Just quietly, since watching Turbo channel’s ‘Street Outlaws’ I have grown rather partial to drag racing. Sure it looks pretty simple going quickly in a straight line and yes I admit that (generalising here), both the participants and spectators wouldn’t necessarily win and fashion show at Flemington or Aintree but it’s the rawness, ludicrous power and overall, off the line speed that has me fascinated.
For those of you that don’t know, typically, Drag racing involves two competitors side by side racing down a quarter mile (405metres) stretch of straight road, with first past the post being the victor. It sounds easy enough, but jump the light or beat the tree (the countdown lights) and you lose. Cross the line you lose. Spin your wheels and you’ll lose. Engage your nitrous kit too soon/late and you’ll lose. Crash, you lose. Plus the amount of preparation required, from suspension set up to horsepower delivery is ridiculous – going A to B never felt so good, or did it? Thanks to Jeep and their Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, I have now found something better than watching Street Outlaws and that’s by being one.
With the promise of having the chance to review Jeep’s superbeast months ago still rattling around my mind, I finally found myself behind its leather-clad steering wheel and boy was it worth the wait.
Let me get straight to the point – SIX POINT TWO LITRES of Hemi ‘Hellcat’ V8 that Jeep has kindly supercharged and placed in one of its premium vehicles and by doing so, has produced the most powerful V8 SUV on the planet, EVER. You can imagine a boardroom scene in Detroit where, in a stroke of divine brilliance (and possibly following an encore screening of Team America), the heads of Dodge and Jeep hatched a plan to collaborate – undoubtedly followed by a resounding #### YEAH!
The result is an incredible experience. An all-terrain, luxury SUV that weighs a burger under 3 tonnes that can (thanks to its 522kW of power and 868Nm, gulp, of torque), go from 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds, a quarter mile in 11.6 seconds and up to a top speed of 289km/h – I repeat, 3 tonnes at 289km/h.
This is part where I tell you all about the Trackhawk’s pleasantries. Its new front fascia, quad exhaust, 12-inch wide back wheel rubber, Trackhawk badging, Carbon Fibre, leather and Alcantara interior (it really is wonderfully appointed), how tame it feels in ‘Normal’ Auto… but in all seriousness, it’s that Supercharged Hellcat that you really want to know about.
Jeep NZ gave me the keys to the Trackhawk for a week and my cheeks were sore from smiling. Remaining in ‘Sport’ for the majority of the duration, every time I pushed the accelerator the Supercharger would whine and the games would begin. A Hemi V8 engine at high revs bellowing through quad exhaust pipes is a sound that strikes fear in all within earshot, including me the driver. It’s visceral, neanderthal, primal and yet as addictive as crack cocaine, but probably more fun.
I have to tell you about launch control, it’s simple to use and could very well turn motorway on-ramp lights into the greatest invention since the proverbial bread became sliced. Of course I didn’t use this function at traffic signals as it’s primarily used for the drag strip, however, as there’s a big button next to driving mode selector marked ‘Launch’ with a drag strip tree logo, it seemed a shame not to use it.
Either via the apps section on the giant touchscreen (or using the aforementioned button), plus a strong use of your left foot on the brake, you are able to push the accelerator to the floor and have the rev needle rise to your predetermined number. The release of the brake allows the Hemi V8 to exact any and all vengeance on the tarmac below, resulting in a stomach-churning, mind-bending race up to 100km/h. The ferocity is so terrifying that you have to do it again and again and again just to be sure.
Some would say that the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is ridiculous, unPC, unnecessary even and to those people please accept a great big raspberry. Jeep/Dodge haven’t produced the most powerful V8 ever ‘because they could’ but more because they SHOULD. It’s a perfect match of brawn and brawn (ok there’s some brains in there too). 6.2L of go anywhere Supercharged Hemi, all I can say is ‘More Please.’
Oh and here’s a message to the 405, ‘Watch out Big Chief, the Trackhawk and I are heading over to race you.’