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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk borrows the 707-hp 6.2-L supercharged Hemi V8 first issued for the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. (Bill Visnic)

What we’re driving: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The most prominent recent brand-identifier for the FiatChrysler Dodge brand has been its outlandishly-powered Challenger SRT Hellcat and Demon. But they are cars, after all, and even 707 hp and 808 hp, respectively, can go only so far to sell a car these days, so it seemed inevitable that FCA might try the big-power imprint to its ever-expanding SUV brand, Jeep.

The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk offers its own kind of outrageousness, borrowing the 707-hp supercharged 6.2-L Hemi V8 that started it all in the Hellcat to enable what Jeep claims is the quickest SUV on the market (0-60 mph in 3.5 s).
And true to its promise, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is boisterously, unavoidably ballistic. Anytime, anywhere, a tickle of the throttle pedal unleashes more sound and fury than you probably were banking on unleashing. Stay into the pedal and three-figure speeds show up with shocking abruptness—and frequency.

What I didn’t expect was how comparatively mellow the Trackhawk can be if you don’t dial up at least the Sport setting in the five-choice drive-mode programming. The automatic mode doesn’t offer the immediate throttle response you might presume always on hand and gearshifts from the standard 8-speed automatic are leisurely.

But what also mitigates against the Trackhawk’s punch is its porky 5363-lb (2433-kg) curb weight, nearly a half-ton more than the 4449-lb (2018-kg) Challenger Hellcat. Half a ton!

Jeep’s press text says the Trackhawk rides an inch lower than standard Grand Cherokees, but its specs list an 8.1-in (206-mm) ground clearance, just a half-inch lower. Should this model really have 8.1 in. of ground clearance? I say “nay,” because you’ve really got to steel yourself for the initial turn-in for a high-speed corner. That the Trackhawk holds on for anything you’ve got the nerve to try is a testimony to its baseline suspension tuning (adaptive Bilstein dampers are a centerpiece) and sheer mechanical grip that end up overcoming your queasiness about body roll from that high above the tarmac, but engineers really should have found a way meaningfully drop the ride height for high-speed work.

But even with adaptive damping, the Trackhawk’s suspension is too stiff for tattered-road hijinks: pavement irregularities play havoc with the performance Jeep’s corner tracking. It may not slide, but fast cornering on anything but smooth pavement certainly gets “active.”

Also surprising is that the Trackhawk’s bellowing 6.2-L supercharged Hemi can generate 707 hp and 645 lb·ft (875 N·m) without yet having added direct fuel injection. Be that as it may, the Trackhawk’s real-world fuel economy (I can’t use the term “efficiency” here) lives up to its startling EPA label numbers of 11 mpg in the city and 17 mpg highway. With that kind of gasoline booziness, it’s a good thing 91 octane unleaded only is recommended.

Those unbothered by the prospect of highly-frequent, credit card-frying fill-ups also won’t look askance at our Trackhawk’s as-tested price that ran just 35 bucks shy of $100,000. Sure, there’s immense performance here—and maybe even some kind of offbeat gravitas—but I see a six-figure Grand Cherokee, even one with 707 hp, as a stretch, regardless of its outlandishness factor.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Base price:        $85,900
As tested:         $99,965
Highs:              Otherworldly performance; superb driveline refinement
Lows:               Big weight; antisocial thirst; all-season tires are standard equipment for 707 hp? 
Takeaway:        Does “because you can do it,” mean you should do it?               
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