JEEP TRACKHAWK IS REDHOT

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There’s something gloriously ridiculous about the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. This triumph by high-performance SRT engineers has given the world a 2.5-tonne off-road vehicle with a 700 horsepower supercharged V8 that can leap from a standstill to 100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds. Then call on its huge Brembo brakes and specifically designed Pirelli tyres to bring it to a standstill in just 37 metres.

A few weeks back we finished our news story about the announcement that the Jeep Trackhawk was coming Downunder by saying we planned to borrow a test vehicle from Jeep and carry out a local road test from our base on the Gold Coast.

Jeep Oz went one big step better by inviting us to spend a track day at Philip Island to really push the big Hawk to its limits.

Before we were let loose at the Island, Guillaume Drelon Jeep Australia’s brand director ran us through the long list of high-performance specs of the big Jeep.

Chrysler has been building ultra-hot machines for many decades and Trackhawk has benefitted in a big way from this long history of engineering.

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The Chrysler Hemi 6.2-litre V8 now has virtually competition components to add the strength needed when a supercharger pumps it up to 868 Newton metres.

An upgraded TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic drives through Jeep’s Quadra-Trac Active On Demand 4×4 System tuned fro the Trackhawk.

The transfer case, driveshafts, differential and suspension have all been completely renewed or seriously worked over. Extensive tests, virtually to destruction in some cases, proved the engineering. The result is a vehicle that can be hammered virtually endlessly and come out without breaking anything.

Visually the Trackhawk stands out from the standard Grand Cherokee by using a bolder front fascia with larger air dams, dual vents in the bonnet and widely flared wheel arches.

Inside, the Trackhawk’s are details in metal, chrome and carbon-fibre. A three-spoke sports flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters behind it. Trackhawk has the SRT Performance instrument cluster. Nappa leather seats provide good support without compromising too much on comfort.

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Jeep’s Uconnect 4 system works through an 8.4-inch high-res touchscreen, giving access to Performance Pages that display lap times and instant readouts for power and torque outputs. There’s also navigation, Bluetooth and connection through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Somewhat bizarrely, the multiple drive modes on offer include both Track and Towing.

DRIVING
The big Jeep / Chrysler V8 certainly sounds the part and brought smiles to the faces of all the journalists. It has an uneven rumble at idle, the supercharger has a serious shriek (though a bit more volume would have been appreciated) and big revs brought big noises. Wonderful.

GO-TO-WHOA
Much as it would have been nice to take the Trackhawk straight onto the track at PI we firstly carried out some testing on the main straight. A popular event at street machine events the go-to-whoa is one of the most realistic tests of a car in real life.

Quite simply it consists of taking the car (or SUV in this case) from a standstill to 100 km/h as fast as possible – then getting onto full braking to bring it back to a standstill. The big Hawk took just 3.7 seconds to get to 100, then 37 metres to come to a full stop.

Three-point-seven seconds is ridiculously fast and is achieved by choosing Launch Control. Standing hard on the brake pedal, flooring the accelerator, waiting two seconds then releasing the brakes.

The big Jeep momentarily haunches at the back, the Pirellis grip the track at all four wheels, the engine screams, the competition grade auto trans makes lighting fast shifts – far faster than any driver can achieve – and you feel you’re sitting in a rocket.

Onto the brakes and the big Jeep decelerates hard, though not quite as quickly as the best cars which typically are in the 32 to 34 metre range, Trackhawk came to rest after 37 metres.

MOOSE TEST
Named for the notorious incident where a new Mercedes A-Class tipped over in 1997 during early testing. The Moose Test is a violent high-speed swerve-recover-swerve-recover manoeuvre intended to replicate a real life 80 km/h road incident.

The very large Jeep certainly did well on the test and showed impressive ability at hard, fast changes of direction. But its sheer size meant most of us (including yours truly) sent witches hats off in various directions.

Obviously the European designers of the Test never anticipated a huge high-performance beast like this Jeep would be put through it.

TRACK TIME
Okay, now it was time to get serious. Track time at Philip Island with no holds barred. With Australian multiple rally champion Cody Crocker and Supercars racer Karl Reindler riding shotgun we put in some hot laps travelling at speeds that just didn’t seem possible in what is sort of a light truck.

Jeep Trackhawk accelerates like the devil, turns promptly into corners with only an initial trace of understeer, all the time belying its mass. Steering inputs are translated virtually instantly into action and the blown V8 can be used to take part in the steering.

Sadly we didn’t get enough time to really tie ourselves down to decent passes at the scarily fast PI circuit. Perhaps we will grab a Trackhawk for our usual week’s testing and find a local circuit for a full-on track day. It would be fun circulating our monster amongst tiny WRXs, Evos and the like.

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