A few years ago, Dodge unveiled the Challenger and Charger Hellcat, two vehicles that can be considered modern marvels of the automotive world. Despite the fact that it’s been several years since it was released, the 707 hp supercharged V8 that powers the two continues to be met with amazement and disbelief. It’s just an insane amount of power for a car you can buy for less than $100,000, and still, there really isn’t an equal among competitors.
But the greatest thing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles did is cram it into the engine bay of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, of all places. The result is called the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, and it may be one of the best SUVs ever made.
The decision to pair the Hellcat’s V8 with the Grand Cherokee wasn’t one that was made out of the blue, as the already quick Grand Cherokee SRT has been around for a while. In fact, the Trackhawk can be seen as a higher order iteration of the SRT, where everything has been turned up to the proverbial eleven with a 707 hp V8 instead of the 475 hp V8 found in the SRT model.
Even in a large and heavy SUV like the Grand Cherokee, 707 hp is a lot of power. Paired with full-time all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission with launch control, it allows the 5,363 lb. Trackhawk to hit 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds with a quarter-mile time of 11.6 seconds. For context, that’s faster than many exotic supercars that cost at least twice as much, and you can’t carry a family of five in comfort in any of those.
But what does that kind of acceleration actually feel like?
In short, it’s literally breathtaking. My first experience with the Trackhawk was with a few other auto writers, and I was in the back seat scribbling notes when the guy driving decided to punch it. The sudden acceleration instantly threw me back and pinned my arm to the seat back while I was reduced to a giggling fool.
Behind the wheel of the Trackhawk, you get the uneasy feeling that speeding tickets are in your near future. The gas pedal is immediately responsive, so driving around town requires a light touch. This engine wants you to use it, begs you to go fast, and you have to concentrate to keep it within the legal limit.
Nothing about the experience feels right. At one moment, you’re sitting in a spacious and comfortable luxury SUV, and the next you’re approaching Mach 1. Those two experiences rarely coincide with each other, yet in the Trackhawk it’s all in the same package. Besides the SRT branding that’s found through the cabin, you don’t exactly get the sensation that you’re sitting in something beyond a very nicely optioned Grand Cherokee.
That makes it the best of both worlds then, really. If you’re stuck between a sports car and an SUV but you can only have one, the Trackhawk allows you to blend adrenaline and practicality into one package. There’s room for five with a very spacious rear cargo area and it can even tow up to 7200 lbs., which is enough to haul most small cruising boats.
The best part about the Trackhawk is the price. Starting at $88,145 (including the $1,495 destination fee), it isn’t exactly a cheap vehicle, especially considering the $20,000 premium over the standard Grand Cherokee SRT. However, when compared to similarly sized performance SUVs like the $101,700 BMW X5M, $113,000 Mercedes-Benz GLE63S, or $125,850 Porsche Cayenne Turbo, it seems like a genuine bargain. Sure the Trackhawk’s fit and finish is still that of standard Jeep Grand Cherokee, but at the same time none of those luxury sport SUVs can hold a candle to the speed available in the Trackhawk, as the Jeep has them all beat to 60 mph by up to half a second. That said, the price tag of the Trackhawk can be pushed north of the $100,000 mark as you start adding options like the $5,000 Signature Leather-Wrapped Interior Package.
At the end of the day, nobody really needs a Trackhawk. It’s extremely excessive, it chugs dead dinosaur juice like it’s free and infinite, it can’t drive over things like most Jeeps, and it costs more than some houses in the city its built in, especially when adding options. However, you can’t blame someone for wanting it in their life. If cars were judged by smiles-per-gallon, the Trackhawk would be one of the best cars you can buy. It offers the fun of an exotic with the practicality of an SUV, and there simply isn’t anything else like it out there.