How the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Became the Ultimate Daily Driver
Driving the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk allows you to take a deep dive into the uniquely creative minds of the Street Racing and Technology (SRT) team at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
The recipe for this car sounds kind of simple: Take the 707-horsepower supercharged V8 from the Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcat, then put it into the top-of-the-line Jeep Grand Cherokee and cook those tires.
But then you stop to think about it… Why would anyone actually do that? Isn’t that just crazy?
Power to the People
“Well, SRT always works to bring high-end performance to the average customer,” says Joe Kubina, the Chief Engineer for the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and SRT brand. This is true — there has been an SRT version of the Grand Cherokee since 2006. “In 2006 to 2010, the 420-horsepower Grand Cherokee SRT could run with the Porsche Cayenne S,” Kubina says, suggesting that the Jeep SRTs have always been at the level of other high-end and expensive SUVs in terms of performance.
But the team at SRT noticed that premium brands kept upping the horsepower number of their SUVs, in addition to the pricetags. “Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Land Rover SVO, those vehicles aren’t attainable to the regular people,” Kubina said. “We knew we could do the Grand Cherokee with the Hellcat engine and beat those with price and performance while having a totally different flavor than those vehicles.”
The flavor of the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is intense, to say the least. Poke the start button and the Trackhawk roars to life. There’s no way to be subtle about it, even if the exterior of the vehicle doesn’t seem as aggressive as what’s under the hood.
But from the driver’s seat, there’s no denying the fact that the car is something special. It growls and lurches with every little bit of pedal movement. That’s expected when you’re in an exotic or lightweight sporty two-door, but when you’re in a comfortable, large SUV? It’s a drastically different experience.
While the Grand Cherokee is comfortable and easy to drive at slow speeds, it becomes frustrating when traffic closes in around you and limits how spirited your drive will be. When you escape to a side road, you have to deal with curves and imperfect roads, which isn’t the Trackhawk’s strongest suit, but it copes. The sporty suspension is stiff and there’s no avoiding the weight of the vehicle when trying to push it through a sequence of turns.
But it becomes intoxicating to feel the pit of your stomach climb into your throat when you punch the throttle. It’s addicting to watch the numbers climb on the tach and speedometer. The noises are a fanfare, urging you to go on. You end up looking way off into the distance, and in the millisecond it takes to ensure that you’re not breaking the speed limit, you’re already where you were looking at previously. It’s like a magic trick.
This isn’t the first truck that SRT has worked its magic on. From 2004 to 2006, they offered the SRT-10, a Ram 1500 with an 8.3-liter V10 engine. This is the same engine that was offered in the Dodge Viper and it made 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. It could reach highway speeds in under 5 seconds and was designed for the sole purpose of shaming the Ford SVT Lightning. “It was a different approach back then,” said Kubina. “We just wanted to beat the Ford Lightning, and we totally did, thanks to that V10 engine and transmission. However, the sales figures didn’t support us.”
Fewer than 10,000 Ram SRT-10s were made, and the SRT folks considered it a special hot rod truck. “The Grand Cherokee was different because we had that supercharged V8 in a number of cars,” he said. In comparison, the V10 in the SRT-10 was found in one car, the Viper, which was a low production, expensive product, while the 6.2-liter Hellcat V8 is a variant of the Hemi engine found in many other FCA vehicles. You can find the 707-horsepower version of the engine in Dodge’s mass market Charger sedan, as well as the large Challenger coupe, this Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, and it’s also available as a crate engine for car customizer and racers. Simply put, it’s a more accessible engine.