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  • We Tow an Airstream Basecamp With a 707-Horsepower Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

We Tow an Airstream Basecamp With a 707-Horsepower Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Is this the world’s fastest tow rig?

Sep 25, 2020
It's no secret that one of our favorite vehicles of all time is the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. And that love turned straight to lust in 2018 when Jeep dropped the insane 707-hp Trackhawk version of its five-passenger family hauler on us. Stuffed with the same supercharged 6.2L V-8 engine as the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats, the all-wheel-drive Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk will run from zero to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds, pass through the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds, and run to a top speed of 180 mph. Those are Jeep's estimates, anyway, as what we were more interested in testing during our recent week with the Trackhawk was the vehicle's 7,200-pound towing capacity. We're just weird like that, you know.
When you think of tow rigs, we're sure that the Grand Cherokee, and especially the Trackhawk, isn't one of the first vehicles that comes to mind. However, when Airstream came to us and asked if we would like to test out one of the company's newest travel trailers, the Basecamp 20, that little lightbulb clicked on in our head. So many people, ourselves included, have tested the Trackhawk on, well, the track. But not very many have done the unthinkable and hitched up a trailer to test the vehicle's impressive towing capacity.
Photo 2/29   |   007 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
So, plans were made, permission slips signed, and off we set to pick up the shiny new aluminum trailer with the most powerful factory Jeep ever built. Upon arriving to get the trailer we discovered the unit we were to be towing was actually the Basecamp 20X, the version of Airstream's Basecamp that sports a 3-inch lift and off-road tires. We thought we were getting the more street-oriented standard Basecamp 20, which would have better matched the Trackhawk. No worries, though—we hitched up and soldiered on.
While on the outside the Trackhawk puts on a great front as a high-performance corner-carving machine, and it certainly is every bit of that, it's also an incredibly competent tow vehicle. Aside from sheer horsepower, the Trackhawk employs several technologies that aid in trailering. First off, the Trackhawk needs to be equipped with Jeep's Trailer Tow Group IV that includes a fullsize spare tire (fitted with run-flat Pirelli P Zero tires, the Trackhawk doesn't normally come with a spare), four- and seven-pin trailer wiring plugs, and a class IV receiver. At just $995 the towing package is a really solid deal. However, we wish it included a trailer brake controller, as well, as without one you're still left heading to the aftermarket for a less-than-glamourous solution.
Photo 3/29   |   006 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
The largest improvement when it comes to towing prowess with the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is achieved by placing the vehicle into Tow mode. Along with Track, Sport, Auto, and Snow, Tow not only changes throttle sensitivity and transmission shifting, it also adjusts the vehicle's suspension damping and power distribution. Under normal driving conditions the Trackhawk's MP 3015C all-wheel-drive transfer case sends 40 percent of engine torque to the front and 60 percent to the rear. Snow mode splits the torque 50/50, while Track swaps to an aggressive 30/70. Interestingly, when in Tow mode the Trackhawk sends 60 percent of torque to the front wheels and 40 to the rear, the inverse of normal.
So, the real question: How did it tow. In short, amazingly well. The Airstream Basecamp 20X has a base weight of just 3,500 pounds and a max GVWR of 4,300 pounds, which we loaded it to. At this weight we certainly weren't taxing the Jeep any, but it was a decent test, nonetheless. Needless to say, acceleration was hardly affected. The Jeep pulled hard away from stop lights and merged easily in traffic. We tried our best to stay at the California trailer speed limit of 55 mph but often found ourselves running at speeds most of the country would consider normal for towing. Happily, there was no tail wag or sway to report, and the trailer stayed straight and true to the vehicle (despite being a single-axle unit). We did employ the use of a wireless Bluetooth trailer brake controller (which was already affixed to the trailer) during our towing adventure, but we're confident the Trackhawk's massive Brembo brakes (six-piston, 15.75-inch front and four-piston, 13.78-inch rear) would be up to the task without.
Photo 4/29   |   011 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
The EPA estimates that the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk will achieve 11 mpg in the city, 17 on the highway, and 13 combined. Over the course of 221 miles of towing we averaged 9.95 mpg. Despite being in the single digits, we were pretty impressed to not be too far off of the EPA combined estimate. Without a trailer in tow we managed to traverse 418 miles and averaged 13.22 mpg. The unloaded fuel economy impressed us, as well, as we got pretty used to listening to the supercharger whine and didn't expect to get anywhere near the EPA rating.
Unloaded, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is an impressive piece of hardware, as well. It's quicker and faster than any person can legally use on the road (it's amazing how many police you see on the road when driving something with 700 hp) and attracted more attention than any other vehicle we've tested recently. On more than one occasion we were flagged down on the freeway and yelled at by other drivers. "That's a Trackhawk! 700 horsepower?!? Love it!" Thumbs-up were plentiful, as well.
Photo 5/29   |   028 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Our test unit carried a base price of $86,900, which is a steal for the amount of vehicle you get. On top of that we added the Signature Leather package that added Laguna leather seating and leather-wrapped lower panels for $5,000. The High-Performance Audio package brought 19 speakers and an 825-watt amplifier for $2,100. The dual-pane panoramic sunroof and black painted roof added another $2,100 each. The red seatbelts added $95 to the price tag and were honestly our favorite option. All this brought the total cost to just over $101,000, which is still a bargain considering $250,000 supercars don't even pack this much firepower under the hood.
This was one of the most difficult vehicles for us to send back at the end of the week. It's superbly comfortable, incredibly fun to drive, attracts attention everywhere you go, and you can comfortably fit a family of five an all of their stuff. If we were forced to find something to complain about, it would be the fact that you can tell the platform is aging thanks to its incandescent interior lighting. A few touchups such as an interior lighting refresh would go a long way. However, we also know that a new Grand Cherokee is slated for the 2022 model year. Does that mean that 2021 will be the final year for the Trackhawk? We sure hope not. Dodge is releasing a Durango Hellcat for one year only, 2021, and the Durango shares a lot in common with the Grand. So, if you're in the market for one of these super Jeeps you had better get in line quick, just in case!
More About the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
First Drive: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
VIDEO: Jeep Officially Debuts 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Ahead of New York
SPIED: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk Underbody Images

2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Base price: $86,900
Price as tested: $101,460
Engine: Supercharged 6.2L Hemi V-8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 707 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 645 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Towing capacity: 7,200 pounds
EPA fuel economy rating: 11 city, 17 hwy, 13 comb
Actual calculated economy: 418.6-mile trip, 13.22 mpg (unloaded) / 221.7-mile trip, 9.95 mpg (towing)

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