2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a snow warrior, too

It was a bright, sunny February afternoon in Chicago when I picked up the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Still, with temperatures in the 30s, it wasn’t ideal conditions for such a performance beast. No matter really. I wouldn’t be taking this 707-horsepower SUV to a track anyway. I’d just be driving it like I owned it.

The decent weather wouldn’t last. I picked up the Trackhawk on Saturday and by Monday Chicago’s temperature was down to a high of 12 degrees with about 3 inches of snow in most areas. It wasn’t a lot of snow, but it was enough to snow down traffic considerably, bring out the plows, and make me concerned about taking this performance vehicle on a 20-mile drive out to the suburbs to go play basketball.

The Trackhawk comes equipped with Pirelli Scorpion Verde all-season tires. They are Z rated, meaning they can withstand speeds in excess of 149 mph, but their tread is arranged to handle the needs of mud and snow, thus the M&S markings you’ll see on the sidewalls. However, wide tires tend to do worse in the snow and these beasts are 295 millimeters wide. I know. I’ve been stuck at a stop sign in a rear-drive car in icy conditions due to wide rear tires. My trip out to Arlington Heights was looking hairy, especially when you consider how touchy the throttle of a 707-horsepower Hellcat in SUV clothing might be.

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Much to my surprise, the Trackhawk proved to be up to the challenge.  

The Trackhawk comes with Jeep’s Quadra-Trac all-wheel-drive system. It has with a single-speed active transfer case (no low-range gearing) and a limited-slip rear differential. I drove it in Auto mode, which splits the torque 40/60 front to rear. That gave me power at all four wheels all the time. I didn’t even mess with the Snow mode that splits the power 50/50 and starts off in second gear. The throttle was never so touchy that it just sat there and spun those big 20-inch tires, and the grip was always good enough to get going easily and stop will relative confidence.

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On my freeway commute I was tooling along passing less confident drivers until I can cross a line of snow plows, one in each lane. That was the only thing that really slowed me down.

So, the Trackhawk proved to be practical in these tough conditions, but with one caveat. Over my 93.4 miles of winter driver, the trip computer told me I got a measly 8.8 miles per gallon. Who really wants to live with that?

I might be able to live with that if I were also able to take this monster out onto a racetrack to see what it can do when all 6.2 liters of supercharged V-8 fury are unleashed.

But that’s the story for another day. Hopefully that day will come this summer, and Jeep will send the Trackhawk my way again, but this time with access to a racetrack as part of the bargain.

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