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Review: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – The Best Hellcat?

Kamil Kaluski February 20, 2018 Featured, Jeep Reviews, Reviews 13 Comments

Great news! Sports cars are not dead! You can enjoy them on a summer day or a drive down a twisty mountain road. They make great rewarding track cars, too. And you will certainly look cool driving around town in your mid-engine machine.

But if you’re looking for fast, like real-deal street fast, the answer comes from an unlikely place – Jeep!

Yup, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. For those not paying attention, the Trackhawk is a Grand Cherokee based on the SRT model but with the 707-horsepower engine from the Challenger/Charger Hellcat twins under its hood. And, unlike on those twins, that engine sends all that power to all four wheels.

It’s the all-wheel-drive system that gives Jeep a significant advantage over its Challenger and Charger siblings. Those two cars are not all that easy to drive; the Hellcats cry out for traction and get none. They do amazing burnouts but it takes some skill to effectively hook-up off line. But the Jeep, it gives zero effs and just goes. Yea, it will spin two, or maybe even four, wheels off the line, but it will hook up very quickly and then go like hell.

Zero to sixty miles per hour comes in less than 3.5 seconds. Some sources say as low as 3.3 seconds. The quarter mile gets killed in 11.6 seconds. That’s really fast.

But numbers do not tell the whole story. Those glorified figures are established almost always at race tracks or airport runways, in almost perfect conditions, several times over. Achieving those same results on the street, by a non-professional driver, especially in a two-wheel-drive car, is almost impossible.

And this is where the Trackhawk has a huge advantage. On the street, it is much easier to drive than any of the Hellcats. On the street, from naught to 100 miles-per-hour, the Trackhawk cannot be beaten by anything costing less than a hundred grand. And those cars tend to have only two seats and a trunk big enough for a sandwich.

Sure, the super-sedans, such as the Panamera Turbo and the upcoming M5 seem to have matching numbers but neither can tow a 7400-pound trailer. The Tesla Models S and X with Ludicrous mode cannot be ignored and are actually quicker but to achieve that acceleration numerous buttons have have to be hit on their large screens.

Comparing apple-to-apples, fast SUVs are nothing new. The original fast SUV, the GMC Typhoon, came out in 1991. Since then there have been AMG Benzes, M-ified Bimmers, that Porsche, and supercharged Range Rovers. None of those stand a chance against the Trackhawk and its 707-horsepower engine.

None. It’s not even close.

But I cannot underscore how easily all of this acceleration and speed is achievable in the Trackhawk. Put it in D and just floor it. There are no buttons to press, no menus and confirmations asking you if you want to go fast. Yes, there are driving modes (auto, sport, track, snow, and tow), but really, on the street, the default “auto” mode does not need to be changed – it adapts. Just floor it, anytime, at any speed, and the heavy Jeep just lurches forward with furious anger. It’s addicting, it’s amazing, and it’s hilarious. Being a responsible citizen, living in a densely populated area, I did not try the launch feature or the track mode. I simply didn’t have to because just normal auto mode was already overwhelming.

In case the point wasn’t clear: The Trackhawk has an overwhelming amount of power and is easy to drive on the road. It does not require special modes or settings to go fast. It seats five comfortably. It has a big trunk. The fuel economy is somewhere between LOL and LMAO gallons per mile. It can tow a 7400-pound trailer, perhaps with your track car on it. 

And that brings up the one thing that the Trackhawk would not be good at – track performance driving. Yes, it has the power, the brakes, and the suspension to match. But it is a big and heavy vehicle. For one thing, it simply would not be very rewarding on a track, it would require strong-arming to remain truly compliant on a road course, especially a technical one. It simply won’t be as much fun as your Miata, S2000, or the like, despite being faster. Secondly, many tracks and/or sanctioning bodies won’t allow such vehicles on the track because of their high center of gravity.

Internet pundits will say that the Grand Cherokee is an old design and that the Trackhawk is just a part-bin engineered model to make money for FCA. And that the idea of a nearly hundred thousand dollar Jeep is just insane. And they wouldn’t be wrong. Except for that fact that the Trackhawk is significantly cheaper than its direct competitors, almost as nice inside, and can blow their doors off. And you don’t look like a pretentious twat in the Jeep.

The sports car is not dead! Long live the hilariously powerful Jeep.

[Disclaimers: FCA provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. Images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2018 or Lucas Dobie, where noted. The Challenger Hellcat and the Hellcrate motor are courtesy of Ace Performance. The motor is going into a ’69 Dodge Charger that we have written about before.

  • Smaglik

    Very cool vehicle, but, $86k+. What’s the thought on depreciation of these? Will they stone drop like other pedestrian FCA vehicles? Best performance bargain of 2022, with a CarMax warranty, of course?

    • Luxury Lexus Land-yacht

      I predict, in five years, they’ll be $40K-$50K, maybe less, depending on the next generation of GC.

      I have its great-grandfather, a 1998 5.9L. The truck is nice inside, can go pretty seriously off-road, and the 360 has surprising grunt, even with a 5,250 RPM redline. However, it’s still a Conestoga-wagon suspension design. Ideal for off-road, but not gentle, on-road.

      However, I expect to own a Jeep Hellkitty, eventually.

      • From 90k to 50k in five years is 12% per year, not too bad.

        • Luxury Lexus Land-yacht

          Agreed, though I was going with a non-base one, and typically, they appear to be optioned to about $101K.

          That’s closer to 18%/yr, which may freak people out a bit. I’ve been in truly bad depreciation vehicles I wanted out of, whose depreciation was 20% a year from new.

    • That’s the one question I can’t really answer. Ford has been good about resale values on vehicles such as the Raptor and GT350 as the demand significantly higher than the supply and people routinely pay over MSRP for both… but it seems like each dealer always has a Hellcat on the lot…

  • outback_ute

    Not an SUV but last weekend I saw a home-brewed Falcon all-wheel drive conversion with big power that has been timed at 3 seconds flat to 60 (or 3.1 to 100 km/h if we’re being precise). 600 hp at the wheels or something like 700 on E85. Very impressive!

  • crank_case

    I guess the only question in looney tunes accelerating SUV that’s great for monstering most driving but not so great for performance driving – this or Tesla Model X?

    • Luxury Lexus Land-yacht

      Depends on how you want to drive it, honestly.

      I still cannot, and likely never will, consider an electric-only as my sole vehicle.

    • I live in a city and I have nowhere to charge any EVs, so that’s an easy choice for me.
      Otherwise, the question is – which is more important, performance (Jeep) or the badge (Range Rover, BMW, MB, etc…)

      • crank_case

        Yeah, but assuming charging wasn’t an issue.. neither a good track car really, or even arguably a canyon carver, more something that monsters daily driving. Both cars seem to occupy a similar sort of space, not your fun car, but a car that’d be awesome to daily, while offering stupidity from ever stop light.

        • Yes. I’d take the Jeep.

    • Zentropy

      Jeep, easy– even with all of the inherent flaws you get with the Jeep. There are few vehicles I want less than a Tesla Model X. It’s a great concept in a ridiculous design. Those doors…

  • Zentropy

    I feel the same way about the Trackhawk as I do with the Durango SRT: there’s no way I’d pay new money for it, but once it’s depreciated through the floor, maybe. I’d definitely go for one of these before a Hellcat.