Torque News was fortunate enough to have a chance to lap the incredible Monticello Motor Club in the new 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk this week. The good folks at FCA America and Dodge have made the Hellcats available to us in the past, so the amazing 707 hp engine in the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk didn't surprise us. It always shocks us, but we knew it was going to be there and be special. During our lap, three things really stood out.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk - Transmission
The first and most impressive surprise was the automatic transmission in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Although our own Patrick Rall is the leading authority on all things Hellcat in the American motor press, my seat time in prior Hellcats was always with the manual transmission. The TorqueFlite 8HP95 8-speed automatic in the Grand Cherokee was so intuitive we never needed to reach for a paddle. Braking into turns in Sport Mode, the Trackhawk would fire off rev-matched downshifts aggressively and put us the perfect gear for the turn's exit.
As we would accelerate under full throttle, the Trackhawk would upshift late in the rev band and the shifts were instant. We know from the specs that the shifts are 50% faster in Sport mode, but that description doesn't do the vehicle justice. It has to be felt. We didn't use Track Mode (so we could be sure to keep the shiny side up for those waiting their turn at the wheel), but in that mode, the shifts are 68% faster than normal mode.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk - Power Delivery
At Monticello, the way the press events are run, most of the track is a curvey road course, but there is one long straight after a hairpin turn. It is set up that way to keep speeds below about 110 MPH and keep us alive to write our reports. In the Hellcat Challenger, I was never able to get the car to stick in that spot. The combination of turn, torque and enthusiasm meant that I always felt the traction control limiting the power, or I would simply power oversteer the car wide and slow the car down.
However, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk has on-demand all-wheel drive and a limited slip rear differential. In that same turn and subsequent straight, the Trackhawk hooks up solidly and just explodes forward. Subjectively, the Grand Cherokee feels faster at that spot on the track than the Challenger Hellcat does.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk - Brakes
The hardest braking we journalists do on the track at Monticello is at the end of the one long straight. It terminates either in the grass and then barriers, or you turn hard left to stay on the track, which is strongly encouraged. We brake down from roughly 110 MPH to almost zero as hard as the vehicle can stop. The Grand Cherokee is a large, high vehicle. With that in mind, and having run laps in cars that day like the Lexus LC500, I hit the brakes way too early in the Trackhawk. Its stopping power was stunning. Judging by cones we use to mark our braking points, I would say that the Grand Cherokee would have been one of the best vehicles for braking on hand that day, and that included the Challenger Hellcat Widebody and Jaguar's F-Type.
Conclusion - Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
FCA makes the most exciting vehicles in America today. The Alfa 4C and Fiat Spider Abarth are two of my favorite track cars for different reasons. I'm happily surprised to say that the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk may well be just as exciting as the Alfa 4C on track.
Image courtesy of FCA America.