Most Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs never go off-road. Even fewer of them go to the racetrack. But now they can, with the introduction of the new 707-horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, set to be be unveiled at the New York Auto Show this week.
The name is a clever spin on the Trailhawk badge Jeep uses on models tuned for superior off-road performance. The Trackhawk might not be able to crawl over boulders or through deep sand -- Jeep claims absolutely no off-road capability for this machine -- but it can go from zero to 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds and blast its way to a top speed of 180 miles an hour.
The Grand Cherokee was first introduced in the 1990s, and it's always been known for providing serious off-road capability in a vehicle that -- unlike the Jeep Wrangler, for instance -- isn't punishing to drive in traffic.
"Jeep Grand Cherokee is now the most powerful and quickest SUV as well, with the introduction of our new 707-horsepower Trackhawk," said Mike Manley, head of the Jeep brand at FCA.
It has the same supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine used in the Dodge Challenger Hellcat muscle car, which is "the most powerful muscle car ever," according to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, parent company of both Dodge and Jeep.
There's already a high-performance Grand Cherokee available for anyone who wants to prioritize speed over mud-slogging. But the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, with its 475 horsepower engine, seems almost like an ordinary family vehicle compared to the Trackhawk.
Manley's claim about the Trackhawk being the "most powerful and quickest SUV" excludes the 762-horsepower Tesla Model X P100D, which Tesla says can go zero-to-60 in under three seconds. An FCA spokesman said that it doesn't count the Model X isn't counted, because it's a "crossover utility vehicle," according to accepted industry categories, not a "sport utility vehicle." The difference is that "CUVs" don't offer even the pretense of off-road capability no matter how they're equipped.
The Trackhawk rides an inch lower to the ground than a typical Grand Cherokee, and the hood has large heat-extractor vents to help the supercharger and engine cool. The software controlling the Trackhawk's all-wheel-drive system has been specifically tuned for performance rather than off-road traction. The driver can select one of five modes -- Auto, Sport, Track, Snow and Tow -- to alter how the system performs to suit different situations.
The Trackhawk joins a growing list of high-performance SUVs like the 550 horsepower Land Rover Ranger Rover Sport SVR, the 570 horsepower Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and the 577-horsepower Mercedes-AMG GLS.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk will go on sale by the end of the year but pricing has not yet been announced.