The days of minivans, sport-utility vehicles and pick-up trucks simply being considered large runabouts are over. That’s because, over the years, automakers have changed just how peppy these automobiles are.

When Mercedes-Benz quietly released a minivan with a V8 capable of 500-horsepower, people weren’t exactly sure what to make of the R63. Very few were made and even less were sent to the U.S. market. This surrounded other wild creations, such as the BMW X5M that posted lap times similar to its M3 coupe, and the legendary Dodge Ram SRT-10 that made use of the V10 engine from the company’s halo car, the Viper.

It turns out that the team at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) weren’t quite done yet creating absolutely insane vehicles. While hybrid and electric vehicles are on the rise, FCA is churning out creations like the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. The Hellcat refers to its supercharged V8 motor that produces a jaw-dropping 707 horsepower.

I like to think of it as a celebration of the automobile dashed with the smell of burnt rubber.

Although Jeep produces the Grand Cherokee SRT, which makes 475-horsepower, for some people that’s just not enough. So, Jeep decided to employ the use of its sister brands’ Hellcat V8. Automotive enthusiasts rejoiced. It would be yet another vehicle to give a high-performance V8 salute before the age of electrification.

Dubbed the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, it is Jeep’s most powerful production vehicle. Utilizing the 6.2-liter supercharged V8, it delivers 707 horsepower and 645 lb.-ft. of torque. Paired with this immense powerplant is an eight-speed automatic that can shift as fast as 160 milliseconds. Zero to 60 happens in 3.5 seconds and it will do a quarter-mile in about 11 and a half seconds — that’s supercar territory.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

There is a penalty for this hooliganism though. As expected, you’ll pay for it at the pumps. The Trackhawk earns a rather sad 11-12 mpg. I found myself at a gas station every other day but, honestly, it was worth it.

But, here’s the kicker: Frankly, you wouldn’t know any of this when looking at the Trackhawk’s exterior. This is because it essentially looks identical to the standard SRT variant with exception of several minor changes. You really need a magnifying glass to tell them apart. Tell-tale signs include the “Supercharged” badging under “Grand Cherokee” on the driver and passenger doors, yellow brake calipers that really popped behind my test vehicle’s black wheels, which are unique to this model, and a quad-tipped exhaust around the back.

Aside from those little differences, the Trackhawk looks like any run-of-the-mill SRT. This isn’t a bad thing because Jeep nailed the SRT’s design. It’s beefier and more menacing than any standard Grand Cherokee, but without looking comical. There’s a certain type of restraint with Jeep’s design department that I truly appreciate.

This essentially means you’re driving around in a 700-horsepower “sleeper.” Only the people who know…know. Well, aside from my tester’s rather loud red paint job — I’d strongly advise any other color.

Getting more acquainted behind the super thick, three-spoke steering wheel, it becomes apparent this isn’t your normal Jeep. That’s because the interior is wrapped, top-to-bottom, in leather. This includes the upper and lower dashboards, the center console, the entirety of the doors and a suede-like headliner. My tester featured an exclusive red leather interior, which is not for the faint of heart. The waft of leather when you open the door reminded me of high-end German vehicles with their fully leather-wrapped interiors. The more heavily bolstered seats are a nice touch and as the seating isn’t especially firm, it’s reminiscent of a La-Z-Boy. I mean that in the best possible way as the Trackhawk is an excellent long-distance cruiser.

What will look familiar though is the center stack’s infotainment system, which makes use of an eight-inch screen. Powered by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Uconnect software, it is a touchscreen that’s quick and intuitive. I just hope in the next-generation, Jeep makes the screen bigger and sharper (THINK: Retina display). Aside from that, I have no complaints as it is a breeze to use.

Similarly, the Trackhawk’s instrument panel is quite basic. It has all the right information one would expect but it just seems a bit dated and though FCA could have updated its tech visualize the details more effectively. With the Trackhawk’s base price starting at just over $87,000, it needs to justify its cost just a wee bit more.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The best part? Since it’s a Grand Cherokee, it has plenty of room to seat five adult-sized passengers and plenty of cargo space. While many critics insult these high-performance SUVs, their utility cannot be argued against. If you want the ability to haul a few friends — with luggage — out to the Hamptons, the Trackhawk makes plenty of sense whereas a Ferrari 458 Italia doesn’t.

Powering up the Hellcat V8 reminds you this is far from ordinary. With a loud rumble, there’s a chance your neighbors may not love your Trackhawk but, honestly, who cares? They wouldn’t like your Lamborghini either.

With five selectable drive modes, the vehicle always starts in Auto. Running errands around town I found myself engaging Sport and when I wanted to have fun I selected Track. I imagine Snow is a nice way to keep the tires from spinning in the wet and slush, but I didn’t get to find out. As I wasn’t pulling anything, Tow wasn’t used either.

At normal speeds in Auto or Sport, it’s actually hard to believe it is a gnarly beast. That’s because it performs much like you’d expect a typical Grand Cherokee. The ride is comfortable, the steering’s fine and shifts aren’t particularly noticeable. You do have a rather bassy V8 soundtrack, however. NOTE: You will get noticed while idling in a parking lot.

It’s when you enter Track mode that things change drastically. Just merging the Trackhawk onto your local highway becomes an event. Downshift two gears and a roar comes from the exhaust. Plant your foot on the throttle and the supercharger whine fills the cabin like a jet engine spooling up for takeoff. The speed climbs WAY too fast and after every shift there’s a bit of a “bump” as the transmission swaps cogs as fast as possible. Gear changes are accompanied by what can be best described as a “THWAP” sound.

This is what it feels like to be alive.

But this is where the fun ends. That’s because when you put the Trackhawk in the twisties, it starts to remind you it’s an SUV. The steering lacks precision and the Grand Cherokee’s heft at over 5,300 pounds makes itself known in corners. Going around a highway cloverleaf you just feel the Trackhawk push wide and the body rolls.  With a higher center of gravity, this isn’t a huge surprise; however, when compared against other high-performance SUVs like the BMW X5M or Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the Jeep definitely feels archaic when taken to the limit on the switchbacks.

You see, when you’re driving something with this type of street cred, you want as much confidence as possible. And it’s just not there in the Trackhawk’s case.

The Good:

- It has a Hellcat V8 — does anything else really need to be said?
- Excellent V8 soundtrack
- I still like this dated interior that’s decked out with leather everywhere

The Bad:

- The Grand Cherokee is a bit long in the tooth at this point
- The Trackhawk isn’t deft in its ability to go around curves
- Its instrument panel is quite basic, Jeep had an opportunity to do something cool for this model

The Lowdown:

If you’re seeking a highly entertaining highway cruiser, the Trackhawk’s worth considering. But if you’re looking to fully replace a sports car and put your new acquisition around curves, I’d strongly suggest you look elsewhere. With the Trackhawk’s as-tested price nearing the $100,000 mark, you could acquire a used, mint BMW X5M and it’ll actually handle. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo fetches an additional $25-30,000 but you do pay for what you get, in this situation.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

REVIEW: Can The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Play With The BIG Boys? 00R Finds Out...

About the Author