Jeep’s Hellcat-powered Grand Cherokee is a rolling monument to horsepower

Jeep has borrowed the vaunted Hellcat engine from sister company Dodge and stuffed it under the Grand Cherokee’s hood. Named Trackhawk, the supercharged off-roader will be one of the uncontested stars of this week’s New York Auto Show.

Dropping the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 in the Grand Cherokee’s engine bay was easier said than done. Earlier reports suggested Jeep needed to either ditch four-wheel drive in favor of rear-wheel drive, or settle for using a detuned version of the Hellcat engine. In the end, engineers managed to clear every hurdle and they avoided making compromises.

The V8 generates 707 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque, and it spins all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission controlled by shift paddles. The gearbox and a majority of the driveline components were strengthened to handle the extra grunt, and the Trackhawk is equipped with the largest front brakes ever fitted to a Jeep in order to keep the cavalry in check.

In the SUV segment, the 5,300-pound Trackhawk’s performance numbers are second to none. It sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, it blasts through the quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds, and it goes on to a top speed of 180 mph. Jeep proudly claims the newest Grand Cherokee is the quickest SUV on the planet. Alternatively, the Hellcat V8 helps the Grand Cherokee tow 7,200 pounds.

Five driver-selectable modes called Auto, Sport, Track, Tow, and Snow, respectively, change the Trackhawk’s character. The torque distribution varies from 40 percent front/60-percent rear in Auto to 30/70 in Track. The driving modes also change other parameters like the steering’s weight, the transmission’s shift times, and the suspension’s firmness.

The aesthetic modifications are surprisingly minor considering the monumental firepower lurking under the sheet metal. The Trackhawk only stands out from the less powerful Grand Cherokee SRT with air dams that replace the front fog lights, air vents cut into the hood, and quad exhaust tips. Bold “supercharged” emblems on the doors add a finishing touch to the look.

Built in Detroit, the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk will reach showrooms nationwide by the end of the year. Look for a pricing announcement before then.

Who gets the bragging rights?

Critics quickly pointed out Tesla’s Model X deserves the performance crown because it performs the benchmark zero-to-60-mph sprint in 2.9 seconds, over half a second quicker than the Trackhawk. Jeep disagrees; the X and the Grand Cherokee are not direct rivals because Tesla’s seven-seater isn’t a true SUV.

A company spokesman told Digital Trends Jeep relies on Ward’s vehicle classification system, which ranks the Grand Cherokee as a sport utility vehicle and the Model X as a crossover. When viewed in that light, the Jeep is indeed the quickest SUV while the Model X is the quickest crossover — not to mention one of the quickest product cars regardless of segment.

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