2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Review - Behold The HellJeep

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

6.2-liter supercharged V8 (707 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 645 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
11 city / 17 highway / 13 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
11.2 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $86,995 (USD)
As Tested: $90,880
Prices include $1,095 freight charge.
2018 jeep grand cherokee trackhawk review behold the helljeep

It’s absurd.

That’s the word that kept flowing from pen to notepad as I tried to collect my thoughts on this 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. The thought of 707 supercharged horsepower in a midsized family SUV is nothing but absurd.

And yet, if you don’t mind getting friendly with both your neighborhood gas station owner and your local replacement tire shop over your ownership term, the Trackhawk is a compelling choice. Unless you relish anonymity.

Especially in bright red, the Trackhawk announces its presence with authority. I was constantly aware that I was wheeling a vehicle that would never blend into any background. While the standard Grand Cherokee is a familiar sight in mall parking lots everywhere, those demure cruisers don’t wear 10-inch-wide wheels wrapped in 295-section Pirelli performance tires. They don’t have bright yellow six-piston Brembo brake calipers shouting from the wheelwells.

And they certainly don’t have a supercharged Hemi V8 under the hood. Shared with the Hellcat models from Dodge, 707 horsepower makes this the fastest Jeep ever. I’ll admit, I’d love to have gotten this on a dragstrip to see what it can do when properly flogged, but Jeep quotes 11.6 seconds in the quarter-mile, and 3.5 seconds 0-60. With my Racelogic Driftbox, I was able to turn 3.4 seconds in the 0-60 run using launch control.

Yes, launch control. In an SUV. Absurd.

It took some driving to get the Trackhawk to a flat, straight, and most importantly deserted farm road so I could properly test that launch mode. A bit of manipulating of settings both on the console dial — TRACK MODE! — and on the center touchscreen would enable launch mode, and also enable my rear deep into the seat.

Driving into the hinterlands reminded me of one more inescapable fact — creating this much power takes bucketfuls of premium unleaded. The EPA estimate of 17 mpg on the highway may be achievable on a long enough cruise, but I struggled to keep the onboard calculator to approach the 13 mpg combined figure. With the hooning one would expect from a guy who is given this after a week in a subcompact economy car, I only managed 11.2 mpg over my test. Again, absurd.

Despite its prodigious thirst, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was reasonably docile when driven with restraint. While the exhaust note and supercharger whine are noticeable when hustling, the sound is restrained on start-up and when driving calmly through the neighborhood. I had no complaints from my wife or the neighbors when I started the Jeep each morning.

The ride was a bit harsh when encountering pavement that would better suit the trail-rated Jeeps, but was otherwise firm and controlled. It’s not a luxury cruiser, but neither will it punish you. It’s loud when cruising, however, as those steamroller Pirellis, the supercharger, the big frontal area, and the lope of the V8 combine into a cacophonous roar.

The seats are comfortable, though I could do without the Alcantara seat inserts. While comfy, they seem to soak up the sun’s rays and apply them directly to bare thighs. The ventilated (and heated, though I didn’t try the heat) seats do well, but the initial seating can be toasty.

The cargo space is a bit narrow — the subwoofer over the right rear wheel well seems to cut into the given area. While I fit coolers, chairs, and sports bags for a weekend of multiple sports tournaments, there wasn’t much extra room.

Similarly, the space in the second row was a bit tight. While the kids didn’t have their legs jammed into the rear of the front seats, it was close. Moving around like kids often do wasn’t as comfortable as in most similarly-sized crossovers. Changing from softball cleats to soccer cleats when racing at unmentionable speeds from one venue to another was a struggle for my eldest.

Otherwise, the Trackhawk worked well as a commuter. It’s not a track-specific beast that can’t handle the more banal parts of our driving, though it’s certainly one of the only SUVs I’d consider taking out on the track.

Perhaps the best example came on the first night I drove the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. I took the family out for pizza. As we filled our drinks, I noticed a young twenty-something man and his girlfriend get out of a spotless first-generation Chrysler 300. While my eye was drawn to the decade-old full-sizer that had inexplicably escaped the beater-and-massive rims fate that most of these have fallen to, I noticed the couple wander to the Jeep.

[Get new and used Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT pricing here!]

The youths walked around for several long moments, then came into the restaurant. His line as he opened the door will remain with me forever — “I don’t ever want to own an SUV, but if I had to, that’s the SUV I’d own.”

Finally, SUVs are as uncool to this generation as minivans are to mine, and wagons are to my parents.

So, excusing myself from the wife and kids, I invited the couple outside to take a closer look. I fired it up, and the young lady was visibly shaken by the HellJeep’s sound.

Once again, absurd.

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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  • SPPPP SPPPP on Jul 23, 2018

    Wow, the 13MPG combined figure is really impressive ... in a bad way! You have to work pretty hard to use that much fuel in a modern fuel-injected car. I would be interested to hear about some of the engineering trade-offs involved.

    • See 3 previous
    • SPPPP SPPPP on Jul 26, 2018

      @JohnTaurus Yes, 707 horses, and about 600 of them were slumbering when the Jeep loafed its way through the EPA MPG tests. To be fair, the JGCTH is beating the Lambo Aventador, which shows 12mpg. Bentley's larger Bentayga with a 600hp 6.0L turbo V-12 gets 15mpg combined. Which is actually 15% better, even though it's only 2mpg. The F-150 Raptor is rated at 16mpg combined, which is 23% better than the Jeep. I guess you could say it "only" has 450hp. But again, the vast majority of those horses are not being used on the EPA test. The tires on the Raptor are certainly not mileage-friendly. One criticism of the EcoBoost has been that it supposedly aces the EPA MPG test and then flops in the real world. Does this not apply to the Mopar engine? Hence, I wonder about some of the engineering tradeoffs involved.

  • Indi500fan Indi500fan on Jul 23, 2018

    I predict the depreciation on these will be stunning. So 3 yrs down the road, that 90 grand will be replaced by a much more affordable number.

  • Fred Private equity is only concerned with making money. Not in content. The only way to deal with it, is to choose your sites wisely. Even that doesn't work out. Just look at AM/FM radio for a failing business model that is dominated by a few large corporations.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Lots of dynamics here:[list][*]people are creatures of habit, they will stick with one or two web sites, one or two magazines, etc; and will only look at something different if recommended by others[/*][*]Generation Y & Z is not "car crazy" like Baby Boomers. We saw a car as freedom and still do. Today, most youth text or face call, and are focused on their cell phone. Some don't even leave the house with virtual learning[/*][*]New car/truck introductions are passé; COVID knocked a hole in car shows; spectacular vehicle introductions are history.[/*][*]I was in the market for a replacement vehicle, but got scared off by the current used and new prices. I'll wait another 12 to 18 months. By that time, the car I was interested in will be obsolete or no longer available. Therefore, no reason to research till the market calms down. [/*][*]the number of auto related web sites has ballooned in the last 10 to 15 years. However, there are a diminishing number of taps on their servers as the Baby Boomers and Gen X fall off the radar scope. [/*][/list]Based on the above, the whole auto publishing industry (magazine, web sites, catalogs, brochures, etc) is taking a hit. The loss of editors and writers is apparent in all of publishing. This is structural, no way around it.
  • Dukeisduke I still think the name Bzzzzzzzzzzt! would have been better.
  • Dukeisduke I subscribed to both Road & Track and Car and Driver for over 25 years, but it's been close to 20 years since I dropped both. I tried their digital versions with their reader software (can't remember the name now), but it wasn't the same. I let it lapse after a year.From what I've seen of R&T's print version, it's turned into more of a lifestyle thing like The Robb Report. I haven't seen an issue of C/D in a while.I enjoyed both magazines a lot when I was subscribing. R&T for the road tests (especially the April Fools road tests), used car reviews, historical articles, and columns like Peter Egan's Side Glances and Dennis Simanitis's Technical Correspondence. And C/D for the road tests and pithy commentary, and columns like Gordon Baxter's, and Jean Shepherd's (that goes way back to the early '70s).
  • Steve Biro It takes very clever or amusing content for me to sit through a video vehicle review. And most do not include that.Tim, you wrote :"Niche titles aren't dying because of a lack of interest from enthusiasts, but because of broader changes in the economics of media, at least in this author's opinion."You're right about the broader changes in economics. But the truth is that there IS a lack of interest from enthusiasts. Part of it is demographics. Young people coming up are generally not car and truck fans. That doesn't mean there are no young enthusiasts but the numbers are much smaller. And even those who consider themselves enthusiasts seem to have mixed feelings. Just take a look at Jalopnik.And then we come to the real problem: The vast majority of new vehicles coming out today are not interesting to enthusiasts, are not fun to drive and/or are just not affordable.You can argue that EVs are technically interesting and should create enthusiasm. But the truth is they are not fun to drive, don't work well enough yet for most people and are very expensive.EVs on the race track? Have you ever been to a Formula E race? Please.And even if we set EVs aside, the electronic nannies that are being forced on us pretty much preclude a satisfying driving experience in any brand-new vehicle, regardless of propulsion system. Sure, many consumers who view cars as transportation appliances may welcome this technology. But they are not enthusiasts. I don't know about you, but I and most car fans I know don't want smart phones on wheels.There is simply not that much of interest to write about. Car and Driver and Road & Track are dipping deeper into nostalgia and their archives as a result. R&T is big on sponsoring road trips for enthusiasts - which is a great idea. But only people with money to burn need apply.And then there is the problem of quality in automotive writing. As more experienced people are let go and more money is cut from publications, the quality and length of pieces keeps going down, leading to the inevitable self-fulfilling prophecy.Even the output on this site is sharply reduced from its peak. And the number of responses to posts seems a small fraction of what it used to be. This is my first comment since the site was recently relaunched. I don't expect to be making many in the future.Frankly Tim - and it gives me no pleasure to write this - but your post makes me feel as though the people running this site have run out of ideas and TTAC's days may be numbered.Cutbacks in automotive journalism are upsetting. But, until there is something exciting and fun to write about, they are going to continue. Perhaps automotive enthusiasm really was a 20th century phenomenon..
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