This large, box-like apparition you see on these pages is officially the third most powerful car on sale in Australia. No, truly.
Sitting just underneath the 588kW Ferrari 812 Superfast and the 544kW Lamborghini Aventador S, Jeep’s Grand Cherokee Trackhawk boasts a frankly ridiculous 527kW and a slightly breathtaking 874Nm of torque.
“Whatevs’, I hear you scoff. ‘It’ll weigh a million kilos and couldn’t out-sprint a Corolla’. Well, no. It can – and it did, in my hands – nail a 0-100km/h time of 3.7sec, it can do the quarter in 11.6sec, and it’ll top 289km/h before wind resistance has its say.
It’s got Brembos, Bilsteins and Pirellis. It’s got a bespoke suspension tune designed for track work. It can take five people, their 2900kg boat and a shedload of kit across the country.
And it’ll cost somewhere around $140,000. The other two are around $850,000 each. Name another car that can do this much for that little. It’s okay, I’ll wait.
Derived from the SRT, the Trackhawk’s engine bay plays host to the Dodge-developed 6.2-litre supercharged Hemi that’s known as the Hellcat. Iron-blocked and alloy headed, the Hellcat is built to do one thing; make power, and metric craploads of it. Then do it all day long.
It’s been slightly detuned and modified for life in the Jeep, with a new air induction tract that can stuff up to 30,000 litres of fresh air to the engine via a cold-air feed routed to the lower left side of the bumper (where the fog light is on an SRT). Its camshaft is milder than the Hellcat’s lumpy monster, while a new baffled sump helps to prevent oil starvation under hard launches.
And a new low-temperature cooling system, consisting of a pump, reservoir, heat exchanger and lines, helps to keep intake temperatures to no higher than 60 degrees C, no matter what the temperature is outside and no matter how hard you’re punting the car.
When it comes to the driveline, the ring gear and pinion is now twice as strong, while SRT engineers have devised a set of rear driveshafts that could comfortably double as bridge supports given their strength.
“Some things, like the rear hub carriers, we couldn’t change,” says senior manager of powertrain engineering Jamie Standring, “so we worked with what we had and came up with a solution.”
That solution also extended to the rear diff/transfer case unit, which was reduced in length by 20mm in order to fit in with the exhaust packaging. This is despite the team fitting a wider chain drive and thicker sprockets to the transfer case.
Bilstein built a set of adaptive dampers just for the Trackhawk, while the steel springs are a smidge stiffer – nine per cent rear, 15 per cent front – than the SRT’s. Oh, and there is a 40mm hollow anti-roll bar up front and a 27mm unit out back. Yep, that’s no typo, it’s a 40mm anti-roll bar.
The brakes, too, are kinda special – 400mm rotors sitting within 20-inch rims are clamped by six-pot Brembos up front, and 350mm discs sit under four-piston rears. To put in into perspective, a Supercar’s front rotors are usually 395mm. Just saying.
Speaking of the wheels, the silver versions are new to the Trackhawk, while the optional black ones are carry-over items – and are actually about 1.5kg lighter each corner. Not that 6kg really matters in the scheme of a 2433kg rig…
The Trackhawk is homologated on two types of Pirellis, but we’ll bet that Aussie cars will come stock with ZR-rated 295/45 P Zeros.
Aside from that, the Trackhawk mimics the SRT’s specs when it comes to stuff like leather seats, climate control, loads of USB ports, a powered tailgate and all that other good stuff.
Burbling along in suburbia, and the Trackhawk is impressively sanguine and relaxed, if a little taut on its springs over broken roads. Try driving a 500kW anything else to do the weekly shopping, though.
Of course, when you open the taps…
From half throttle, many loud and frightening things happen in an insanely short space of time. The noise; the exhaust is single mode, and its primal, guttural howl emanating from the quad pipes as the revs pile in is matched only by the banshee shriek of the humongous 2.4-litre supercharger under the bonnet shoving nearly 12psi into the Trackhawk’s 92mm inlet.
Put it this way, it’s an experience.
On track, too, it simply defies the basic premise of physics that suggests a 2.4-tonne anything should lap this well. It stays in a static, balanced pose even at high speeds – and long after you’d expect the front end to vanish in a howl of tortured Pirelli – and if you need a little more turn, the Jeep will good-naturedly tuck the fronts in with a slight lift of the throttle.
All the while, the orange-painted monster under the bonnet fires out a linear tsunami of urge that’s perfectly distributed by the heavily modified eight-speed auto gearbox that can, in Track mode, slam shifts through in a supercar-esque 150 milliseconds.
It can also send up to 70 per cent of that output to the rears if the mood takes you.
Put it this way, it’ll take a seriously tweaked sedan to stay with the Trackhawk on long corners, and down the straight, the Jeep will simply teleport away.
Worried about durability? Jeep backs the Trackhawk with a five-year warranty, and our test subjects had been flogged hard around the challenging Club Motorsports circuit for five days before we got to them. Other than the occasional hint of rotor distortion and the merest hint of pad grumble, the Trackhawk really showed its mettle.
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Fuel use? Not as bad as you think. We actually got 12L/100km out of it on a long commute to the track, and it’s got a massive range thanks to a big 93-litre tank.
Jeep’s SRT is barmy enough, but the Trackhawk takes it to a whole new level of crazy. And yet, it’s still eminently useful as a daily driver, with none of the compromises that usually come with such high power outputs. Power-drunk Aussies will be lining up in droves for it.
4 stars out of 5
Like: What. An. Engine; Practical; can go ‘off-road’
Dislike: Not the last word in eco-friendly motoring
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk specs
Engine: 6166cc V8, OHV, 16v, supercharger
Power: 527kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 874Nm @ 4800rpm
0-100km/h: 3.7sec (tested)
Price: $140,000 (estimated)