Does anyone really need an SUV with 700hp? Of course not. But does anyone want an SUV with 700hp? Yes please. We’ve just tested the clinically manic 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk to see what it’s like, and to see if it could be used as a regular large SUV.
The Trackhawk has been on sale in Australia for a bit over a year now, following the initial launch at Phillip Island last year. It remains as the most powerful combustion-engined SUV on the market, overshadowing the Lamborghini Urus (478kW), the W16 Bentley Bentayga Speed (467kW), and even the upcoming Aston Martin DBX (405kW) in the mega SUV market.
How does it manage that? Well, under the bonnet is a 6.2-litre supercharged V8, otherwise known as the Hellcat engine. It belts out an almighty 522kW (700hp) and a mental 868Nm. All of this is sent through an eight-speed auto, and into Jeep’s Quadra-Trac active 4×4 system with a limited-slip diff for the rear.
It is pretty expensive, all of this. But starting from $134,900 (excluding on-roads), it’s not too bad considering the power-to-cost ratio of $258 per kilowatt. For comparison, with the Lambo Urus you’re paying around $816 per kilowatt. To put that in further perspective, an auto 3.2L Ford Ranger Wildtrak works out at $433 per kilowatt.
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – THE SPECS
Engine: 6.2-litre supercharged V8
Output: 522kW@6000rpm / 868Nm@4800rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 20×10, 295/45
ANCAP: Five stars (regular Grand Cherokee)
Tare weight: 2399kg
Power-to-weight: 4.59:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 16.8L/100km
Economy during test: 17.8L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 91L/98 RON
Power efficiency: 31.07kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 1.81 seconds*
0-100km/h: 3.84 seconds*
0-200km/h: 14.21 seconds*
60-110km/h: 2.56 seconds*
1/8 mile: 7.79 seconds at 150.6km/h*
1/4 mile: 11.90 seconds at 187.1km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.206g
100-0km/h braking: 3.19 seconds at 38.35 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.151g
Decibel at idle: 60*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 91*
Priced from: $134,900
* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – THE PACKAGE
One of the great things about the Trackhawk is that it is just as practical and user-friendly as a normal Grand Cherokee, and in fact a normal large SUV, despite offering supercar levels of performance. The cabin is decked out with loads of practical and helpful amenities, such as heated seats front and rear (except the middle rear seat), dual-zone climate control with adjustable vents in the back, and enough cup holders, storage options and charging ports to keep all of the family happy.
In that respect, it could be seen as a bit ordinary and ‘normal’ for a $135k car. However, there are some swathes of carbon fibre decorating the dash, and the front seats are as bulging and muscly as a Mr Olympia warm-up room. There’s also a sport-inspired steering wheel for the driver with Trackhawk branding.
Jeep has updated the gear selector for the Grand Cherokee over the past couple of years following a safety recall, so now the selector physically moves and slots into each mode – before it only moved while you selected and bounced back into a central position. It’s not the most elegant gear selector out there but it obviously does what it’s supposed to do.
We’re not a huge fan of the decor in here, with various somewhat tacky chrome trimmings and big, bulky buttons suggestive of its age – this generation Grand Cherokee has been around since 2011. There are a few creaks and squeaks from the fixtures as well. In that sense, the fit and finish, particularly for a $135k vehicle, is far from the best in the class in our opinion.
Our favourite element of the cabin, aside from the sheer space and amenities for all passengers, is the 8.4-inch Uconnect touch-screen media interface. It’s brilliant, with really nice menu flow and it’s very easy to operate. And it offers a heap of standard in-built apps, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. As far as touch-screens go, this is definitely one of our favourites of this class.
You’ll especially love one of the in-built apps, called Performance Pages. It offers a bunch of interactive driving gadgets, such as live power outputs, acceleration timers, and dyno runs. And you can save your best efforts and even export some of the data.
Right up at the back there’s a decent boot measuring in at 782 litres in the default seating position. This opens up to 1554L with the rear seats folded flat. A sub-woofer is neatly integrated into the wall of the boot and there’s a handy 12V socket so you could chuck in a mini fridge for those weekends away. The tailgate is electric as standard. Instead of the shut button being on the tip of the tailgate though, here, the button is located on the other side of the boot wall, which is a bit unusual.
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – THE DRIVE
Clearly, the engine is the main attraction to this beast. But let’s start with how it drives as a normal SUV and how it handles. Could it be used as a daily driver? You bet. Your mother could drive this with no issue at all. It really is unbelievable how easy this is to drive considering the engine produces 700hp.
In the default ‘auto’ driving mode the powertrain behaves surprisingly gently. The throttle sensitivity is relaxed and there’s definitely an underlying sense of power and dominance, but it’s not frightening. In fact, it’s a great confidence booster. If you just want to pop down to the shops to pick up the milk and bread, it’ll happily stroll along and behave just like a regular Grand Cherokee. Well, you might notice the fuel gauge dropping pretty quickly, but apart from that.
The ride quality is really good for a performance SUV as well. Usually these types of vehicles use really tight setups to minimise body roll, but not here. Jeep engineers have worked in an awesome sports suspension system for the Grand Cherokee that offers a perfect compromise between comfort and body stability. With active dampers as standard, the driver can also toggle between different settings to suit different types of driving.
Push it around corners and the big beast can pull some serious g-force. There is a little bit of evident body roll during such demands, but not enough to reduce the sense of enjoyment or control. It’ll turn in sharply and keep turning, following a line with relatively high precision. We’re not going to go as far as saying it’s as good as a sports car, however, it’s as close as you’d ever expect for a large SUV. A huge amount of grip is available, too, providing added confidence. This is thanks to specially-developed Pirelli Scorpion 295/45 tyres, front and rear.
Off the mark acceleration is undoubtedly the most exciting aspect to the Trackhawk. If you nail the throttle from a dead stop in Sport or Race mode, it will violently chirp and spin all four tyres on some bitumen types, hurtling you and your passengers to a heaving getaway. If you decide to engage the cool Christmas-tree-style launch control system, this experience is nothing short of mind-blowing.
We tried out the launch control system and did some tests with the on-board timers against our Racelogic Vbox Sport. The on-board timers, as far as we can tell, read straight from the vehicle’s speedo. In other words, it’s not super accurate because almost all factory speedos are calibrated to be slightly off; an indicated 100km/h might actually be around 95km/h at true ground speed. Even so, our best 0-100km/h sprint with the on-board timer was 3.6 seconds, and our best with the Vbox was 3.84 seconds (4.05 without launch control). We also did 0-200km/h in an impressive 14.21 seconds, and the quarter mile in 11.90 seconds.
As you can probably appreciate, these are some insanely quick times, especially for a large, fully-equipped SUV that weighs in at 2399kg (tare). We think it would be possible to see even quicker times during cold winter conditions, although, the top end seems a bit limited due to the unfavourable aerodynamics, for sheer acceleration anyway. The fact that you could run the kids to school, pick up all the shopping, and yet run 11s at the drag strip is just so, so cool, in our opinion.
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – THE VIDEO
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – THE VERDICT
As we alluded to at the beginning, nobody really needs an SUV with this much power. However, we believe this is one vehicle that should be celebrated and one that should be enjoyed while it lasts. With ever-tightening emissions laws and hiking fuel prices, the demand for these machines will no doubt shrink over the coming years and soon carmakers will simply stop building them. It’s a real shame as this is a very exciting machine that tickles many of the senses. All we can say is, get one while they are still here to enjoy.
– One of the most powerful production cars currently on sale in Australia, outright
– Comprehensive yet easy-to-use Uconnect touch-screen
– Lots of standard features
– Good handling for a heavy SUV (2399kg)
– Reasonably affordable for the power and performance
– Unrefined cabin quality and design (some signs of age)
– Thirsty (obviously)
– Doesn’t look all that different to regular SRT model
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