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TEST – Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Jeep’s most brutal SUV looks kinda subtle until you put the hammer down…

Report and pictures Jacques Viljoen

We will be the first to admit that this is not the typical vehicle we test, but if the opportunity comes to get the keys for the most powerful SUV in the world for a couple of days, you grab it, much like your passengers will be grabbing at the handles when you unleash the full 527kW. Yes, Jeep has dialled in 527kW and 875Nm from their infamous 6.2-litre Hemi V8, by coupling it with a 2.4-litre supercharger. Speaking of which, it generates 11PSI of boost while spinning at 14 600rpm and requires 60kW just to operate. It whines away gloriously in the background and really kicks in from about 2 000rpm. That massive power output figure comes at a price though, and even with the so-called ECO mode activated, the Trackhawk will return no better than 12litres/100km if you are very gentle. I cannot express the ‘very gentle’ part enough. In Track Mode, with some spirited driving, it will easily nudge the fuel-guzzling to over 30litres/100km. But we aren’t trying to save the planet here, and our guess is that future owners are not going to be Prius drivers in their spare time either, so we’ll talk about the interesting part: the Trackhawk’s performance. With launch control activated, the 0-100km/h sprint is dealt with in 3.7 seconds, and the speed can theoretically keep climbing up to 290km/h.

SPECS

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Price R2 199 000
Engine 6.2-litre supercharged V8 petrol
Power 522kW @ 6 000rpm
Torque 875Nm @ 4 800rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic with manual mode
Fuel index 16.8L/100km (claimed, combined)
Fuel index (tested) 11.8L/100km (Highway in ECO mode) 20.4L/100km (City) 16.1L/100km (Combined)
Payload 612kg Towing 750kg/2905 (unbraked/braked)
Tyres 295/45 R20
Warranty 3 year/100 000km
Service plan 3 year/60 000km

That’s not just fast for an SUV, it’s fast, full stop. Many yuppies tried racing me on my commute, with their spirits quickly broken after a second or two of false hope. This was not a fault of the car, just me being a bit mean and not putting my foot down immediately. Throttle response is near instantaneous, which is met with a thunderous downshift and that urgent supercharger whine. Stay on the throttle for anything longer than a few seconds and you might as well drive the car straight into the nearest jail cell. The way the Trackhawk picks up speed is gobsmacking. In Track mode, a model-specific element in the drive mode programming, the eight-speed ZF gearbox shifts aggressively, adding to the theatre and drama this car was so clearly designed for. Driving it overloads the aural and visceral senses. Inside the vehicle the noise is slightly muted, giving enough engine and exhaust noise without being overpowering. On the outside, it is probably one of the loudest SUVs on the market at full throttle. I took a family member, who is not a fan of speed, for a quick spin, which was surprisingly met with, “I really like this car, I want one.” To put all these output and acceleration numbers in perspective, the McLaren F1 — which for years had the record of being the fastest production car in the world — produces 461kW. The Trackhawk is not just more powerful than most older supercars, it’s more powerful than 99% of production cars on the market.


It is no coincidence the launch control button has a drag strip starting tree on it.

Stopping the 2 453kg behemoth is dealt with forcefully, thanks to 400mm Brembo brakes in the front and 380mm in the rear. In ideal conditions, they will bring it to a stop from 100km/h in 35 metres. As for the interior, the premium feel is conveyed by a mix of Alcantara and leather, with the requisite strip of carbon fibre at key touchpoints to add a sporty element to the otherwise familiar Grand Cherokee basics. Plastic surfaces are kept to a minimum. Red seatbelts add a bit of colour if the optional burgundy leather seats aren’t selected. As with the exterior, the visual cues to this beast’s true nature are kept in the background – as they should be. The Trackhawk features Jeep’s familiar Uconnect infotainment system paired with two screens in the rear for the passengers. The 8.4-inch touchscreen is bright and responsive but suffers from the same problems as the Jeep Compass we tested recently.

A few key features and HVAC controls are hidden in sub-menus, forcing the driver to take their eyes off the road. That’s the last thing you need in a car that is as sprightly as the Trackhawk. It forms part of an industry-wide design trend to use fewer buttons. However, we’d rather have more buttons than be forced to root around on a touchscreen while on the move. Other than the drive mode selector and launch control button, it’s only once you go into the infotainment system and activate the performance pages that you come to terms with what you are driving. Here you will be able to read all the vehicle info to ignite the boy racer in you. 0-100km/h, quarter-mile, half-mile, and reaction times are among the many measurements the vehicle is able to record. Real-time boost pressure, kW and Nm readouts are also available. There is also a G-Force meter that showed a max lateral readout of 1.26G; clearly, someone had a fun time engaging a few high-speed corners. As a package, the Trackhawk doesn’t necessarily make sense in our market. But do we care? It is quite evident it is intended as a mall crawler in places where petrol is cheap, but as a technical exercise, as a showpiece, it is unbelievable.

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