The competition may be heating up in the form of the reborn Bronco, but Jeep isn’t ceding anything to those guys across town. Today, Jeep revealed the Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept, which brings to physical life the idea of a factory V-8–powered Wrangler.
Believe it or not, Jeep has never offered a Wrangler with a V-8 from the factory. Ever since the Wrangler was launched with the YJ generation as a 1987 model—the current generation is the JL—power-hungry enthusiasts have taken matters into their own hands, swapping all sorts of V-8s into their Wranglers. The last time Jeep’s famous utility vehicle was available with a factory installed V-8 was in the 1981 CJ line. That vehicle had a 304-cubic-inch pushrod V-8 that made 125 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque.
The Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept, on the other hand, is stuffed with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 rated for 450 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, and which sits on strengthened engine mounts. Power is routed through an upgraded eight-speed automatic transmission, stout third-generation Dana 44 axles featuring Tru-Lok electronically locking differentials, and 3.73 gears to temper the V-8’s thick and broad torque curve. Despite wearing 37-inch Falken Wildpeak MT01 tires, a sprint from zero to 60 mph is said to take less than five seconds.
To get that level of performance, the 392 Concept has a modified frame and uses a Selec-Trac two-speed, full-time four-wheel-drive transfer case. In addition to the obvious performance enhancement of the V-8, the Wrangler 392 take advantages of an SRT-inspired two-mode exhaust that alters the Hemi’s sound profile at the push of a button.
Jeep assures us none of the Trail Rated goodness buyers expect from the Wrangler lineup has been compromised. A Jeep Performance Parts 2.0-inch lift kit from Mopar brings aluminum monotube Fox shocks for improved damping performance and enhanced thermal management, while improving wheel travel and articulation. Custom 17-inch beadlock wheels allow drivers to run lower tire pressures to improve traction when off the beaten path. The 392 Concept is also fully protected from nature’s worst by Rubicon rock rails, steel bumpers (with a Warn winch), and a steel belly pan.
Thanks to the taller tires and ride height, the Wrangler 392’s approach (now 51.6 degrees), breakover (29.5 degrees), and departure angles (40.1 degrees), as well as ground clearance (13.3 inches), are all been improved appreciably over stock. Water fording also increases from 31 inches to 34 inches.
To ensure passersby are well aware of the V-8 underhood, the 392 Concept has a unique look that will undoubtedly turn heads even when the big Hemi isn’t rumbling. A special color scheme combines Granite Crystal Metallic exterior paint with bronze accents on the tow hooks, springs, shocks, wheels, and badging; inside, the cabin is done up in Red Rock leather upholstery with gold contrast stitching.
A bulging performance hood is fitted, as are Jeep’s Sky One-Touch power top and a set of long-anticipated half doors—sans the holes they had on the JL launch a few years ago. Notably, the rear glass and C-pillar of the power top has been removed, a setup we’ve been requesting since our first experience with the premium factory-available roof option. The 392 Concept is wrestled down a trail with the performance steering wheel seen in the Gladiator Mojave.
Whether the 392 Concept will make it production hasn’t been announced officially yet, but one sentence from Jeep’ s press release was awfully telling: “Jeep enthusiasts have been clamoring for a V-8–powered production Wrangler in recent years, and the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept is an indication they may soon get their wish.” So, yeah, it’s coming.
Stay tuned, then, for a first look at the production V-8 Wrangler later this year, and don’t be surprised if it has even more to offer than this conceptual first shot. Your turn, Bronco.
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