I’m on the wrong side of history. Or at least the way history is trending. Vehicles are getting larger and larger. Look at 2019 where it’s estimated that 70% of new vehicle sales outside of trucks will be SUVs and CUVs. Me? As I get older I like smaller and lighter vehicles. As I write this I’ve been back to back in a GMC Yukon and a Chevy Silverado 1500. Both are a pain in the ass to drive in city traffic. They’ve just become too large.
Yet it’s SUVs and CUVs that the consumer wants. So OEMs are pushing them out as fast they come off the line. From the OEM’s point of view, more certainly equals better. CUVs and SUVs don’t have as tight of emission regulations nor fuel economy standards. On top of this, they can actually make money on these, unlike traditional passenger cars, for the most part.
In the last four or five years, not only do we have a plethora of CUVs and SUVs but now we have performance versions as well. Ford is even going so far as to call the Edge ST a “hot hatch” and an “adult sports car”. Land Rover and Jag have the SVR models. Lamborghini now offers the Urus. Porsche has a Turbo Cayenne and its Macan. Mercedes-Benz apply AMG badges to everything. Clearly, nothing says performance like a 5,000+ pound vehicle with 20 to 22-inch wheels!
Then we have FCA. It has one of the most popular SUVs on the market in the Grand Cherokee. It also has one of the most badass motors made today. Nothing says success like excess!
Photo credit @stevenphamphoto
Yes, FCA jammed the 707-horsepower Hellcat engine into the Grand Cherokee and gave it the name “Trackhawk”. For which tracks, exactly, is this vehicle built? Other than the drag strip, the answer is none.
Is the Trackhawk a hoot to drive? Why yes, yes it is! The question is then, what are you willing to pay for that level of fun? Not just the sticker price, but the ongoing running costs. In the course of the week I had the Trackhawk in for review, it came with a full tank of gas, and I put just over $120 of gas into it while driving less than 500 miles.
Fuel economy is 11 City, 17 Highway, and 13 Combined. That’s about 7.7 gallons per 100 miles. For those of you in metric countries that’s 18.09l/100km in the combined cycle. Seventeen on the highway might be about right, but the eleven in combined driving was more like it.
The base price is $86,200. As tested here (and with delivery charge) the total is $91,530. For context, a base 4×4 Grand Cherokee Laredo starts at just under $34,000 and a nicely equipped Overland diesel will run you about $52,000. Are you willing to pay a near $40,000 premium for Hellcat fun? Or perhaps just a $20,000 premium over the 475-horsepower SRT version? Come back in two or three years from now when a used Trackhawk can be had for $50,000.
It’s best you focus on the engine with the Trackhawk, because while the interior is fine for a $35,000-$50,000 vehicle, at $90,000 it’s flat out unacceptable. It’s not just the visual either. It starts with the plastic trim at the bottom of the wheel that says “Trackhawk” For $90K could I at least get a small piece of carbon fiber? But really PLASTIC, and not good plastic at that?
The center console has the silver fake carbon fiber that isn’t bad but obviously isn’t real carbon fiber. The paddle shifters are plastic. The trim around the gauge pod is plastic with chrome plastic accents. The interior beltline trim appears to be carbon fiber but isn’t.
Now, the interior isn’t all bad. The seats are quite comfortable and trimmed with a ultra suede. The UConnect infotainment system, though beginning to show its age, is still one of the best in the business, and the 19-speaker, 825-watt Harman Kardon stereo is quite good.
In normal driving, the Trackhawk is fine. It rides well, brakes well, (BIG Brembos), it’s not overly stiff or harsh, but the 295 section 20-inch tires do add to the turning radius. Press the launch button, bring up the revs to just under two thousand and you easily bark all four tires from a stoplight.
Need to pass someone in a hurry on the highway? The Trackhawk has you covered. The 70-125 mph blast happens in the blink of an eye. And oh so effortlessly. Seriously. Get to rolling at 70 mph, change lanes, punch the gas, and about as quickly as you read this you are doing a buck twenty-five!
And of course there’s the sound. Big pushrod V8 growl with the high pitched whine of the supercharger pushing twelve (11.6 for you anoraks) pounds of boost. If your wallet can afford the gas, you’ll put your foot into it at every opportunity. Yes, it’s that addictive. But it’s just a one trick pony.
But here is the real question; why? At 5,400 pounds, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is too heavy and too tall to be any kind of real “performance” vehicle. If you need the room for five people the Hellcat Charger offers all the same space, better driving dynamics, and 1,000 pounds less curb weight. At $90,000 there are better performance vehicles on the market, and if you “must” have a performance CUV (insert your favorite oxymoron joke here) there are others on the market with far superior interiors and general build quality at the same price, but sure, none of them have a Hellcat engine.
I think performance CUV/SUV’s are dumb. Elephants on ice skates are the best way to describe them. However, trying to argue against the stupidity of the market is about as useful as an old man yelling at the clouds. Crossovers and SUVs are here to stay and dominate the market. Is the Trackhawk one of, if not the best, stupid vehicles you can buy today? Probably. Why did FCA build it and why should you buy one? The same answer for both questions is “because we can.”