Mountain Wheels: Performance-oriented Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is king of the SUVs (column) | SummitDaily.com

Mountain Wheels: Performance-oriented Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is king of the SUVs (column)

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels

I am kind of guessing that, minus the inevitable rebuild and upgrade by an aftermarket company such as Hennessy Peformance, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk likely represents the high-water mark of the current American SUV era.

Here, Jeep has taken its chunky Grand Cherokee platform and managed to cram a slightly modified version of the supercharged, 6.2-liter Hellcat engine under the hood.

This results in a still very off-road and winter-capable Jeep with just 707 horsepower, bright yellow Brembo brakes and a widened stance for some massive ZR-rated, 295/45 20-inch all-season race tires.

On a track, at sea level, if the wind is right, the 5,258-pound Trackhawk will do 0-60s in the 3.5-second range. Google it and you'll see it briefly outrunning a McLaren 570S, which it outweighs by more than 2,000 pounds.

In Colorado, on dry pavement, in a break in traffic, hammering the Trackhawk's throttle produces endless cannonades of rattling exhaust and heaving gear changes that make it absolutely thrilling and ridiculous.

It is so ungodly fast, and yet looks almost entirely like a normal Grand Cherokee.

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I frankly don't think Jeep as a manufacturer can do much more than this, menace-wise and chaos-wise, though you know there's already an 800-plus-horsepower engine available for Fiat Chrysler America's automotive products. It's just not going to fit.

Pop the hood on the Trackhawk and it looks like one of those 1970s Revell models of a Big Daddy Don Garlits funny car — filled to the very edges with a massive, supercharged engine that looks about the size of an entire Toyota Yaris.

Here's the funny thing: The very strange side effect of having 707 horsepower on tap, especially while driving in the Rocky Mountains in late January, is an almost zen-like state of self-control, or at least it was during my drive.

I was very happy to find that the Trackhawk is still entirely regular Grand Cherokee underneath, despite the very, very stiff tweaks to its suspension (Bilstein adaptive stuff at all corners). While the magic Selec-Track knob also includes the Track Mode for enhanced straight-line, drag-strip prowess, the SUV is still built on a Quadra-Trac four-wheel drive system, and with my all-seasons, it handled effortlessly even in greasy snow.

I opted to not use those conditions to test the Trackhawk's 180 mph top speed. Rather, I kept it mostly under control, though a speed burst between Eagle and Gypsum suggested that the Trackhawk's mass, at high speed, is definitely appreciative of those huge Brembos, as the Jeep begins to feel like a runaway train under very heavy throttle.

I should also mention that unlike a $32,895 base-model V6 Grand Cherokee, a fancy $48,000 Overland model or even the very fast SRT edition and its 6.4-liter V8, priced at $67,395, my Trackhawk was instead $100,960 in American currency. Yowza.

This did include almost $15,000 in options — a rear-seat DVD system, the towing package (good for 7,200 pounds), $5,000 in sumptuous Laguna leather, an 825-watt, 19-speaker Harmon/Kardon stereo, an ultra-gigantic panoramic sunroof, plus the bigger wheels and tires. But man, is that a lot of money for a Grand Cherokee.

Besides your noisy departures from green lights or your romps demonstrating the Trackhawk's prowess to your friends, is a double- or almost triple-priced Grand Cherokee worth all that additional engine output? That's up to you, I guess.

But if you want to be the king of the road, go for it. Just be mindful that the big engine also produces mileage results in the low teens, unless you drive it like your grandma, in which case a very generous 17 MPG might occasionally be plausible.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

MSRP: $85,900; as tested: $100,960

Powertrain: 707-HP 6.2-liter supercharged V8 with eight-speed automatic transmission

EPA figures: 13 combined (11 city/17 highway)