The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk: The 4×4 Hellcat?
When Dodge released the SRT Challenger and Charger Hellcats earlier this year, it sent gearheads all over the world into a frenzy. Suddenly, there were two American cars on the market that offered 707 horsepower for under $65,000. To put it in perspective, that’s more power than a Ferrari 458 Italia, more than a Lamborghini Huracan, and more than twice that of a Porsche 911 Carrera – for the price of a nicely optioned Jeep Grand Cherokee.
What started out as a limited production run was expanded after Fiat Chrysler sold over 2,200 of the cars in the first three months alone, green lighting a plan to build at least another 1,000 cars by the end of the year. The company has the capacity to build as many as 5,000 Hellcats (Challenger and Charger combined) annually, and with the reception the cars have been getting, we wouldn’t be surprised if FCA sold out the whole lot.
With the popularity of the Hellcat twins, and the newfound possibility of supercar power at premium SUV prices, there was a push for FCA to spread the insanity across its entire lineup. “Hellcat all the things!” people cried, and now, it looks like someone at FCA has been listening. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, that venerable people mover you could buy instead of a Hellcat, appears to be next in line to receive the 707- treatment.
Last week, Motor Authority reported that FCA is developing an ultra high-performance Jeep under the name Project K. And while we shudder to think of what else Chrysler could’ve been developing under the name Project K, the world’s most powerful SUV should make a welcome addition to the Hellcat stable.
While early speculation led many to believe the compact Dart would be next in line to receive the Hellcat treatment, the Grand Cherokee makes a lot more sense. It already has a capable performance model in the SRT version (pictured above), and it’s already the best-selling model for the performance sub-brand. Starting at $64,895 (a shade above the Charger Hellcat), the Grand Cherokee SRT has a 6.4 liter Hemi V8 good for 475 horsepower, and can scramble from zero to 60 in an impressive 4.8 seconds. While it’s already plenty capable, modifying it to handle a 232 horsepower bump is still a pretty tall order.
The new Jeep will probably eschew the Hellcat name, going instead with Trackhawk, a play on the Grand Cherokee’s off-road ready Trailhawk model that FCA trademarked last October. The SRT’s eight-speed automatic transmission will most likely carry over to the Trackhawk, as it’s already proven that it handle the power of the supercharged 6.2 liter Hemi found in the Hellcats.
But even with such a capable starting point, SRT engineers have their work cut out for them. As Autoblog points out, hitting 200 miles per hour in a tall, boxy SUV might not be as safe as it is in the sleek, Charger Hellcat sedan, so don’t be surprised if FCA gives the Trackhawk an electronic limiter on the insistence of its attorneys. As the current SRT can hit 160, look for a top speed in the 175-185 range. Another issue is airflow and cooling. The supercharged Hemi needs plenty of air for intake and cooling, and luckily, the Jeep’s upright front end should provide enough ventilation to keep that big engine cool.
Finally, the Trackhawk should have one feature that the Hellcat twins don’t: all-wheel drive. While the supercharged cars follow the classic muscle car method of delivering power to the rear wheels, less experienced drivers lose a lot of that power in a cloud of tire smoke and scorched rubber. With 707 ponies going to all four wheels, the the Trackhawk could potentially be quicker off the line than almost anything in the world – including other high-performance SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, and upcoming Lamborghini Urus, and Bentley Bentayga. The Trackhawk won’t be here until 2017 at the earliest, so start saving your pennies now. As for the mad scientists at Fiat Chrysler? Good work, keep on Hellcatting.