Whatever kind of engine you want, the Jeep Wrangler offers it.
Jeep’s lucrative four-wheel-drive anachronism is available with a turbocharged four-cylinder, a naturally aspirated V-6 (with or without 48-volt hybrid assistance), a plug-in hybrid turbo-four, or a turbodiesel V-6.
And now, rounding out Jeep’s offer-all-the-engines policy, you can get a Wrangler stuffed with a gargantuan 470-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V-8. No, Jeep didn’t use the supercharged Hellcat engine. Nobody has enough life insurance for that.
The resulting mutant is the 2021 Wrangler Rubicon 392. It’s Jeep’s G63. A mud-bog Maserati. It’s “hold my beer” with an eye-level hood scoop. While everyone’s fawning over the 2021 Ford Bronco, Jeep is clearing its throat through quad tailpipes and asking for a moment of your attention. You’ve seen the Wrangler, folks, but never like this!
Well, not from a Jeep production line anyway. Aftermarket companies have been cramming V-8s in Wranglers for years.
Jeep itself used to offer V-8s in the Wrangler’s distant ancestor, the CJ. But production Wranglers never had more than six cylinders, its V-8-powered specials relegated to Moab Easter Safari teases and SEMA show trucks. It’s not like it’s difficult to fit a Hemi in a Wrangler, so why did Jeep wait more than 30 years to do it?
Two reasons. First, until now the brand never had an outside reason to go nuclear with underhood weaponry. You didn’t need a V-8 to compete with the Suzuki Samurai back in 1980s. And for about the past two decades, the Wrangler’s biggest competition has been Jet Skis and divorces. The new Bronco is about to change that.
The second reason pertains to the philosophical matter of fast Wranglers and whether such a thing violates the natural order of the world. A 6.4-liter Wrangler is a rocket-propelled basset hound, an unlimited hydroplane tugboat, a 360-degree rotating rooftop restaurant set to 88 rpm. Have you seen those new speed stilts? No, because there’s no such thing. And yet, Jeep makes this brute.
With 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, Jeep claims the Wrangler Rubicon can hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The fun doesn’t last much longer than that, though, as this is the rare sub-5.0-second-to-60-mph machine that can’t hit 100 mph.
Top speed is governed to 99 mph, so as not to abuse its Q-rated BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires. The 392’s full-time four-wheel-drive system doesn’t offer a two-wheel-drive mode, and that’s probably for the best since this rig can do four-wheel-drive burnouts if the pavement’s even slightly damp.
For launches that feel like they might involve a wheelstand, apply left-foot braking to cue up Torque Reserve, which is basically launch control for dummies. Similar to the Gladiator Mojave, the 392’s Off-Road Plus driving mode lets you lock the rear differential at high speeds, leading us to wonder what Jeep thinks people are going to try to do with this thing. Maybe the better question is: What won’t they try to do?
While there’s no 2Hi mode for the transfer case, there is low-range four-wheel drive, plus a new button on the dash that lets you choose between a loud exhaust and Monster Jam Freestyle-loud exhaust.
There are twists and turns going thisaway and thataway and a series of drains that prevent water from dripping down the 6.4’s gullet. Jeeps says the main drain within that setup can separate 15 gallons of water per minute from the intake air.
And should the hood scoop become clogged with the viscous tears of your enemies, there’s a secondary intake path that can flow enough air to allow the Wrangler to still hit its top speed. We’re not sure what confluence of life decisions would result in a clogged hood scoop and the need to drive 99 mph, but the Rubicon 392 is ready.