Jeep’s blue collar blaster here

Its sales status is set to cool – but surely the Grand Cherokee’s social standing is rising to ultra-hot now that the Trackhawk has arrived.

STEPPING up in status, and sizzle, just when it’s set to slide down a notch.

That’s the situation set to unroll for the Grand Cherokee. Jeep’s largest sports utility here is expected to be bumped out of top spot in sales chart status – ironically just as it gains local market pole position for ultimate SUV sizzle.

In announcing expectation that the Compass, a compact SUV that aims into the heart of an SUV sales hot spot, will be the best-selling Jeep by year-end, the New Zealand distributor has also let slip that the first shipment of the seismic Grand Cherokee Trackhawk has landed.

Packing a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 - the most malevolent V8 production car powerplant Fiat Chrysler’s North American operation has ever dared squeeze into a passenger vehicle – the model can for now lay claim to being the most powerful and fastest full-sized SUV on sale in New Zealand.

The massive 522kW power output means it easily throws dirt into the face of the previous rights’ holder, the 447kW Bentley Bentayga, plus a host of other high-brow blasters.

Also overshadowed The BMW X5/X6 M (423kW), Range Rover Sport SVR (423kW), Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S (430kW) and Porsche Cayenne Turbo S (419kW) are also overshadowed.

However, its days as the world’s fastest are numbered. That title will shift to a Lamborghini that made a sneak visit to Auckland last week, ahead of it going on sale later in the year.

The Urus packs a high-tech twin turbo V8 that, while making less muscle - a ‘mere’ 447kW is nonetheless faster up to 100kmh from a standing start, albeit by one tenth of second (Lamborghini cites 3.5s, Jeep 3.6) and, with a top speed of 305kmh, is 15kmh quicker overall.

Can Jeep fans live with the shame? Surely they might, given that their Rambo absolutely thrashes the rich-listers on price.

Though at the most expensive Jeeps ever pitched here, at $169,990 model it is nonetheless considerably cheaper than the European opponents. The Urus starts at $339,000.

The only restriction on its popularity should be availability. New Zealand and Australia were advised months ago that global – well, mainly Stateside – demand is simply huge.  All 12 example in the first shipment were spoken for months ago.

For that reason, the variant that has wrested flagship duties from the line’s other performance V8, the $121,540 SRT8, cannot be expected to add too much to a Grand Cherokee count that came to 564 registrations last year.

Still, even if rarely seen, it stands to be always remembered.

The engine is, of course, the Hellcat V8 from the Dodge Challenger and Charger sedans. In addition to putting out huge power, it makes a big dollop of torque, with 869Nm claimed.

Dodge is part of the Fiat Chrysler family and so represented by Jeep NZ’s overall parent, Ateco Automotive. But the passenger cars cannot be imported these because they are purely produced in left-hand-drive and thus fall into the category of low volume specials.

The Hemi V8 is mated to an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission, which sends power to all four wheels via Jeep’s Quadra-Trac all-wheel-drive system with an electronic limited-slip differential on the rear axle and a single-speed active transfer case.

All that power comes at a cost, however, with the Trackhawk’s claimed combined fuel consumption sitting at a hefty 16.8 litres per 100km of premium unleaded.

A number of driveline components have been modified and strengthened to deal with the massive torque and launch control function, including transfer case sprockets and chain, rear axle, differential and half-shafts.

Befitting of a Jeep vehicle, five different drive modes are available, including Auto, performance-focused and rear-biased Sport and Track, Tow for added smoothness and Snow for slippery conditions.

Stopping power comes courtesy of a new Brembo brake system consisting of six-pot front callipers with 400mm two-piece vented rotors and four-pot rear callipers with 350mm vented rotors, which are able to pull up the Trackhawk from 100kmh to standstill in 37 metres.

The Trackhawk rides on independent front coil-spring suspension with a multi-link rear design, while also receiving Bilstein adaptive damping.

Visually, the Trackhawk is identifiable by the body-coloured wheelarches, 20-inch alloy wheels shod in Pirelli 295/45 Scorpion Verde rubber, 4.0-inch black chrome quad exhaust tips, ‘Supercharged’ and Trackhawk’ badging and the deletion of the foglights to accommodate extra airflow to the engine’s cooling modules.

Inside, the range-topper gets a racing-inspired interior with a three-spoke, flat-bottomed steering wheel, carbon-fibre spears, black chrome finishes, Nappa leather and suede upholstery with embroidered ‘Trackhawk’ logos, ventilated front and heated front and rear seats, 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster display and 8.4-inch Uconnect multimedia display that has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as an array of readouts and timers including instantaneous power and torque measurements.

The Trackhawk also comes standard with the Premium Metal Package that adds metal trim throughout the interior, as well as other extra specification including active noise cancellation, leather-stitched instrument panel, doors, centre console and armrest, Berber floormats and an 825-watt, 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

Driver assistance features include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning with crash mitigation, front and rear park assist, lane departure warning, hill hold control, seven airbags, advanced brake assist, and tyre pressure monitor.