Mankind really doesn’t need these on any level but having something ridiculous parked in the driveway really, really, really bolsters a bloke’s manhood. Why settle for an asthmatic four-cylinder tiddler when you can have a thumping big and loud Vee-Eight and all 6.4L worth of it?
Last week Jeep confirmed the Wrangler 392 for USA production in 2021 after its concept release back in July (and no coincidence when Ford first started talking up its new Bronco), a rapid decision designed to stem any drift of the Jeep faithful to the Blue-Oval challenger and it’s all about the engine. It’s the first V8 in a Wrangler since 1980… what took them so long?
The numbers are impressive; 350kW of grunt and 637Nm of earth-twisting torques propel the Wrangler Rubicon 392 to a stellar 4.5-second sprint to 100km/h. That’s quick by any reckoning for a shape resembling a block of flats and utterly useless in the real-world of four-wheel-driving because quick is something you don’t do when you’re climbing a steep hill.
What this motor does do though is to provide most of that thrust from a low engine speed and that is desirable. Just off idle at 1,200rpm the 392 is sending 80% of its go and peaks at 4,000rpm and that makes it extremely useful off-road and very good for towing.
It is a Hemi engine and the 392 refers to cubic inches of engine displacement. Now, I’m a big fan of Chrysler Australia’s Hemis of the 1970s, the six-cylinder 265, when fitted with a trio of Weber carburettors in the race-inspired Charger E38s and E49s, were the fastest accelerating cars in the world in their day and the sound from under those bonnets and out of their exhaust pipes was divine. Fifty years later the soundtrack of the 392 will be a legend in its own V8-way (because it’s got a loud button) and efficiency enhanced with the hemispherical combustion chamber (hence the name), used because you can get the fuel/gasses in and out quicker.
I’m not going to bother with fuel efficiency because there’s likely none when its going full-bore, but Jeep have added cylinder deactivation to try keep a lid on its drinking habit when it’s cruising, shutting down four of the eight pots when not needed. Let’s face it, if you are troubled by how far that 81L tank is going to take you and the dollar-cost to fill every other day, this won’t be the vehicle for you. For short excursions though to your favourite beach and dunes or swanning along the local esplanade and using the active-dual-mode, quad-exhaust tips to blow the froth off a hundred lattes, the 392 will be in its element.
You won’t need to do much to it to enhance its off-road capability because we already know that Wrangler Rubicon is the most-capable 4WD in the world straight off the showroom floor.
The chassis has been beefed up with sturdier rails and no doubt to cope with the additional torsional stresses being applied to a structure whose height has been increased by an extra two inches over the standard Wrangler Sport which is already tallish. If you intend taking Granny out for the day, she’s going to need a ladder to get up into the cab, the 17-inch wheels once shod with their BF Goodrich muddies roll out to a 33-inch diameter and combined that’ll mean approach/ramp-over/departure angles are all on the improve (44°/22°/37°).
Fording depth is quoted at 825mm and if you’re shaking your head looking at that great big bonnet scoop and thinking that isn’t going to work, Jeep is employing what they call Hydro-Guide, a tri-level air intake chamber that funnels the bad stuff away from those cavernous cylinders. No snorkel apparently required because Hydro-Guide will direct an astonishing 60L of water per minute away from that precious engine’s internals.
The suspension is typical Rubicon and high-end from the get-go with Fox shocks and long-travel coil springs on live-axles (as they should be) and front sway-bar disconnect for maximum flex.
The transmission is an eight-speed Torqueflite auto with paddle shifts and retains a commendable low-range reduction of 2.72:1 and offers the Aussie-spec Selec-Trac constant 4WD system (the USA spec Rubicons usually use a part-time 4WD system). Add Dana 44 axles with front and rear diff-locks and keep doing the maths with a 3.73:1 gear speed and you end up with 48:1 crawl ratio. Whilst Wrangler Rubicon can climb up walls when asked thanks to a deeper 77:1 crawl, the 392-spec will just have to make do with more grunt!
Off-Road Plus offers two settings for sand and rock and at the push of a button the 392’s tractive credentials are tweaked to adjust the gearshift moments and traction control brake inputs to deliver the best mobility in challenging conditions. Hell, it’ll even allow you to lock the rear differential if you really want to impress that bikini-chick on the beach with a whopping rooster-tail of sand and dump it on her boyfriend!
Customisation is King too, and Mopar Bill has been beavering away at a range of 392 accessories to dress up (or down) your special Wrangler. I particularly love the 392s option half-doors, so much more practical than the nerf bars setup I saw in NZ on the Gladiator launch that offered zero protection from the elements.
Because this is a premium truck, Wrangler Rubicon 392 will have all the mod-cons including the latest edition of UConnect, Jeep’s infotainment system and complete with the Off-Road Pages to keep check on your pitch and roll angles, drivetrain info and GPS location and not forgetting an interior sewn with the hides of a dozen Wagyu steers with unique 392 stitching.
Of course, for Australian readers, all of this is for nought if it’s only ever going to be made in LHD. Never say never, because whilst I was bitterly disappointed at the loss of a diesel in the Wrangler and Gladiator ranges, FCA boss here in Australia, Kevin Flynn, did tell me that he was surprised at the strength of sales of Jeep’s Trackhawk Grand Cherokee.
Now that truck has a supercharged V8 and claims to be the most powerful production SUV ever (and you can read what we thought about that here), so if a business case can be made for that beastie, surely it’s not that much of a stretch to plonk the 392 in RHD guise as a halo car for Wrangler devotees elsewhere in the world?
Decisions decisions. With a choice of a mental V8 or a greener-than-grass 4XE EV version and both slated for 2021, you can opt to be either a pariah or a Saint.