For as long as I’ve worked at Kelley Blue Book (12 years) the North American International Auto Show in Detroit has occurred during the winter. No more. For 2020, the show is moving to June. We decided to celebrate the final wintry Detroit Auto Show with a true expression of the city’s capacity to rock; the 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.

Resilient people are forged in the bitter winds of a Michigan winter. I, however, am a soft and casual Californian. Thankfully the Trackhawk is man enough for the both of us. Quick reminder, the Trackhawk is a tarmac-focused, speed freak built from the well-worn bones of the current 4th-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee.

707-horsepower on tap

Here’s the crazy part…Jeep crammed the Dodge Charger/Challenger Hellcat’s supercharged 6.2-liter V8 under the Trackhawk’s hood. If the only thing keeping you from buying a Grand Cherokee was its inability to sprint from motionless to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, congrats! Your ship has come in. By the numbers the Trackhawk delivers 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque. The Trackhawk’s numbers are dazzling but the real joy in driving a Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is exploiting those numbers.

Did you know that, thanks to population contraction, much of Detroit is unoccupied? These open spaces empower eager souls to live life out loud. In my case, by sampling the 2019 Trackhawk’s launch control feature. Press a button to the left of the drive mode selector to activate it. Then, from a stop, hold the brake with your left foot, mash the accelerator with your right foot, briefly revel in the cacophonous melody of V8 revs, then release the brake…

In cinematic slow-mo, your left foot slowly lifts from the brake pedal, clutch packs wince as they convey Hellcat power from the engine to the transmission, all four tires start to rotate, aching for grip. Meanwhile, anyone privileged enough to join the ride aboard will slowly reckon with forces previously unimaginable in a midsize Jeep SUV. Their laughs and shrieks express an ideal blend of fear and bliss, alerting their co-conspirators that “best lives” are being lived.

We unleashed that explosion of joy, time and time again. And, Detroit being Detroit, no one noticed or cared.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

Grip and grin

As luck would have it, it barely snowed while we were in town. That good fortune meant the 4-wheel-drive system was free to focus on fun rather than seeking traction where little exists. Nonetheless, freezing temperatures and the threat of ice kept me from exploring the Trackhawk's handling limits. A braver pilot might’ve exploited the driver's seat's superior side bolstering. A colleague tells me the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a wonder to behold at a race track. I have no reason to doubt them.

Including destination charges and essentially every feature Jeep offers, the 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk’s roughly $88,145 starting price is an objective bargain. Name a quicker, cheaper SUV. I’ll wait.

Still waiting.

With audio and wheel upgrades, our test Jeep clocked in at $92,130. If you’d felt what I felt and heard what I heard as we blasted through the wilds of Detroit, that nearly $100-grand asking price would seem like a pittance.

But still, you wonder, does this super Jeep makes any sense? To be clear, no, it does not. And that is the linchpin to its charm. There’s no reason a rugged SUV should accelerate, steer, and brake like a not-quite-current supercar. How wonderful then that there’s a place zany enough to dream up such lunacy. It’s called Detroit. You should visit sometime. Perhaps in the summer.

Can't quite swing the ask for a Grand Cherokee Trackhawk? Jeep offers several that are more affordable. 

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