2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee - Jeep unleashes a beast with 4 x 4 drive


 Yikes... This devilishly insane project keeps enthusiasts up at night. 

Jeep has developed a creation akin to what might be unearthed within the pages of Mary Shelley's epic 'Frankenstein,' only this time with four wheels. Take parts from existing bins, mix and match and send out for neighborhood feedback.  In the right light, both creations send chills running up and down one's spine.

The beating heart inside the newly christened Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is repurposed from a lightning quick power source on loan from the Dodge performance SRT division, a supercharged, 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 delivering a silly-yet-exhilarating 707 horses.

The Dodge division within Fiat Chrysler Automobiles began enticing enthusiasts back in the 2015 model year with the 707-horsepower  Hemi V-8  (coded Hellcat) under hood of two retro-era-like favorites; the two-door Challenger and four-door Charger sedan.  While not pinned as volume sellers, these Hellcat variants deliver mega talking points online and during face-to-face chats, serving as aspirational choices.

The onboard supercharger draws cooled air from the lower front end fascia. Supercharging, by definition a forced air induction system, allows approximately 50 percent more air into combustion chambers, creating a bigger bang.  

Grand Cherokee's Trackhawk trim, all-new for the 2018 model year, is the quickest crossover/SUV available delivering a zero-to-60 time in a snappy 3.5 seconds.  When braking, Trackhawk stops from 60 to zero in 114 feet, thanks to the largest-ever brakes coupled to a Jeep product. Be forewarned, this newest Grand Cherokee beast includes a hearty appetite.  Fuel economy lists at 11 miles per gallon city and 17 mpg highway while digesting the recommended higher octane premium petro.

 Trackhawk joins a growing list of five-seat Grand Cherokee trims, now reaching seven, including: Laredo, Limited, off-road-built Trailhawk, Overland, Summit and SRT. Four available 4 x 4 systems intermingle within the seven trims along with five different powertrains, including a 3.0-liter V-6 Eco diesel.  Grand Cherokee also offers 4x2 rear-wheel drive within selected trims.

Trackhawk includes a Quadra-Trac, on demand 4 x 4 system with an electronic limited-slip rear differential and single speed active transfer case.  Basically, this system's on auto pilot, with little driver input or worries.

The 2018 model years also marks the mid-sized Grand Cherokee's 25th year on the market.  In addition to the  ultra-quick Trackhawk, Grand Cherokee debuts a 'Sterling Edition,' in 2018, built upon Limited trims and offering platinum chrome 25thAnnivarsary badging, grill rings, roof rails and unique heritage perforated seats with decorative stitching.

The current 2018 Grand Cherokee is based upon a fourth-generation redo introduced in the 2011 model year, built from unibody underpinnings, representing a more car-like sensation while traversing highways rather than truck-like body-on-frame construction.

During the 2017 calendar year, Jeep Grand Cherokee sales rose 13 percent compared to the preceding 12-month period jumping to 240,696 units from 212,273. Grand Cherokee remains Jeep's best-selling offering by a monster margin, surpassing second-place finisher Wrangler by more than 50,000 units. Currently, the 2018 Grand Cherokee remains the largest crossover/sport utility vehicle in Jeep's U.S. lineup.

Expect a few customary Grand Cherokee visuals including the iconic seven-slot front grille. Framing the grille, narrow headlight housing with adaptive, bi-Xenon headlamps and bejeweled daytime running lights inside a gloss black background.  Instead of smooth, semi-circular wheel wells, popular in the crossover world, Grand Cherokee opts for box-like, framing. 

Unique to Trackhawk are polished, machine cast-aluminum hubs with low-gloss painted pockets along with black chrome quad-tipped exhausts. Listen closely when flooring this beast as the note emitting from these four exhausts is specially tuned for the Michigan-built Trackhawk.

Both Trackhawk and SRT ride one inch lower than other Grand Cherokee trims. Trackhawk's hood includes dual functional air extraction vents. Also distinctive, two-piece ventilated rotors with six calipers up front painted with a distinctive highly visible yellow finish. Vented rear rotors include four piston-yellow calipers. Enhancing braking and safety; uniquely tuned anti-lock braking, stability control and traction control.

Only 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and SRT trims feature five drive modes selectable via a circular chrome dial between front bucket seats: Auto, Sport, Track, Tow and Snow.  For those wondering where to start, 'Auto' adapts to any condition, with 40 percent front-drive and 60 percent rear-drive split.

Electronic push-button start comes standard.  Illuminated reminders frame the start button when the engine is "off" or "running," a nice safety check for some vehicles that hum in near silence with the engine at idle.  However, with audible and throaty 707 horses rumbling and bit of idle shake, Trackhawk tickles multiple senses at stand still.

All this Trackhawk 4 x 4 fun and power comes with a spooky base price of $85,900. After factoring a $1,995 high-performance audio, $895 three-season BSW tires, $995 black satin aluminum wheels and $1,095 destination charge, the bottom line crept to $90,880. A smidgen of factory options available on Trackhawk but not included in the tester: dual-pane panoramic sunroof, dark rub red seat belts and dual screen rear entertainment system. The lowest-priced 2018 Grand Cherokee, a 4 x 2 Larado starts at a comparably mere $30,695.

The three-spoke, flat-bottomed steering wheel features ergonomically-efficient paddle shifters, allowing manual selections of gears points in concert with specially tuned 'Torqueflite' eight-speed automatic transmission.

The sizeable, in-dash 8.4-inch touch screen includes well-marked screen icons with accompanying words, helping minimize confusion.  The screen incorporates the latest edition of FCA's UConnect software including Smartphone interaction with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, allowing Smartphone interaction with the color center touchscreen. Extra-large tactile twist dials remain ready to monitor volume and station pre-sets.

Another top-shelf idea borrowed from many FCA and Jeep family vehicles; secondary volume and station preset tactile elongated ovals mounted on the steering wheel's back side, allowing finger tips to do the walking while in a natural drive-ready placement.

Cruise control, operated via 3 o'clock push buttons, includes radar sensing, automatically speeding and slowing Grand Cherokee on the highway depending upon the distance of the vehicle ahead.

Second-row seatbacks fold down with a 60/40 split allowing greater access and cargo carrying opportunities.  When prone, row two accommodates three adults. The power hatchback (with standard wiper), lifts with enough head clearance for those six-feet, two-inches and shorter.

Trackhawk's lightly three-dimensional instrument panel also reflects a performance tilt, with the animated tachometer front and center with an analog speedometer gauge down and to the left. A digital speedometer may also be summoned through a myriad of digital window panels inside the tach circle. All non-animated gauges include smoking red-hot needles.

Nine exterior colors are available including our dark ebony 'Rhino.'

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Price as tested:  $90,880

Wheelbase:   114.7 inches

Length:  189.8 inches

Width:  76.5 inches

Engine:   6.2-liter V-8

Horsepower:  707

Curb weight:  5,363 pounds

Powertrain warranty:  Five-year/60,000-mile

City/Highway economy:   11 mpg city/17 mpg highway

Assembly:  Detroit, Michigan

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.