STORY RUSSELL MANNING
There’s nothing subtle about Jeep’s Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. It’s the size of a small block of flats, weighs 2.5 tonnes and has a 522kW supercharged engine. That’s 700 hp in the old language. I could go on and talk about details like its top speed – its obscene, its quarter mile time – for the record its 11.6 seconds, and the fact that it’s the third most powerful car on the Australian market – think Ferrari and Lamborghini supercars, that it seats five in comfort and has a three tonne towing capacity, but I’m pretty sure you already get the picture. It really is something special. To corrupt a line from Star Trek, It’s an SUV, but not as we know it.
Some might question the logic of putting a supercharged 6.2 litre engine in an SUV, but most brands have hero models and for Jeep this is it. SRT (Street and Racing Technology) is the performance arm of Chrysler and it’s been responsible for some insanely powerful and fast products over the years, and Trackhawk is no exception.
From a distance it resembles the typical Grand Cherokee you’d find hitched to a caravan in just about any part of Australia. But close-up the differences become obvious. It’s actually a derivative of Jeep’s SRT, the other performance model in the stable, and it shares many of its features and much of its styling. There are a few subtle departures though, like the four exhaust pipes and the deletion of front fog lights to make way for extra cooling ducts and air intakes. And then there are the not so subtle ones, like the Supercharged badges, the huge 20” alloys and the equally huge and specially developed Pirelli tyres. It’s also impossible to miss the massive Brembo brakes with their bright yellow calipers.
But it’s what you can’t see that’s every bit as important. The engine comes from the Hellcat, another SRT product, and the entire drive train is beefed up and unique to the Trackhawk application. Then there are the Bilstein shock absorbers and the specially tuned suspension that combine to make the handling as impressive as its performance, something that’s vital in an application as powerful as this.
Inside it has all the appointments, comfort, and infotainment features expected of a luxury car, and then some. The built-in, dragstrip inspired, staging lights and launch control are out of place in an SUV, but they’re a fun acknowledgement of its performance heritage and capability, and there’s all sorts of performance measuring functions to keep those with a statistical interest occupied.
All this begs the question of where it fits into the market. At $134,900, it isn’t exactly cheap, but neither is a more traditional offering such as a high spec Landcruiser, which has decent off-road ability but without the performance or presence. No one will argue that Trackhawk isn’t really intended to be a 4WD in the way we understand it, and Jeep isn’t the only maker to blur that line. And it certainly won’t be perceived as a highly competent off roader in the way Grand Cherokee is, but with the often-quoted claim that 80% of 4WDs spend 80% of their time on the road, this is unlikely to be much of an issue. It certainly hasn’t been a barrier to sales, with the bulk of the first batch being snapped up even before they hit showrooms.
The fact is, traditional car buying logic just doesn’t apply here. And nor should it. It’s a hero model in the truest sense, in a way only Americans can do it. So stop mulling the logic of this vehicle and just enjoy it for what it is. Let’s face it, how could any real car person not like something with 700 hp under the bonnet?