Jeep Track­hawk track record shows it’s red hot, go to whoa

Albany Extra - - MOTORING - Ewan Kennedy

There’s some­thing glo­ri­ously ridicu­lous about the new Jeep Grand Chero­kee Track­hawk.

This tri­umph by high-per­for­mance SRT en­gi­neers has given the world a 2.5-tonne off-road ve­hi­cle with a 700hp su­per­charged V8 that can leap from a stand­still to 100km/h in just 3.7 sec­onds, then call on its huge Brembo brakes and specif­i­cally de­signed Pirelli tyres to bring it to a stand­still in just 37m.

Jeep Oz in­vited us to spend a track day at Phillip Is­land to re­ally push the big Hawk to its lim­its.

Be­fore we were let loose at the Is­land, Guil­laume Drelon, Jeep Aus­tralia’s brand di­rec­tor ran us through the long list of high­per­for­mance specs of the big Jeep.

Chrysler has been build­ing ul­tra-hot ma­chines for many decades and Track­hawk has ben­e­fit­ted in a big way from this long his­tory of en­gi­neer­ing.

The Chrysler Hemi 6.2-litre V8 now has vir­tu­ally com­pe­ti­tion com­po­nents to add the strength needed when a su­per­charger pumps it up to 868Nm.

An up­graded TorqueFlite eight­speed au­to­matic drives through Jeep’s Quadra-Trac ac­tive on de­mand 4x4 sys­tem, tuned for the Track­hawk.

The trans­fer case, drive­shafts, dif­fer­en­tial and sus­pen­sion have all been com­pletely re­newed or se­ri­ously worked over.

Ex­ten­sive tests, vir­tu­ally to de­struc­tion in some cases, proved the en­gi­neer­ing. The re­sult is a ve­hi­cle that can be ham­mered vir­tu­ally end­lessly and come out with­out break­ing any­thing.

Vis­ually, the Track­hawk stands out from the stan­dard Grand Chero­kee by us­ing a bolder front fas­cia with larger air dams, dual vents in the bon­net and widely flared wheel arches.

In­side the Track­hawk are de­tails in metal, chrome and car­bon-fi­bre.

A three-spoke sports flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel has pad­dle shifters be­hind it. Track­hawk has the SRT Per­for­mance in­stru­ment clus­ter.

Nappa leather seats pro­vide good sup­port with­out com­pro­mis­ing too much on com­fort.

Jeep’s Ucon­nect 4 sys­tem works through an 8.4-inch high-res touch­screen, giv­ing ac­cess to per­for­mance pages that dis­play lap times and in­stant read­outs for power and torque out­puts.

There’s also nav­i­ga­tion, Blue­tooth and con­nec­tion through Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto.

Some­what bizarrely, the mul­ti­ple drive modes on of­fer in­clude both Track and Tow­ing.

DRIV­ING

The big Jeep/Chrysler V8 cer­tainly sounds the part and brought smiles to the faces of all the jour­nal­ists.

It has an un­even rum­ble at idle, the su­per­charger has a se­ri­ous shriek (though a bit more vol­ume would have been ap­pre­ci­ated) and big revs brought big noises. Great.

GO-TO-WHOA

Much as it would have been nice to take the Track­hawk straight onto the track, we firstly car­ried out some test­ing on the main straight.

A pop­u­lar event at street ma­chine events, the go-to-whoa is one of the most re­al­is­tic tests of a car in real life.

Quite sim­ply it con­sists of tak­ing the car (or SUV in this case) from a stand­still to 100km/h as fast as pos­si­ble, then get­ting onto full brak­ing to bring it back to a stand­still.

The big Hawk took just 3.7 sec­onds to get to 100km/h, then 37m to come to a full stop.

The ridicu­lously fast 3.7 sec­onds is achieved by choos­ing Launch Con­trol, stand­ing hard on the brake pedal, flooring the ac­cel­er­a­tor, wait­ing two sec­onds then re­leas­ing the brakes.

The big Jeep mo­men­tar­ily haunches at the back, the Pirellis grip the track at all four wheels, the en­gine screams, the com­pe­ti­tion­grade auto trans makes lightning fast shifts, far faster than any driver can achieve and you feel you're sit­ting in a rocket.

Onto the brakes and the big Jeep de­cel­er­ates hard, though not quite as quickly as the best cars, which typ­i­cally are in the 32m-34m range.

MOOSE TEST

Named for the no­to­ri­ous in­ci­dent in which a new Mercedes A-Class tipped over in 1997 dur­ing early test­ing, the Moose Test is a vi­o­lent high-speed swerve-re­cov­er­swerve-re­cover ma­noeu­vre in­tended to repli­cate a real life 80km/h road in­ci­dent. The very large Jeep cer­tainly did well on the test and showed im­pres­sive abil­ity at hard, fast changes of di­rec­tion.

But its sheer size meant most of us (in­clud­ing yours truly) sent witches hats off in var­i­ous di­rec­tions.

Ob­vi­ously the Euro­pean de­sign­ers of the test never an­tic­i­pated a huge high-per­for­mance beast like this Jeep would be put through it.

TRACK TIME

OK, now it was time to get se­ri­ous — track time at Phillip Is­land with no holds barred.

With Aus­tralian mul­ti­ple rally cham­pion Cody Crocker and Su­per­cars racer Karl Reindler rid­ing shot­gun, we put in some hot laps trav­el­ling at speeds that just didn’t seem pos­si­ble in what is sort of a light truck.

The Jeep Track­hawk ac­cel­er­ates like the devil, turns promptly into cor­ners with only an ini­tial trace of un­der­steer, all the time be­ly­ing its mass. Steer­ing in­puts are trans­lated vir­tu­ally in­stantly into ac­tion and the blown V8 can be used to take part in the steer­ing.

Sadly we didn’t get enough time to re­ally tie ourselves down to de­cent passes at the scar­ily fast cir­cuit. Per­haps we will grab a Track­hawk for our usual week’s test­ing and find a lo­cal cir­cuit for a full-on track day. It would be fun cir­cu­lat­ing our mon­ster among tiny WRXs, Evos and the like.

Your lo­cal Jeep dealer is Bar­nesby Ford, 9842 2933.

It has an un­even rum­ble at idle and the su­per­charger has a se­ri­ous shriek.

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