2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Buying Advice
This is the best SUV for you if you want to own a Hellcat version of the Dodge Challenger or Charger, but your significant other won’t let you get one. This report focuses on the Trackhawk version of Jeep’s flagship SUV. With 707 horsepower under its hood, this is the most powerful SUV on the road. It will out-accelerate all but the priciest exotic cars, , but it can accommodate five passengers, carry up to 68.3 cubic feet of cargo, and tow up to 7,200 pounds. This combination sounds like something concocted by a mad scientist, but it all works amazingly well.
Jeep does not break out Trackhawk sales numbers from the rest of the Grand Cherokee line. Being that it’s a highly specialized vehicle, production numbers are not likely to be very high. We anticipate more than a few of these have been sold to collectors who are mothballing them in their garages for display or future sale. This does the Trackhawk a disservice because it begs to be driven, and it’s more than capable of serving as daily transportation.
Should you buy a 2018 model or wait for the ’19?
If you can find a 2018 and are willing to pay sticker price or more, get one of those. We don’t expect Jeep to make any notable changes to the 2019 Trackhawk. Model-year ’19 could very well be your last chance to buy one of these hot-rod SUVs. We forecast a redesigned Grand Cherokee to debut in calendar 2019 as a 2020 model. The new vehicle would likely share elements of its underskin design with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, which is produced by current Jeep parent company, Fiat. The outgoing Grand Cherokee’s platform comes from the days when the brand was under the umbrella of German automaker Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz.
Styling: It’s remarkable how restrained the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk’s styling is, especially when you consider the outlandish looks of the Dodge Challenger Hellcat or Demon. There are only a few ways to tell the difference between a Trackhawk and a “normal” Grand Cherokee SRT. Up front, the Trackhawk has no fog lights because engineers needed extra air intakes to allow the engine to breathe more efficiently. The front doors have a “Supercharged” badge. The wheels have a unique look, and the brake calipers are painted yellow, rather than red as they are on the SRT model. The final distinguishing feature is a Trackhawk badge on the rear liftgate. Even then, you may have to look twice at it because its design is like the Trailhawk logo that adorns off-road-themed versions of Jeep’s SUVs.
The Trackhawk’s cabin décor is sporty, yet upscale. Carbon fiber trim adorns the door panels and dashboard. The standard upholstery consists of a suede-like material that feels nice to sit on and features prominent side bolsters that keep you snugly in place during spirited driving. The $4,995 Signature Leather Wrapped Interior Package adds upgraded “Laguna Leather” upholstery and lower interior panels trimmed in leather. It certainly looks the part, but we’re perfectly content with the standard seating arrangement. Rear-seat occupants will have plenty of room as well, and they’re treated to heated outboard cushions, two USB charging ports, and a three-prong household power outlet for plugging in a laptop, video game console, or other electronic device.
We’ve praised other Fiat-Chrysler vehicles for their easy-to-use and highly customizable infotainment systems, powered by the Uconnect 4 software suite. The Trackhawk has this as well, but it goes several steps beyond what you find in a garden-variety Grand Cherokee. It starts with the font, which is unique to the Trackhawk. It’s used both in the instrument panel and included 8.4-inch center dashboard screen. The gauges consist of an analog speedometer (which goes up to 200 mph), fuel gauge, and engine temperature display. The tachometer is an LCD screen, the center portion of which can display a variety of information. In addition to the usual audio, navigation, and basic vehicle data, it includes many racetrack-ready readouts, including acceleration, braking, and lateral grip.
The infotainment system provides a stupefying array of ways to tailor the Trackhawk to your liking. The vehicle has a launch control system designed to maximize straight-line acceleration. You can set the engine speed at which it will take off from a standstill. You can also create your own custom drive mode, including transmission, suspension, and throttle behavior. The “Performance Pages” section has several widgets that you can have shown on the screen, including real-time engine output, the current gear, G-Force measurement, and more. The timers display keeps track of acceleration, including 0-60 mph, 0-100 mph, 1/8-mile, and 1/4-mile, braking speed and distance, and even the driver’s reaction time. The gauges portion includes such detail as supercharger boost pressure, transmission temperature, and even the engine’s air/fuel ratio. There’s enough information available here to please even the most jaded Microsoft Excel spreadsheet junkie.
It’s not without a few quirks, mostly the time it can take to change screens. It’s not a problem if you’re doing mundane tasks, such as changing radio stations or programming the standard imbedded navigation system. Going into the Performance Pages area, though, the system can occasionally be slow to react. We regularly waited more than 10 seconds to bring up that section. Hopefully a future software update will mitigate this issue.
Mechanical: The meat and potatoes of the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is under the hood. It’s a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine producing 707 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque. That’s 130 horsepower more than a Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE 63 S, 137 more than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, 140 more than a BMW X5 M, 232 more than the Grand Cherokee SRT, 397 more than a Chevrolet Traverse, and 423 more than a Nissan Pathfinder. All that muscle reaches the pavement through a heavy-duty 8-speed automatic transmission and a specially designed all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. Jeep says the Trackhawk will do 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds, and hit a top speed of 180 mph. We didn’t specifically measure all these claims, but based on our time behind the wheel, we don’t doubt their validity.
Acceleration is other-worldly. Power comes on strong from the moment you hit the gas pedal and doesn’t stop until the engine hits its 6,200 rpm redline. The Trackhawk isn’t happy in low-speed urban slogging. This is most evident in the transmission’s behavior; it will occasionally clunk into gear if you’re traveling at a snail’s pace. Its responsiveness improves dramatically on the open road where you’ll delight in its muscle-car exhaust note. We don’t even mind the omnipresent supercharger whine.
The standard AWD system is biased toward bashing the pavement rather than rocks and sand dunes. It serves its purpose well in helping to manage this vehicle’s prodigious power. Despite a tall build and 5,363-pound curb weight, the Trackhawk acquits itself very well in corners and quick changes of direction. The steering is somewhat heavy, particularly at low speeds, but road feel is excellent. The brake rotors measure 15.75 inches in diameter up front and 13.78 inches in the rear, with yellow-painted calipers as long as your forearm. Stand on the pedal, and you’ll feel your eyeballs wanting to leave their sockets.
Features: Trackhawks comes just about loaded out of the factory. Standard amenities include an adaptive performance suspension, 20-inch forged alloy wheels on all-season performance tires, lane-departure warning, bi-xenon headlights, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic detection, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, remote engine start, suede-like upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, heated outboard rear seats, power rear liftgate, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Jeep isn’t necessarily a premium nameplate, but Trackhawk pricing runs with similar midsize crossovers from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Range Rover. It starts at $86,995, including $1,095 destination fee.
Options are relatively few. We already mentioned the $4,995 Signature Leather Wrapped Interior Package. Also available are a Trailow Tow Group ($995), dual-screen Blu-ray entertainment system ($1,995), 19-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system ($995), 20-inch “Black Satin” wheels ($995), and three-season performance tires ($995).
We don’t think any of these extras is necessary to enhance your Trackhawk driving experience. Regardless, be prepared to write a six-figure check for one of these. High demand and low supply means dealers will certainly be marking these vehicles up beyond their suggested retail prices.
No surprises here. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is not very good: 11/17/13 mpg city/highway/combined. Our test model averaged 14.1 mpg in mostly suburban commuting, with more than a few jackrabbit starts.
Premium-grade 91-octane fuel is required.
Likely nothing. We expect model-year 2019 to be the final one for the current Grand Cherokee. So if you have the means and desire to own a Trackhawk, you better get your finances in order pretty quickly because we have a feeling that once the 2019 run is sold out, it won’t be coming back.
BMW X5 M, Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE 63 S, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S