2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk first drive: the most expensive, violent Hellcat yet Page 2

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Have it your way

If you like Baskin-Robbins, you’ll love how customizable the Trackhawk is. Like other Hellcats, you can go to the performance settings in the 8.4-inch infotainment system and modify the transmission, suspension, and steering settings for Street, Sport, and Track modes.

Then there’s the Selec-Track all-wheel-drive system which has five modes of its own, Auto, Sport, Track, Tow, Snow, and Custom. Each mode modifies the front-to-rear torque split, suspension firmness, and electronic stability control thresholds.

Day to day, you’ll drive around town in Auto mode which splits the torque 40/60 with the ability to vary that based on conditions and slip.

Sport will shift that split to 35/65, and provide quicker shifts and heavier steering, albeit without more feel or quicker responses.

Track is where things are far more fun, thanks to 160-millisecond shifts, the firmest suspension settings, and a 30/70 torque split.

No matter the location, I preferred the Street setting for the steering. Dialing in more artificial heft does nothing outside of making you put more effort into turning the wheel. That's useless.

The differences in the suspension settings are small but noticeable. Street is comfortable enough, though generally the Trackhawk is stiff and you feel every crack in the road even though it’s well-damped. Kicking it all the way to Track mode makes the suspension firmer, but it’s still livable on broken pavement around town.

READ: 2018 Dodge Demon first drive review: Hellcat for real sinners

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

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The most vicious Hellcat yet

The street portion of the day is done and it's time to learn what the Trackhawk can do when pushed hard. I started by pulling onto the road course at Club Motorsports in Tamworth, New Hampshire.

It takes only one corner at speed on a racetrack to know the Trackhawk is both more refined and controlled than the other Hellcats, and it’s all thanks to that all-wheel-drive system.

Barrel down the front straight, hit 120 mph, brake hard, turn in, and the Trackhawk claws at the pavement, trying to fight the physics of 5,363 pounds of Jeep.

As I ease back into the throttle and climb upward on the track, I quickly realize just how hard and quick the supercharged engine is pulling this ridiculous SUV. For a brief second, before turning to hit the next apex, I smile at how insane reality has now become. Then I hit the brakes hard, turn, and push back into the throttle.

In Track mode, the Trackhawk feels fairly well-balanced as I take a long, right-hand sweeper, despite its weight. Bury the throttle mid turn and the rear end wants to kick out a bit.

To date, the Dodge Hellcat's largest issue has been traction at launch. The Trackhawk doesn’t have that issue in the slightest.

Jeep claims it can do 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds using launch control. I proceed to test this claim, multiple times.

I tap the launch control button located near the Selec-Track mode selector, push the brake pedal all the way to the floor as hard as I can, bury the accelerator pedal, take a moment to prepare myself, then release the brake.

Hold on tight.

What I experience is truly violent. My insides shift and it feels as if my brain slides back in my head as the vehicle launches forward with 1.4 Gs of force.

The results? Jeep isn’t kidding. I achieve 3.7 and 3.9-second runs without practice, as indicated by the on-board performance data recorder. Other journalists achieve not only a 3.5-second run, but also even a 3.4-second run. That means it's quicker than advertised.


 
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