Before I write a word about the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, we need to detour into a couple of side topics, to provide some perspective.
First, look at your wrist watch and do something.
I need five and half seconds to reach for the dictionary on the corner of my desk, open it and find the letter-O section. I wait exactly five seconds for my e-mail to appear on my computer screen after I type in the password and press “enter.” Reaching for my eyeglasses case, removing, opening and placing the glasses on my face: four and a half seconds.
Next, take in the view through your car windshield anytime you drive. Stop signs. Stop lights. Driveways, intersections and cross streets. Hunched bicyclists in gaudy jerseys. Squirrels. An occasional deer. Potholes. Pedestrians. At this time of year large numbers of mating turkeys – the toms with their tail feathers fanned.
And that’s before we even mention all the other cars, all over the roads, including the one leading just ahead in your lane.
Now, with that perspective, consider that the 707-horsepower engine in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk hurtles the vehicle from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in a mere three point five seconds. Faster than I can open a dictionary, faster than e-mail appears, faster than I can slip my glasses onto my face, I can dash from zero to 60 mph in a sport-utility vehicle that weighs more than two and a half tons.
Where could I ever do that? Especially this season, with so many mating turkeys on the roads.
While driving the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk for a week, I was able to play a bit with some short spurts of speed. I managed to make my wife scold me when I roared away from a country-road corner over-aggressively (while carefully checking that the pavement ahead of me was conspicuously clear). But at no place and at no time could I begin to push the powerful brute anywhere near its instantly accelerating, 180-mph capability.
Of course, the Trackhawk version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee isn’t about the practicalities of daily driving. It’s about excess. At a starting price of $88,345, and with its capacity for extreme speed, the 2020 Trackhawk pushes excess to an extreme limit.
People notice that, and that’s the point.
“It brings a lot of attention to the Jeep brand,” explained Kevin Bihl, manager of the Business Development Center for the Bill DeLuca family of auto dealerships in the Merrimack Valley. “People click on the company’s website to read about it. Then they come to the dealer to see it.”
But when they remember that, as Bihl put it, “they have to put their five-year-old daughter in the back seat,” people wander back to the practical and affordable variations of the Grand Cherokee.
“The bread and butter is the four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee Laredo and Limited. That’s what everybody is buying,” Bihl stated.
The DeLuca dealer group sells the Grand Cherokee at Bill DeLuca Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Haverhill. The company also operates Bill DeLuca Buick Chevrolet GMC in Haverhill, and Bill DeLuca Chevrolet Cadillac in Andover.
Those bread-and-butter sales of its sensible versions make the Grand Cherokee the top-selling model in Jeep’s lineup of six sport-utility vehicles in the United States. The Grand Cherokee is the largest SUV sold by Jeep, a division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – which also sells Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat cars, and Ram pickups. Grand Cherokee seats five, in a comfortable and easy cruising, family-oriented SUV that starts as a rear-wheel drive vehicle, with the four-wheel-drive option bumping up the price $2,000 or more above a rear-drive version.
The Laredo trim level mentioned by Bihl starts at a list price of $35,840 for a four-wheel-drive model. The Limited takes a few steps up, listed at $43,545 when equipped with four-wheel drive.
The Limited sells for less than half the price of the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk edition. And that’s when you consider just the Trackhawk’s starting price. The model I drove layered on extra-cost options, including a DVD entertainment feature for nearly $2,000, an upgraded audio system and big sunroof each for a bit more than $2,000, a special leather interior for nearly $5,000, and even red seat belts, which added $95. Its bottom-line price was $102,960.
The large, supercharged, V8 engine that puts 707 horsepower under the super-fast Grand Cherokee Trackhawk also turns up in ultra-fast, high-priced variations of the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger automobiles, sold by the Dodge division that also is a part of Fiat Chrysler.
Like the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, the Challenger SRT Hellcat and the Charger SRT Hellcat are showpiece cars. Dealers expect to sell a very small number of them, to only the moist extravagant buyers. They’re not even a person’s second car. They’re a third car, wheeled out of the garage only on rare occasions, noted DeLuca’s Kevin Bihl.
“We might stock three or four, just a have a couple, because someone is going to want them, especially when we’re heading into the spring market,” he said. “And then we’ll do anything we can to sell them by Labor Day.”
With Jeep models, DeLuca sees greater interest in the Trailhawk variations, compared to the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Whereas the Trackhawk is set up for extreme speed, the Jeep Trailhawk varieties are optimized for off-road riding – more in line with the Jeep image of go-anywhere motoring.
In the Grand Cherokee lineup, the Trailhawk version occupies a middle spot, with its starting list price of $46,645 placing it one grade above the Grand Cherokee Limited. Unique features installed on the Trailhawk include all-terrain tires, aluminum wheels attuned to off-road riding, specially detailed suede and leather seats, a glossy black roof rack, and an air suspension system with increased vertical wheel travel for better stepping over uneven terrain.
While most other Grand Cherokee levels treat four-wheel drive as an extra-cost option, the feature comes built into the Trailhawk, owing to its identity as a rough-riding, trail-traveling specialist.
Of course, it’s well known that the vast majority of SUVs sold today never leave the pavement. Most people who drive one choose a sport-utility for its elevated vantage, extra cargo capacity, and the added security of four-wheel traction.
Still, offering some showpiece models that can do more than most drivers will ever do, just to get their driver’s attention, appears to be a successful strategy. For proof, consider that Jeep is one of Americas most successful sellers of sport-utilities vehicles.
On top of that, look at all the attention we just gave the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.
2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, four-wheel-drive high performance sport-utility vehicle
Price: $88,345 (plus options)
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty; 2 years free scheduled maintenance
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8
Power: 707 horsepower at 6,000 rpm; 645 lb.-ft. torque at 4,800 rpm
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 11 mpg city; 17 mpg highway
Wheelbase: 115 inches
Length: 190 inches
Width: 76 inches
Height: 68 inches
Weight: 5,356 pounds
Fuel capacity: 24.6 gallons
Turning circle: 38.0 ft.