On the face of it, it seems a bit ridiculous to get overly excited by a vehicle that is well, a little pointless. A large five-seat SUV with the most powerful V8 engine that’s ever been offered in a production car… Seriously?
Not only that, when the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk gets here in December, it’ll become the third-most powerful car on sale in Australia, behind the 545kW Ferrari F12 and the 544kW Lamborghini Aventador S, neither of which will leave you with much change from $850,000 before on-roads.
The Jeep? Prices are yet to be firmed up, but $140,000 before on-roads is a strong hint.
And that gets you a well-equipped SUV with auto lights and wipers, LED headlights, power tailgate, heated seats front and back, a decent multimedia system with sat nav and leather/suede seats – not to mention a load of room for five people and their stuff.
You’ll also get driver aids like emergency braking, adaptive cruise, clever trailer sway control and rear cross traffic alert. Try towing a boat with your Aventador...
Vehicle Style: Performance Large SUV
Price: $140,000 (estimated - plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 522kW/868Nm 6.2lt tV8 supercharged petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: n/a l/100km | Tested: 15.6 l/100km
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is as serious as a tax audit, and the SRT team responsible for its gestation haven’t cut corners in building the fastest and most powerful SUV on the planet.
“It’s a whole new level of capability for Jeep,” Jeep's Scott Tallon said. “This is the most powerful and quickest SUV in the world.”
Big claims, but the Trackhawk walks the walk. The company says it will clock triple figures in just 3.7 seconds - which we matched with launch control – along with a 11.6s standing quarter mile time and a top speed of 'just' 290km/h… and that’s only because it has the frontal area of a block of flats and is twice the weight of your average supercar, tipping the scales at 2433kg.
While the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is set to join the ongoing Jeep range locally, Jeep Australia will also import 62 Launch Edition cars for around $164,000 each complete with extra kit like full leather seats and a nicer multimedia system.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 522kW/868Nm 6.2lt tV8 supercharged petrol
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, AWD
Based on the recently-upgraded Grand Cherokee SRT, the Trackhawk is a dedicated on-road machine that’s been fitted with one of the most outrageous engines on the market today.
Built by sister company Dodge for use in its Challenger sedan and Charger coupe, the 6.2-litre supercharged V8 – also known as the Hellcat, but Jeep never refers to its Dodge code name – is built from the ground up to do one thing; make lots and lots and lots of power.
The engine’s spec sheet reads like a wish list from a factory drag racing team, with a thicker iron cast block, a hardened forged steel crankshaft, alloy pistons, and a high-grade alloy cylinder head. It’s topped with a massive supercharger that, at 2.4 litres, has more capacity than most small car engines.
The Trackhawk version of the Hellcat is different to those in the 527kW Dodges, with a milder camshaft, new air induction system, a new oil sump and a different exhaust. But don’t think it’s any softer.
“We wanted to build a car that feels as good on its last lap of a track day as it does on the first,” Tallon said.
We’re talking about 522kW at 6000rpm (redline is 6200rpm) and a faintly astonishing 868Nm at 4500rpm.
Managing this prodigious output is a new four-wheel drive system that’s been seriously beefed up to handle the power and torque. At its heart is an updated version of ZF’s well-regarded eight-speed auto, with heavily revised shift mapping and strengthened internals, which feeds a new custom-sized rear limited slip diff and single-speed transfer case combo.
The arrangement allows up to 70 percent of the Trackhawk’s considerable grunt to be directed to the rear end when the drive mode selector is switched to Track, 65 percent in Sport, 60 percent in Normal and 50/50 in Snow mode.
It will even send 60 percent to the front axle in Tow mode. Yes, the Trackhawk can tow up to 2949kg, and it’ll give you trailer sway control and a rear-view camera while you’re doing it.
Big-dollar adaptive Bilstein shocks work with slightly firmer steel springs than the SRT, and the wheels are 20 inches in diameter. Aussie cars are likely to ship with 295mm wide Pirelli P-Zeros as standard.
Even though it rides 11mm lower than a stock Grand Cherokee, the Trackhawk still has a ground clearance of 205mm. “It’s what defines it as an SUV,” Jeep powertrain engineer, Jamie Standing, said.
The Brembo brakes are arguably the biggest units ever fitted to an affordable production car. Six-piston front calipers clamp 400mm two-piece rotors, while four-pot rears pinch down on a 350mm rotor. A Supercar racer’s front rotor is 395mm in diameter.
The calipers are painted yellow, one of the few giveaways on this car that it’s a Trackhawk and not an SRT, along with the quad exhaust and some badges.
Inside, it’s almost straight Grand Cherokee SRT, with just a seat imprint giving the game away. We haven’t seen Aussie specs yet, but leather/suede seats are standard, and full leather dual-tone seats are expected to be an option.
The similarities between the SRT and the Trackhawk fade away quickly when the massive motor bursts into life with an angry roar. Yet it calms down surprisingly quickly. In Normal mode under light throttle, the Trackhawk behaves like any other large V8 petrol-powered SUV, with little sign of the lunatic that lives under the bonnet.
Switch into Sport, and the electric steering firms up, the dampers tighten a little and the gearshifts sharpen slightly, while Track mode loosens traction and stability control to an almost-off condition and really sharpens the shifts from the ZF box, down to a back-thumping 150 milliseconds between ratios.
Bury the throttle, and several startling things happen at once. A wailing foghorn of supercharger scream slams into your face, while an enraged, deep-throated exhaust bellow smashes you from behind. The horizon instantly gets a whole lot closer, and your insides rearrange themselves in a slightly unpleasant way. And that’s before you get into second gear.
It’s impossible to relay how relentless the primal thrust from the Hellcat engine really is. Over a handful of track laps, the Trackhawk’s prodigious grunt down a long front straight is matched only by the handling prowess of something that has no right to be this competent and fun around a track.
Washing off speed is like you’ve popped open a parachute and the big Jeep can be faithfully led by the nose as required, loading up its outside tyres evenly and predictably as it simply missiles between each corner.
It’s alternate universe stuff.
ANCAP rating: Jeep Grand Cherokees carry the maximum 5-star safety rating under 2014 testing rules. However, this rating, officially at least, only applies to models with V6 petrol engines.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Five years/100,000km, with five-year capped price servicing plan and five-year roadside assistance program.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There's no shortage of 'performance' SUVs, most of them in the large or upper-large category, but none come anywhere near the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk for all-out power and a sea of brag-worthy numbers, especially for the (expected) price.
Ignoring the price for a moment, if it simply must be an eight-cylinder petrol engine, consider Toyota's LandCruiser, along with up-market sister, the Lexus LX 570, or Nissan's Patrol. No 0-100km/h specials here, but each offers more interior space than the Trackhawk - or indeed, almost anything else on the Australian market.
Bringing price back into the equation, there's also an argument for the donor car to the Trackhawk - Jeep's Grand Cherokee SRT - which starts below $100,000.
If you're purely chasing outputs, the Bentley Bentayga offers 447kW/900Nm V12 grunt, BMW's X5 and X6 M offer up 423kW/750Nm, you can get 405kW/680Nm out of a Range Rover, Mercedes-AMG's GLS 63 has 430kW/760Nm and the Porsche Cayenne is available with 419kW/800Nm. But, for $140,000..?
On the drive back from the track, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk proved itself worthy as a daily driver. The single-mode exhaust can get intrusive if you bury it away from a standstill, but disappears again in high gears and at low revs, while its firm ride can get just a little jittery and a touch harsh on more broken surfaces.
Fuel use will be an issue, too, though a 260km commute back to base saw us record a combined fuel economy figure of 15.6L/100km. On track, all bets are off on how quickly you can empty the 93-litre tank.
Overall, though, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a car you can run at the Thursday night drags, head away with the boat for the weekend and drive to work during the rest of the week.
It also brings with it a massive set of bragging rights, and there is simply no other way of getting this much factory-backed performance for this little money.
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