With the 450-horsepower Hemi V-8, Jeep’s muscular 392 concept offers a glimpse of the production V-8 Wrangler we’re expecting to launch next year.
Smoke hovers in the air. No tire smoke. That’ll come later. Half of California is on fire. The fire near Malibu is more than 50 miles away, but the shifting winds have turned grey to its coastal skies, turning the air thick and bitter. White ash spots, like the snowfall of hell, covered the jeep Wrangler 392 layers of dark Granite Crystal paint and custom Red Rock leather upholstery.
Wrangler’s Hemi exploded and quickly subsided, running without load like a 450-horsepower V-8 so: three… Three… Three. It exhales through the active exhaust system with a large syringe and four exhaust pipes hidden underneath the rear bumper. Pressing a button amplifies the volume of the V-8 and reduces its ton to a few octaves: BA… Three… Three.
The long teaser is over. For years, Jeep has been tantalizing us with nonsense about the V-8-engined Jeep Wrangler. Now it’s finally happening. Earlier this summer, ahead of the launch of the Ford Bronco, Wrangler’s first real rival in more than a decade, Jeep officially unveiled the model. First, the company unveiled the monster Concept 392 with a 6.4-liter Hemi engine, then launched production-ready prototypes so that spy photographers could capture it. They didn’t miss out.
It seems that the production version of this concept will be Rubicon Unlimited and carry the functional hood from the Gladiator Mojave pickup, much like the concept 392. We’d expect the same engine under that hood — Fiat Chrysler’s 392-inch iron-block Hemi, which now delivers 475 horsepower and 470-pound-feet of torque for the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT and Dodge Durango SRT 392, and 485 horsepower to Charger and Challenger variants.
The installation of the engine into the Wrangler required reinforcements to its chassis and engine rack. It is crammed in it with a width of about one finger between the accessory and the cooling fan. But much of the engine is located behind the front axle, and there is still room for batteries against the firewall. Overall, Jeep said it weighed about 200 pounds heavier than a wrangler with a standard 3.6-liter aluminum-block V-6, which cost about 4,800 pounds.
Jeep also equipped the concept with the Grand Cherokee SRT’s powerful eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, and it borrowed a two-speed Selec-Trac transmission from wrangler’s Sport and Sahara models with the same low transmission of 2.72:1. Rubicon’s standard half-time Rock-Trac transfer box has 4.0:1 gears and a new optional full-time four-wheel-drive system available for 2021. Powered with heavy ARB differential caps, the Rubicon’s Dana 44 shafts with front and rear differential electronic locks are still placed, as well as its disconnected front flip strut.
Since the 392 idea was originally devoted to this year’s Easter Jeep Safari, which was eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 epidemic, a two-inch lifter has been installed, as well as fox shocks from the Rubicon Gladiator. A Warn wintertime set has been added to the front bumper and nut lock wheel, which is expected to be produced in some form, comes with BFGoodrich 37 inch mud terrain tires, and provides an extra two inches of cruise height. Jeep said there are a total roaring 13.3 inches and 392 can wade 34 inches, 4 inches more than the Rubicon.
Jeep also said the concept 392 reached 60 miles per hour in less than 5 seconds, but we couldn’t launch it with any anger. Its transfer case is enabled. It only transmits power to the rear tires, and the big BFGs don’t cling very well. With an all-wheel-drive system in operation, a Grand Cherokee SRT can reach speeds of 60 miles per hour in over four seconds, so wrangler will probably be in that area. But anything more than half the throttle butterfly will put the traction control system into panic mode and turn it off only resulting in a smokescreen extending through the first and second gears. We spent quite a bit of time contributing to southern California’s current air quality problem.
Even when turning the throttle at 50 miles per hour, the traction control light will blink. Usually, such interference is the reason to complain, but in this case, there is a feeling that electronics are the only thing that keeps jeeps on the road every time we put the pedals to the floor. The V-8 gives the strongest feel over 3000 rpm and carries its power curve to the red line of 6400 rpm. Its rumbling is always there, wool through your hair with the hot winds of summer. Line calibration can still use some tweaks. Remaining in Drive, the eight-speed short number switches to the second number at about 5900 spins and responds slowly to shifting requests.
The glitch in the slide also lost hope of exploring some trails, so we spent time on two lanes through the Santa Monica Mountains, where Wrangler felt tall but astonishingly arranged. Its steering wheel is more sloppy than the stock, but its journey is relatively supple and there is little sign that the curb weight increases and the nose is heavier. It’s almost not as coming as you’d expect.
Jeep said customers had been asking for the V-8 Wrangler for some time. Probably since the CJ-7 lost the AMC 304 V-8 in 1981. Well, it’s time those electric Jeepers spent their money–at least $50,000 to get started if we have to guess. If our time in the Wrangler 392 concept is any indication of what we expect to come, they will not disappoint.