Jeep has had a very complicated relationship when it comes to giving its iconic Wrangler a V8 engine. While aftermarket companies have done it for years, Jeep resisted the urge of giving its Wrangler an injection of V8-powered fun. However, the emergence of the Ford Bronco has at long last finally forced Stellantis’s hand, and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the long-awaited fruit of this dream. But is it a case of you should never meet your heroes? Or is it the perfect definition of insanity?
A Familiar Wrapper Hides The Essentials
With all the magic happening under the hood, Jeep engineers kept the changes to the core Wrangler Rubicon design very minimal but also made some to enhance its performance-focused mission. The hood for example is lifted from a Gladiator Mojave and the hood scoop is functional and is designed to channel air to the 6.4 liter V8 lurking under the hood. If the scoop gets clogged with debris, a secondary intake also serves as an alternative source of air.
Our example also arrived with the $3,995 Xtreme Recon package which gave it 35-inch off-road tires mounted onto bronze 17-inch Beadlock wheels with an accompanying suspension lift to help give it more ground clearance. The Wrangler 392 is also only available as a four-door Unlimited model (sorry two-door fans) with this version’s extra length actually being needed to accommodate some of the fortified hardware that was needed to cope with the V8’s beefier performance. Subtly is not a Wrangler 392 strong suit and our tester attracted all kinds of attention from curious passersby, especially those that noticed the 392 badges on either side of the hood scoop.
Wrangler 392 Interior Needs Better Seats
With the Wrangler 392 being the equivalent of the Indoraptor from Jurassic Park Fallen Kingdom it should come as no surprise that the cabin is where some of the unstable elements of its genetic code begin to show. In true Jeep fashion, the cabin is still the functional masterpiece that you expect from a traditional Wrangler Rubicon and for better or for worse, it manages to leave an impact. Material quality is very good for a Wrangler and our tester arrived loaded with all kinds of goodies, including an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system, heated steering wheel, and other Wrangler must-haves.
Our tester also came with heated leather seats but while they do come adorned with Wrangler 392 logos on the backrests, the front seats lack the bolstering that would make you suggest you’re in a proper performance offering and we wished that there was better back support. The infotainment system also doesn’t get the SRT Performance page system (it gets the Off-Road pages suite instead) and that means not being able to alter the driving experience to suit your distinct needs. Also, the Wrangler’s active exhaust system is always set to its loudest setting by default, and you’ll need to flip it to quiet mode every time you start the Jeep for early morning treks through the neighborhood (unless your neighbors are cool with that sort of thing.)
The louder exhaust also highlights how much road and wind noise enters the cabin, but that’s always been because of the removable roof panels and doors so it’s best to give the Wrangler a pass here. We even invited my cousin’s daughter Sophia to come along for a weekend ride to Woodward Avenue. A future Jeep Wrangler owner in her own right, we put her in the backseat to find out how it fared from her perspective. Her grade, the seats were comfortable but wished for more places to charge mobile devices. That might happen with the next generation Wrangler as more buyers from Sophia’s generation and younger request better integration of their mobile technology and places to charge them even in purpose-built creations like the Wrangler.
V8 Is The Way To Go In Wrangler 392
Engineering challenges have always prevented the Jeep team from doing a factory V8 and for decades V6 and four-cylinder engines were always the norms. However, this V8-powered factory-backed monstrosity will certainly show buyers what they have been missing for all of these years. As mentioned, a 6.4 liter V8 lifted from the Charger and Challenger SRT is crammed under the hood and is good for 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to launch the Wrangler to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds but the fun doesn’t go much higher beyond that with Xtreme Recon versions like our tester being limited to a top speed of 112 mph. Jeep claims that it did that to preserve the integrity of the meaty BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires but that’s fine with us since this lovable mutant will be content impressing buyers with its stoplight sprinting skills.
While it may accelerate like a sports car, the similarities between them and this Wrangler end there with our tester coming nowhere close to matching them in terms of cornering and handling. Like other lifted Jeeps, you feel disconnected from the road, and the vague steering discourages any corner-carving antics and instead prefers you let this brute go through turns at its own comfortable pace. That includes on the trail and dirt roads, with some of the driving we did there revealing that it’s a billy goat when it comes to silencing ruts and uneven divots,
Fuel economy is a category the Wrangler 392 prefers to keep hidden away in a lonely shelf on the closet but for those that are curious, the EPA claims that this beast gets 13 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the freeway. Thankfully it has cylinder deactivation technology to make full use of its swill but we suspect that most Wrangler 392 buyers are not shopping it for its green factor anyway.
With the Wrangler 392 Rubicon being the equivalent of a mad-science experiment, pricing here reflects some of the upgrades needed to bring it to life with a base model starting at $76,635. Our Firecracker Eed example came with a modest list of options and that helped push the price over $80,000 before any other fees and potential markups are factored into the equation.
Its natural rival is the Ford Bronco Raptor which has a cheaper $69,995 entry fee but that dino-inspired model does not come with a V8 and it will not be available in dealer lots until later this year. Another potential rival is the Mercedes-AMG G63. While it’s much more expensive than the Wrangler 392, it roughly follows the same blueprint, take a giant V8, put it in a brick-shaped off-road capable SUV, and see what happens.
When it comes to being a vehicular expression of sheer insanity, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 manages to deliver a strong showing in that regard. It’s the answer to a question long posed by Jeep Wrangler fans and its V8-powered fury delivers plenty of grins both in straight-line acceleration and trail work. Jeep claims that this breed of Jeep will be a limited production run, but we’re confident that Jeep might change their tune if the Rubicon 392 proves to be a popular hit with buyers.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.