Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Hemi V-8 Concept First Drive Review: It’s Bad-Ass!

For Jeep fans, it was Christmas in July. Seeking to spoil the big reveal of the Ford Bronco a few months ago, Jeep ditched the Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept stuffed with a factory-built 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 around the same time. The Jeep folks say he “always takes feedback” on the concept, and after driving the beast, our comments are: stop talking and start building.

It’s not like we don’t all know a V-8 Wrangler would be great. Companies like AEV have traded Mopar V-8s for Jeep Wranglers for decades, and other aftermarket companies and enterprising shade tree mechanics are doing it even longer. Hell, even Jeep did it over 40 years ago, putting a 304 cubic inch (5.0 liter) AMC V-8 in the pre-Wrangler CJ-7 for five years. Jeep’s refusal to do it again has been blamed on all kinds of reasons, but “can’t” was never one. This company can put a V-8 in anything, and we knew the Hemi would fit under the hood of a final JL-series Wrangler.

If you’ve been lucky enough to own or at least drive a V-8 Wrangler, you know the rig can handle muscle. We drove AEV’s JK350 with a 6.4-liter V-8 a few years ago and even paired with the previous-gen Wrangler’s five-speed automatic transmission, it was exactly what the doctor ordered. . It has all the power you need to climb hills, highway passes, and over obstacles without having to turn off the engine. He growls and leaves.

Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept packs a Big Ol ‘Hemi V-8

The Wrangler 392 concept is also like that. Even with the new, infinitely better, bolt-on eight-speed automatic transmission, the 392 doesn’t jump the line like a Hellcat. Instead, it starts with a swerve similar to that of a diesel Wrangler. That’s not much of a surprise, given that Concept 392’s detuned 6.4-liter V8 produces 450 lb-ft of torque, eight more than the turbocharged 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6. More than that, Jeep fitted the diesel 3.73: 1 rear axle on the 392 instead of the petrol Wrangler Rubicon’s 4.10: 1 rear axle, as the extra low-end torque means you don’t need to. ‘a short rear end to start. . The less aggressive gearing makes city driving easier and less nervous on the trail.

450-hp Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept hits 100 km / h in under 5 seconds

What the diesel Wrangler doesn’t have, however, is 450 horsepower. It has 260, and while the eight-speed transmission does its best to ride the torque of the diesel, the power drives the speed and the diesel Wrangler takes 7.5 seconds to hit 100 km / h. The V-8 has all the power you need and it doesn’t drop off at high revs, meaning the Hemi platform at 392 will hit 60 mph in under five seconds. It is, scientifically speaking, completely crazy. After that diesel-like swerve, the power of the Hemi begins to gain the upper hand and the Wrangler V-8 really begins to tear apart. There’s a brief moment right after coming off the line where you expect the power to release, but instead the 392 pulls back and you take off. Even with big, heavy 37-inch tires fitted, this thing is choppy and you won’t be long wondering if the Wranglers really should be that fast. Then you bury that non-American thought with the accelerator.

How does the Wrangler Rubicon 392 work? Not bad for a concept

Part of what fuels your brief thoughts on self-preservation is that the Rubicon 392 is not only on taller tires, but also fitted with a 2.0-inch lift from the Jeep Parts Catalog. . The kit includes higher springs, Fox shocks, and new swingarms to maintain the Jeep’s suspension geometry, allowing the Wrangler to behave as it would from the factory. But nothing hides the fact that you’ve gained almost 2.5 inches of ground clearance and probably increased your center of gravity almost as much. Large vehicles just don’t behave as well, and things like that get exciting when you drive them fast – and that thing is. quick. So fast, in fact, that above 40 mph the stability control kicks in and limits power if you step on the wheel with the steering wheel turned even slightly off-center. Hey, it’s still a concept.

It’s also noisy. Dual-mode exhausts are common in sports cars and high-performance SUVs, but less common in factory off-road vehicles. Honestly, the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and 3.6-liter V6 currently offered in the Wrangler wouldn’t benefit from more powerful exhaust systems. A Hemi-powered Jeep, however, most certainly does. For the Rubicon 392 Concept, Jeep wired the cutoff valve to one of the auxiliary buttons on the dashboard, and it’s the first button you need to press when entering. If you want to turn your Wrangler into a convertible four-wheel drive muscle car, it should also look like a car to better fulfill the fantasy below.

Imagine this: a slow car that was hogging the left lane finally pulled away. You put it down, the exhaust opens, and the rolling roadblock watches a screaming Wrangler go by, the headlights pointed skyward, the engine screaming like a Challenger, the driver hanging on the wheel for a dear life. May we all live this dream.

But before we can, Jeep still has a bit of work to do. After a brief 15 minute drive and a single burnout, the floorboards and drive tunnel started to heat up due to the dual exhaust system hidden below. The steering, probably due mostly to lift and 37s, is heavy, sticky, and doesn’t like to stay in the center (this last common Wrangler issue is compounded here). There’s this stability control issue – in all fairness, it probably hasn’t been reprogrammed for this engine yet – too. But these are all issues that can be solved for production.

While we can tell you it kills some great burnouts, we can’t tell you how it happens off-road. Being a handcrafted prototype, Jeep isn’t ready to let us beat it in the dirt just yet. (Or on the curb, really, because that burnout wasn’t really sanctioned, if we’re being honest.) After driving the AEV V-8 Wrangler and the factory-built Wrangler EcoDiesel, we’re not concerned. The low-end torque is ideal for off-road driving, as it lets you get over obstacles with little throttle. It doesn’t matter how torque is created, but you can bet the V-8 will sound better than any production Wrangler.

Should Jeep build the Rubicon 392? Can you say “No Brainer”?

The only real question here is whether Jeep will pull the trigger on this thing. The business case is obvious. V-8 conversion kits for modern Wranglers start at just under $ 6,000 uninstalled and grow from there, so even if that adds a few bucks to the MSRP, customers will be lined up along the block. The biggest problems Jeep will face come in the form of the EPA’s Average Fuel Consumption (CAFE) regulations from the EPA, which penalizes automakers for building too much company-type gasoline. Mother Stellantis, formerly FCA, has a lot of grace for her addiction to the big, giant and glorious V-8s. (During my ride, the 392 Hemi Wrangler itself reported an average fuel economy of 9.4 mpg.) There’s also the question of how the physically larger V-8 engine will affect crash testing.

But then again, Jeep will sell so much of this stuff that it can afford to pay for the technical fixes and whatever the CAFE fines are. The V-8 Wrangler is awesome and Jeep should build it yesterday.

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