After being presented in concept form back in July, the Wrangler V8 is now a production reality. Or at least it will be in early 2021 when the ‘Wrangler Rubicon 392’ goes on sale in North America.
Jeep confirmed the Rubicon 392 in November, with the impending release marking 40 years since a Wrangler was last offered with a V8 engine.
Available in four-door Unlimited form only, the Rubicon 392 offers more than just a potent V8 engine, with upgrades to the transmission, chassis and suspension, too.
“This is the most-powerful, quickest, most-capable Jeep Wrangler we’ve ever built,” says Jim Morrison, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA North America. “The factory lift and abundant low-end torque from the V8 makes the Rubicon 392 the king of the hills, whether you’re rock crawling at low speeds or powering up an incline. And when pavement replaces dirt, Rubicon 392 makes quick work of the road.”
Back when a Wrangler was last offered with a V8, it was a 5.0-litre unit, strangled by anti-pollution gear, producing just 93.2kW (125hp) and 298Nm (220lb/ft) of torque.
Thankfully, the new V8 is much more potent. Maximum numbers from the 6.4-litre (392ci) naturally-aspirated Hemi engine are 350kW (450hp) and 637Nm (450lb/ft) - even more than the 450hp and 450lb/ft of the concept.
According to Jeep, the engine has been tuned specifically for this vehicle and delivers almost 75 per cent of available torque above idle speed, so there’s grunt when you need it, whether it’s negotiating steep gradients or making fast getaways from traffic lights. A 0-100km/h time in the 4.5-second range is claimed, along with a quarter mile sprint time of 13 seconds.
An active dual-mode exhaust is standard and can operate automatically or be driver activated to deliver a more aggressive exhaust note.
The engine isn’t all about performance, though. Cylinder deactivation tech keeps it relatively economical, although the actual fuel economy numbers have not been revealed.
To feed fresh air to the active intake manifold, the Wrangler Rubicon 392 features a functional bonnet scoop and a clever feature of this is the Hydro-Guide intake. A three-level ducting system includes a one-way drain that separates air from water, so even if water crests the bonnet when crossing a river, the engine won’t be swamped. Hydro-Guide also works to keep delivering air to the intake when the scoop is clogged with mud, snow or debris.
The V8 is paired exclusively with a Torqueflite eight-speed automatic transmission that features on-the-fly shift-mapping, adjusting the shift pattern to suit the driving conditions. Jeep says that the steps between the auto’s ratios are smaller, so power delivery is smoother, whether rock crawling or highway cruising.
For drivers who want more control over the shifting, this can be done by the centre console Electronic Range Select shifter, or via paddle shifters, which have been fitted to a Wrangler for the first time.
The transmission also features ‘Torque Reserve’ and ‘Amax shifting,’ which is a form of launch control for “maximum acceleration for solid pavement launches”. Previously available on the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, these are also Wrangler firsts.
Full-time 4WD and Off-road Ability
Ensuring Wrangler off-road ability is maintained, the Rubicon 392 uses Jeep’s Selec-Trac full-time four-wheel drive system, with an active transfer case and 2.72:1 low-range ratio. The transfer case has four driver-selectable modes: 4WD Auto/4WD High/Neutral/4WD Low.
This full-time two-speed transfer case is described as intuitive, allowing the driver to ‘set and forget’ in Auto mode, while also allowing the Wrangler Rubicon 392 to be flat-towed.
The Off-road Plus drive mode comes with Sand and Rock settings that adjust traction control, throttle response and transmission shift points to suit, with the ability to lock the rear diff in 4H.
For low-speed rock crawling, Selec-Speed Control manages forward motion without throttle or brake input. Engaged via a dash button, this form of low-speed cruise control operates in 4L, with speed able to be increased or decreased with the Electronic Range Select shifter.
Engine braking from the 6.4 V8 allows low-speed descents, aided by a revised transmission torque converter lockup control and 48:1 crawl ratio.
To ensure the Wrangler Rubicon 392 can handle whatever the trail throws at it - and more specifically the extra weight of the iron block engine – the chassis rails have been strengthened, with the steering knuckles and front upper control arms upgraded.
The Wrangler five-link front and rear suspension has been tweaked, too, with specially-tuned, high-performance Fox aluminium monotube shocks added, along with a 2-inch lift, to improve articulation and “maximize handling and comfort”.
Heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles with thicker axle tubes, Tru-Lok electronic locking differentials and an electronic front sway-bar disconnect function are also fitted. Beadlock-capable 17x7.5-inch wheels are standard, fitted with 33-inch tyres, while the braking package is made up of heavy-duty 380mm discs.
Combined, these features ensure the Wrangler Rubicon 392 is just as capable as it is fast, with approach/breakover/departure angles of 44.5/22.6/37.5 degrees, 261mm of ground clearance and the ability to ford up to 825mm.
Following the style template set by the concept from earlier this year, the production Wrangler Rubicon 392 retains bronze detailing touches, from the tow hooks to the badging, wheels and even the springs and shocks.
The bonnet is taken from the Gladiator Mojave and features identifying ‘392’ badging either side of the integral scoop, while less obvious changes include a new grille pattern, designed to improve airflow to the Hemi V8.
Inside, the bronze effect is continued with contrasting stitching on the black leather sport seats, which feature Rubicon 392 identification on the front headrests.
A leather-wrapped performance steering wheel is another Wrangler first, while the instrument display has been altered.
The Uconnect system carries over from the existing Wrangler range and features an 8.4-inch screen. Along with the usual vehicle and infotainment functions, Uconnect also runs the Jeep Off-road Pages that displays vehicle pitch, roll, altitude, drivetrain power distribution and even GPS co-ordinates.
The body-coloured wheelarch flares and removable hardtop are Rubicon standard features that carry across to the 392 version, while other standard features that are optional on other Wranglers include LED lighting, remote entry, steel bumpers and various infotainment, cold weather and advanced safety packages.
A range of Mopar and Jeep Performance Parts to suit the upcoming model are already available, including winches, soft tops, auxiliary lighting and a new half-door design for open-air driving.
While pricing has yet to be revealed by Jeep, US reports are indicating the Wrangler Rubicon 392 will be a hefty US$70,000+ when it goes on sale next year – possibly even US$80,000 depending on options That makes it easily the most expensive Wrangler – well above even the US$49,995 list price for the current Wrangler Rubicon V6 with the High Altitude trim package.
Despite the V8-powered Grand Cherokee being offered in RHD, there appears to be no intention from Jeep to do the same with the Wrangler Rubicon 392 at this stage.
Locally, the Wrangler is available with the long-running 3.6-litre Pentastar petrol V6 and newer 2.2-litre Multijet turbodiesel four-cylinder, but should Jeep choose to offer the V8 version in Australia, it would certainly find buyers.