem.

Driving the Trackhawk:

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

There are only a handful of sports cars that can take the Trackhawk on straight-line acceleration that are sold in the United States. Having a 0 to 60 mph time of 3.5-seconds is no joke and its launch control is a snap to use. Jeep engineers built this vehicle to devour anything in its way. There are no exterior gimmicks like fake vents, snazzy (heavy) wheels and wings. The eight-inch ride height and overall stance is very similar to the Grand Cherokee SRT; thus, few will know of its potential.

It produces a ebbing , deep rumble at idle, it’s almost sinister sounding. Start this monster in a crowded parking lot, you WILL get a reaction. People will look in all directions to find the source of that sound, but only a handful of people will figure it out.

That’s the beauty of it, few will suspect you’re driving an over-caffeinated Brahma bull straddling a cruise missile.  It’s “stupid-fast” and its grip is as tenacious as roadkill sticking to a highway. Despite having AWD, the front end rises when you punch it. It screams like a WWII fighter plane when pushed  and the sensation of speed can be felt as your lunch is compressed within your innards.  It’s wild acceleration and it can be repeated again and again.

Cornering is a different story. Like its weaker cousin the SRT,  the Trackhawk can only do so much before physics take over. Blasting through tight corners takes patience as you have to truly scrub off a ton of speed to make the beast stick. Sure, you can blast out of a corner faster than many sports cars, but you’ll lose time in the corner. Sweeping turns are different, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk loves sweeping turns, but low speed cornering feels ponderous at best.

Yes, having the AWD system on “Track” mode helps you a bit, it still is, and it always will be a 5,500-plus lb. SUV. I had the sensation of a bit of sway and a lot of pressure pushing against the inside wheel when I pushed hard. It will wail a bit before settling and its grip is remarkable. Even when I coaxed it into oversteer, the front wheels were resolute and pulled me back on line.

The brakes are outstanding and, despite having six-piston Brembos up front, the brake feel and stopping sensations felt like they belonged to a smaller sports car.

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Unfortunately, I was less impressed with the front seats. At (well) over $85,000, why not add a pair of Recaro seats? The leather seats in our tester were comfortable and were part of the interior upgrade package. They felt great on long hauls and, despite not having standard ventilated seats, were fairly forgiving on big people. Oddly, the bolsters were less than stellar, both back and bottom seat. On violent curves and transitions, my body slid a bit side-to-side.

All-in-all, my first impressions revolve around angry acceleration, powerful braking and white-knuckle cornering. Also, just like the SRT Grand Cherokee, it’s an absolute jewel to drive on regular roads. Seriously, you can drop the kiddos off at school while towing your race-car to the track (it tows 7,200 lbs) and terrorize racers with your tow vehicle – rather than your race car.

Check out this video for more!