Somewhere deep in his environmentally-friendly home wrapped in sustainably sourced sheets, Al Gore is having nightmares of fire-breathing, supercharged FCA vehicles. They twist and turn around him, burning donuts of despair into his sleep-deprived skull, as they snap, snarl, and whine their way to a fevered pitch.
Sitting in the center is an imposing monster of a machine with a Trackhawk badge on its backside. It is anything but compassionate to those in its way. An SUV that proves petrol is still king of the American Wild West. While Cadillac has its V-Series, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) earns the crown for taking regular automobiles and turning them into all-out evildoers.
Driving the Jeep Trackhawk for a week is like ordering a pizza with every topping imaginable and gorging yourself while playing Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s overkill on every level, with loads of blinding speed and smiles on tap. The Trackhawk offers an extremely comfortable, almost couch-like seating experience. Is it the most sophisticated or affordable high-performance experience money can buy? No… So, why buy one?
Compared to something like the outgoing Cadillac CTS-V – which has a whopping 1,000-pound weight advantage over the Jeep, with just 15-fewer pound-feet of torque – the Trackhawk feels just as heavy as it looks, both on paper and in person. Almost every spare ounce of supercharged tenacity this SUV possesses seems to be overridden by ride height, aerodynamic headaches, and a crushing curb weight. At least, until you switch over to Sport or Track mode and really start guzzling gas.
Foot down and exhaust screaming – power delivery is frenzied. The Jeep Trackhawk is unapologetic in its approach to producing power. It’s the automotive equivalent of taking up ax throwing as your hobby. There’s a lot of control required to safely and effectively hit the sweet spot. But, once you find a balance and log an hour or two of tossing all that heavy metal around, you realize finesse is indeed possible.
Unlike other supercharged FCA offerings, the Jeep Trackhawk is an all-wheel-drive animal, because, well… it’s a Jeep thing. That said, you do get good grip from the clever Quadra-Trac control system. The Pirelli Scorpion tires aren’t my first choice for performance rubber, but the grip is impressive, even if things get a little sideways from a standstill. Taking the kids to school in one of these makes you realize buying a Jeep Trackhawk is the responsible solution to selling your Hellcat in favor of a more kid-friendly, year-round automobile.
The Trackhawk scores high points for being just as practical as any other Jeep Grand Cherokee. It just happens to come with a fat slathering of carbon fiber, one-off seats and mats, and a Selec-Trac traction/performance control knob. You also get a sportier steering wheel, all of the latest FCA “Performance Pages” in the center stack UConnect screen, and a useful digital driver display.
All of the familiar interior sensibilities that make this platform so popular are here. As well as 36-cubes of storage space and an array of tasteful Trackhawk upgrade options. You also get the ability to tow up to 7,200 pounds once the vehicle has been properly equipped, earning this Jeep a tow-rig superstar status.
Drive sensibly, minding both braking and throttle inputs, and you might even hit the estimated EPA average. With the Eco-drive button engaged, you might even hit 11mpg city or the ever-elusive 17mpg-highway rating. In my case, this translated to a 13mpg average and burning through a tank of premium every few days. But hey, if you can afford the nearly $87,000 sticker price, you should be able to furnish the funds for fuel and insurance on the damn thing.
Speaking of sticker shock, the Jeep Trackhawk commands a far heftier starting price than its Charger and Challenger siblings. But, it does stomp the European competition in both raw performance and value. From a towing perspective, you could get a Range Rover Sport SVR for just a hair under $115,000, but you would only be getting 518hp and 6,613 pounds of towing capacity. Similarly priced vehicles from German competitors don’t even come close to the Trackhawk’s numbers in regard to towing, power, and price point. This sets the five-seat American SUV atop a very unique pedestal.
Packages on my 2.5-ton loaner start with a banging Harman Kardon 19-speaker system, complete with 825 watts and a $2,095 price tag. This was followed by somewhat sticky “3-season tires” at $895, and 20×10-inch black-satin alloy wheels. They’re well worth the money at $995, if aftermarket mods aren’t your thing. Tagged with a $1,495 delivery charge, my Trackhawk boasted a bill that borderlined on six figures. It ultimately topped out at $92,130 out the door.
I must confess, for all that change, you do get some nice features. The amenities start with heated front and rear seats, and the forward-two receive cooling capabilities, as well as a warming steering wheel. There’s also a power-adjusting steering column, a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, smartphone connectivity, SiriusXM goodies galore, and FCA’s Keyless Enter ‘n Go system. Factor in adaptive cruise, forward collision warnings, lane departure notifications, parking assist, and blind-spot detection, and all of the familiars add even more to the Jeep Trackhawk’s bottom line.
Let’s return to the performance perks, outside of all the exhaust and blower noise this vehicle creates, of course. The 6-pot, bright yellow Brembo brakes are a dead giveaway that performance is key in this SUV. Heat them up, find some backroads to torment, and their balanced bias and superior stopping power become praise-worthy to the last stop.
Pulling 2.5-tons of weight to a halt is no easy feat. Regardless of whether it was short, emergency-like testing, or prolonged, high-speed corner braking, the Jeep Trackhawk’s Brembo package provided reliable, confidence-inspiring stopping strength.
Unfortunately, I cannot bestow the same praise upon the Bilstein suspension setup on this SUV. When paired with those low-profile tires, it gives a ride-feel that borders on being harsh. Even more frustrating is the way in which the SUV wallows around in corners. The Grand Cherokee’s raised ride height and excessive curb weight seem to overpower the stiffness of the Trackhawk’s custom Bilstein Competition suspension. This may not be a major qualm for the average high-performance shopper, as tracking a Trackhawk is by no means a commonplace occurrence. Still, I would be looking toward tossing a thicker anti-roll bar and some bracing at this thing straight out the gate.
Outside of these suspension reservations, I found very little else to dislike about the way in which the Jeep Trackhawk performed. Its German-sourced, 8-speed auto shifts crisply with or without the aid of those steering-mounted paddles. It sports a winning combo of an electronically controlled rear limited-slip sending power consistently to all four wheels via a Quadra-Trac 4WD setup. While the SUV’s Selec-Trac System does not give drivers the ability to completely disengage power to the front in order to allow burnouts, I never once felt myself missing rear-wheel-drive antics.
Perhaps my favorite feature of the Jeep Trackhawk is its stealthy presence. Much like the recently retired, and equally supercharged Cadillac CTS-V sport sedan, this high-dollar heavy hitter is fairly incognito if you don’t spot its brightly pigmented brakes. Exterior touches like unique wheels, functional hood vents, larger intercooler air ducts, a quad exhaust, and contrasting ground effects certainly earmark this Jeep as something special, but it’s not jumping for attention, and I like that a lot in a vehicle.
Approaching sleeper status, but brandishing a supercharged 6.2-liter Hellcat engine for all of the right reasons, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is one of the most inefficient and outrageous SUV offerings I have ever encountered outside of the monstrous Mercedes-Benz G550 4×4². It is also one of the most uproariously fun contraptions I have driven to date, with loads of family-friendly attributes and practical daily-driven considerations earning it a top slot in the SUV winner’s circle.
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Vehicle Type: Five passenger SUV, all-wheel drive
Base Price: $86,650 Price as Tested: $92,130
Engine: Supercharged 6.2-liter V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift controls
Overall Length/Width/Height: 189.8 L x 76.5 W x 67.9 H
Curb Weight: 5,258 lbs
Tire Size: P295/45R20
EPA Mileage Estimates: 11 city / 17 highway / 13 combined
Assembled In: Detroit, Michigan