Damn you, Jeep.
First, you build a legion of followers across generations of bare bones, no frills, down and dirty off-roaders. Then, you embrace the fact that you’ve built the perfect platform for aftermarket upgrades (making Wranglers the adult equivalent of a Transformer). All of this while you expand your offerings to include more accessible SUVs and crossovers so that everyone can experience seven-slot satisfaction. Hell, by the time we’re writing this you’ve given us badass, sporty, funky and even strong offerings in terms of available technologies. Oh, Jeep…how far you’ve come from the days of battered wartime Willys.
But let’s not forget about luxury-inspired styling. They served that up as well and, despite its high-end aspirations, the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to endure as a blend of nearly all of the initiatives we listed above. With luxurious configurations, best-in-class off-road capabilities, and a variety of power, drivetrain and mode options what’s not to like?
Should we really be surprised that Jeep has now taken the Grand Cherokee a step further? Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look at where we’ve been to-date.
With nearly a quarter-of-a-century and four generations behind it, the Grand Cherokee sits atop Jeep’s line as its full-size luxury SUV. In contrast to the body-on-frame construction of competitors, the JGC retains its unibody design across the (seven) trim levels that are currently offered.
Priced to start around $30,595 MSRP the (base) Laredo trim is available in both RWD and 4WD. Powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the JGC is rated for 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque right off the bat. Bluetooth-enabled its infotainment system is built around a 7-inch touchscreen (with rearview camera) and a six-speaker sound system equipped with satellite radio.
Even at the base trim level, the cabin excels at offering the type of luxury accommodations you’d expect with the price tag. Easily accessible through generously proportioned doors, the spacious accommodations include high-seating, as well as generous leg and headroom. In addition, its strong choices in terms of materials only improve further by jumping trims and exploring enhancement packages.
And in terms of utility, the JGC is hard to beat when compared to crossover inspired SUVs. Depending on the configuration, towing capacity can be up to 7,500 LBS which is nothing to shake a stick at. And the Grand Cherokee also offers a confident amount of storage, with or without compromising the third-row seating.
But we’re not here to talk about the base trim, are we? Now that we know where the JGC starts, let’s take a look at how far it’s been brought for the 2018 model year. That’s right, we’re talking about the…
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Ugh, it’s magnificent. Don’t get hung up on the price tag (around $85,900 MSRP to start) just embrace the awesomeness of it. Seriously. An upgrade here or there will push the Trackhawk well over $100 grand, but this isn’t a deterrent. Let’s be honest, as a Limited Edition with preorders gone in a flash, most of your chances of scoring one of the initial runs are probably nil. That said, don’t stop believing. This is the ultimate expression of Jeep Luxury infused with more power than most would be comfortable with. If that’s enough to catch your attention, then keep reading.
Equipped with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 mated to an enhanced eight-speed automatic transmission, this beast cranks out a gut-churning 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque. Wrap your head around that for a second. The closest offering to-date for a JGC is the SRT variant which yields 475 hp and 470 lb-ft. Not only does the Trackhawk represent a massive leap in output, but its Hellcat engine puts its numbers above that of the Camaro ZL1, and on par with the Challenger SRT. It even blows the doors off the Porsche Cayenne S in terms output. That’s right, Jeep over Porsche. With an advertised 0-60 sprint time of 3.5 seconds, the Trackhawk should have your attention right off the line.
And at the line, one of the Trackhawk’s most notable features is its new torque reserve system. This makes it possible to hold the engine at 2200 rpm while developing 6.4 psi boost at a standstill. Primed and ready for launch, the 5300 pound Trackhawk’s acceleration can feel almost breakneck if you exercise its launch system to its max capabilities.
While one might diminish the Trackhawk by referring to it as nothing more than a Hellcat engine dumped into a JGC, the union creates an entirely new breed of offering from Jeep. Every component and system has been engineered in order to process the insane demand placed upon them, and the result is an achievement unto itself.
Rolling on lightweight 20-inch wheels and high-performance tires, the Trackhawk’s ride quality is fortified by its adaptive suspension, and its highly-responsive braking is reinforced by six-piston Brembo brakes on the front and a matched set of four-piston brakes on the rear. Overall, the refinement of drive quality is impressive. Excess noise is minimized, and yet that reduction doesn’t diminish the characteristic soundtrack you would expect from such a performance-driven vehicle. At low speeds, you can still enjoy the growl that speaks to the Trackhawk’s ample power and, during acceleration, well…the throttle roar doesn’t disappoint.
And despite its staggering power and speed, the Trackhawk’s off-road capabilities are anything but compromised thanks to Jeep’s (Quadra-Trac) 4WD system complete with an electronic limited-slip differential and reinforced rear axle.
As for the cabin, the Trackhawk boasts a leather-upholstered interior complete with its own design cues that distinguish it, even from the SRT. With a 19-speaker sound system and a comprehensive listing of driver assist and safety features, there are countless amenities that score bonus points that the Trackhawk doesn’t even need in order to be awesome.
And that’s exactly what the Trackhawk is…Awesome.
Like we said before, damn you Jeep.