Hellcat all the things just got weird

In case you haven’t noticed, let me be the first to tell you – there’s some really weird things going on in the auto industry these days, especially when it comes to performance machines. Some of the fastest cars on the planet are hybrids (Ferrari LaFerrari, Porsche 918 Spyder and McLaren P1), and the all-electrics aren’t that far behind. But probably the weirdest trend of them all is the performance SUV craze. These are two terms that make for strange bedfellows – “performance,” as in going fast, and “SUV,” as in big and tall and heavy and utilitarian. These things shouldn’t go together, but go together they do thanks to cutting-edge engineering magic. Performance SUVs seem to flaunt their resistance to the laws of physics, and the latest entry in this segment (and perhaps one of the most celebrated) is the vaunted Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, a Hellcat-powered off-roader-turned-dragster that promises tire-shredding power and absurd speed potential in a tall-bodied package. It’s big, dumb, and completely pointless. And I really wanna drive it.

I’ll explain. When I first heard the rumors Jeep was fixing to stuff an SUV with Hellcat power, I was perplexed. I found the idea of a 700-horsepower SUV to be absurd and unnatural. If acceleration and speed is what you’re after, why go to the trouble of making it happen in a body style so out of line with that stated goal?

I still feel that way now, and probably always will. For the price of a Trackhawk, you could easily get two vehicles to fill the dual roles of speed-maker and utility hauler, each of which would do their respective duty better than a single Trackhawk ever could.

But that still doesn’t mean I don’t want to drive this thing.

Continue reading to see what I’m talking about.

First, Some Specs

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Here’s a breakdown on the important specs for the Trackhawk.

Under the hood is a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine producing 707 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque. It’s (more or less) the same engine you get in the Hellcat Challenger and Charger, making the Trackhawk the most powerful SUV currently in production.

Routing the power to the ground is an 8-speed automatic transmission and high-performance AWD system, with a limited-slip differential in the rear. Despite weighing in at 5,363 pounds, 788 pounds more than the 4,575-pound Charger and 915 pounds more than the 4,448-pound Challenger, plus the parasitic loss caused by the AWD, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is every bit as quick as the Dodges, managing to run the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 116 mph, and doing the 0-to-60 mph sprint in 3.5 seconds.

And that’s on top of a 180-mph top speed. It’s also got adaptive dampers from Bilstein, huge brakes, and a 7,200-pound towing capacity.

The Appeal

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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Is Big And Dumb And Pointless And I Really Want To Drive It High Resolution Exterior
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These days, folks want a vehicle that can do everything, and that means pairing seemingly contradictory characteristics in a single package. The Trackhawk is a perfect example – it’s enormous, weighing in at over two-and-a-half tons. Its upright body has the aerodynamics of a thrown brick. It shouldn’t be fast.

And yet, thanks to monstrous power and grip, it is fast. Really fast. And for some folks, the idea of an SUV body mated with Hellcat speed is endlessly attractive.

The Problem

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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Is Big And Dumb And Pointless And I Really Want To Drive It High Resolution Exterior
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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Is Big And Dumb And Pointless And I Really Want To Drive It High Resolution Exterior
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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Is Big And Dumb And Pointless And I Really Want To Drive It High Resolution Exterior
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There’s absolutely nothing wrong about wanting a Trackhawk. I’m fairly certain there are hordes of Jeep fans out there chomping at the bit to scoop one up.

Objectively, though, this thing is really dumb. Basically, what you’re buying is a Hellcat with an SUV body style, but for 20 grand more than the sedan or two-door. That’s it.

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Basically, what you’re buying is a Hellcat with an SUV body style, but for 20 grand more than the sedan or two-door. That’s it.

“But what about off-roading?” you ask. “Aren’t Jeeps supposed to be good at that?”

For the most part, yes, but the Trackhawk won’t be your typical Jeep when it comes to the rough stuff. For starters, it’s an inch lower than before. Sure, it’s still got 8 inches of clearance, but if you’re planning on doing any serious off-roading, don’t be surprised when the front bumper is ripped off your $80,000 SUV.

Then there’s the driving modes it’s got: Normal, Sport, Track, Snow, and Tow. Nothing mentioned about dirt, hill descent, or any of that other off-roadiness stuff. Be wary of the trail.

And while it might have AWD, the tires are from Pirelli, including Scorpion Verde all-seasons and P Zero three-seasons, neither of which will fair all that great on the unpaved sections.

So why spend so much on this thing? Because it isn’t a coupe and it’s got a somewhat larger cargo area? You gotta ask yourself – is that really worth the extra $20,000? Really?

And I Still Wanna Drive It

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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Is Big And Dumb And Pointless And I Really Want To Drive It High Resolution Interior
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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Is Big And Dumb And Pointless And I Really Want To Drive It High Resolution Interior
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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Is Big And Dumb And Pointless And I Really Want To Drive It High Resolution Interior
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So you can’t take it off-road, it’s heavy, and it’s expensive. What exactly is the point then?

It doesn’t really matter, to be honest. I know this will sell. And at the end of the day, I still wanna drive one.

Here’s the analogy I like to use – the Trackhawk is like a tap dancing elephant. Sure, you can teach an elephant to tap dance, and yeah, I’d love to see such a thing actually work. But I’d never in my right mind own one.

To me, it would make much more sense to teach something smaller, lighter, and more agile to tap dance. Like a rabbit. But hell, if the circus down the street is hawking a tap dancing elephant, I might as well make the journey to go see it for myself.

What do you think?
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