The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is ready for a day of track fun

The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a full-size SUV, which makes equipping it with a Hellcat engine both crazy and brilliant.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk –Provided by Jeep

Let’s say you want a vehicle that can handle going off-road as easily as taking the kids to school. You probably want to consider something like the Jeep Grand Cherokee. There are a number of trim levels with varying amounts of comfort and safety features from which to choose. If, however, you also want that vehicle to be capable of tackling the track like it’s some kind of race car in disguise, then what you want is the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.

There are lots of choices when it comes to SUVs. You can even find plenty that can go off-road like the Grand Cherokee. But what you won’t find are any that have an engine with 707-horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque stuffed under the hood. The Trackhawk has the same powerful engine found in the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger Hellcats. Those are muscle cars where that kind of engine makes sense. This is a full-size SUV, which makes equipping it with a Hellcat engine both crazy and brilliant.

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Rather than take us to a muddy, rutted road somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Jeep took us up to Club Motorsports in Tamworth, N.H. This new motorsports club has a track with elevation changes, tight turns, straightaways, and amazing views. We already know Jeeps can handle the mud. What needed proving was whether this full-size SUV could handle a track.

First, Jeep gave us some time on the road. The powerful 6.2-liter supercharged V8 is expectedly fast. You don’t need to mash the gas pedal to get the Trackhawk moving. In fact, there’s so much power it takes some adjusting to get used to using a lighter foot on the gas. This is a car that does 0-60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 180 miles per hour. It’s fast.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk —Provided by Jeep

Performance cars of any type are often miserable things to drive when you take them off the track and put them on the road. They’re loud and uncomfortable and their stiff suspension systems are unkind to passengers. The Trackhawk manages to balance its performance underpinnings with a comfortable, quiet ride. It has none of the harsher characteristics of a performance car that can ruin using one as a daily driver.

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The only noise you’ll hear is the engine and the aggressive exhaust, but it works for the Trackhawk. There’s enough there to make you smile and turn heads without edging into obnoxious territory.

But how does it handle on the track? It’s a strange thing to take any SUV on the track. That’s the turf of little sports cars and it takes a minute to wrap your head around the idea. After a few turns, the Trackhawk quickly proves it belongs right next to those little sports cars. Hit the apex. Go flat out in the straightaway. Brake hard. The Trackhawk delivers a performance experience that will have you grinning like a fool.

Jeep built this SUV for the track with plenty of performance enhancements. There’s a new Brembo brake system with the largest front brakes of any Jeep vehicle and bright yellow brake calipers. Driveline components are upgraded to handle the torque of the Trackhawk’s monster engine. The Selec-Track system is tuned for performance with Auto, Sport, Track, Snow, and Tow modes. There’s even a launch control system that works with the press of a single button.

No one thinks of Jeep as a performance brand. They think of Jeep as the king of off-road driving. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the Trackhawk adds serious performance credibility to the Jeep family of vehicles. Whether you’re taking the kids to school, heading off road for a weekend adventure, or getting your kicks and refining your skills out on the track, the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is up to the task.

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You can order the 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk at your local dealer at a starting price of $85,900 with deliveries slated to begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

Nicole Wakelin is a contributor to BestRide.com and CarGurus.com; she can be reached on Twitter @NicoleWakelin.