First Drive: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

What the Jeep Grand Cherokee needs is an engine with 707 horsepower, said nobody ever.

That hasn’t stopped the Americans from shoehorning a 6.2-litre V8 engine under the bonnet, an engine that develops 710hp and 868Nm of torque. When this thing accelerates, you might just be able to feel the rotation of the earth changing slightly.

Assuming the earth can stand the pressure, the Trackhawk will haul itself to 62mph in 3.7 seconds. Three point seven seconds. That’s faster than a Ferrari F40, but this thing weighs more than two tonnes and is as aerodynamic as King’s College. The raw speed is all thanks to the Detroit-built supercharged engine, but Jeep reckon the car has been modified enough to offer sports car performance all round. I’ll find out later.

It looks the part though. Wheel arches are flared outwards, widening the stance, while a sculpted bonnet with heat-extracting vents and quad-pipe rear exhausts do more than hint at the power available. Huge 20-inch titanium-finish alloy wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tyres show glimpses of the Brembo braking system, a setup that’s good enough to stop the car dead from 62mph in just 114 feet thanks to brake discs that are 40cm in diameter.

Those used to rather unrefined interiors in their American cars are in for a shock in the Trackhawk, as material quality has taken a big step forward. There’s light black chrome finishes around the cabin, Nappa leather and suede seating, and real carbon fibre inserts. The centre stack is dominated by an 8.4-inch touchscreen that houses the infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation and an 825-watt Harman Kardon stereo with active noise cancellation. Just for this model, countless dials and performance meters that measure everything from brake pedal pressure to g-forces have been shoehorned into the system.

The forces placed on the Jeep are so great that there’s been a huge amount of reengineering going on. An upgraded eight-speed automatic gearbox is smooth enough, although can’t cope well with full-throttle gear changes, while the four-wheel drive system has been beefed up massively to cope with the extra power.

I just happened to be at Jeep’s Italian test facility, looking at another altogether more sensible car, when the Trackhawk was spotted sitting just to the side. The keys were available, so the inevitable happened.

How does it drive? I don’t really know. There was no way I was going to get the car past security and out onto public roads, so my time behind the wheel was limited to the Balocco test track and, while the track is entertaining, it’s hardly a simulation of real world driving.

That’s probably a good thing, as real world driving is likely to be frustratingly difficult. Easing out towards the circuit, the throttle response was so fierce that it was easy to cross a road entirely by accident. This is a prototype car though, so that’s the sort of thing that can be dealt with quite easily.

It’s easier to deal with the Jeep using the space available on track. After launching down the first straight, it’s hard on the brakes for the left -hander. The nose dives down steeply, the back end rises, and the car starts to weave its own way down the tarmac. Speed scrubbed, it’s off the brakes and turning in, the body rolling wildly and the tyres protesting loudly. Power on, the steering wheel needs working to keep the Trackhawk under control as all 700 or so horsepower want to take the car off in one direction, any direction, and not necessarily the direction intended. Then it’s a straight bit where the rear squats down, the exhausts bark aggressively, and speed gathers impossibly quickly. And repeat.

If ever there was a question being asked of the Jeep, the answer was always ‘more power’. It doesn’t deal with chicanes, it simply beats them into submission, and threatens the rest of the circuit with destruction if it doesn’t play along. By any measurable standard, it’s rubbish.

Yet, somehow, it’s brilliant. Hilariously brilliant. Laugh-out-loud brilliant. So wrong it’s just somehow right.

Model Tested: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Price: £89,999
Range: £48,880 – £89,999
Top speed: 180 mph
0-62 mph: 3.7 seconds
Power: 710 PS (700 bhp)
Torque: 868 Nm (640 ft lb)
Monthly PCP*: £1,229
Official fuel economy: N/A
Road test economy: 5.2 mpg
CO2 Emissions: N/A
Car Tax: £450
Insurance group: N/A
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.