It’s a very strange feeling: here I am behind the wheel of a 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon SUV, and I just chirped the tires and blasted to 60 mph in less than five seconds. It is unnatural. And I love it.
- Power, power, power
- Drive on and above anything
- Guaranteed to arouse joy
I do not like
- Horrible management
- Poor fuel economy
- Quite expensive
It’s been 40 years since the 1981 Jeep CJ had a 5.0-liter V8 under the hood, producing only 125 horsepower. Times have certainly changed – the 2021 Wrangler Rubicon 392 uses a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 with 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. It makes heart pounding, head tossing, seat belt locking, and insane laugh-inducing fun. But there are still some problems with this otherwise electrifying package.
When I start the 392, the default is the high volume “Wake-the-neighbors” setting, so I know right away what that means business. In town, the V8 mumbles and rumbles, the eight-speed automatic gearbox working silently in the background. When I reach a long straight on a side road, I switch to the gear lever (in a jeep!) And floor it. The nose goes up, my head snaps back, and the full-time four-wheel drive system reduces power to the 33-inch BF Goodrich KO2 tires. After about 4.5 seconds, I’m at 60 mph. Goodness.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the V8 dirt monster we’ve always wanted
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Slowing down is a much more heartbreaking experience. The 392 has rotors and calipers the same size as a standard Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, and boy do I want something more capable of handling the power of this SUV – you have to stop much sooner than you think. This is a case where I would happily opt for larger wheels if that means mounting bigger brakes behind them.
I definitely want better steering too. Jeep Wranglers are pretty vague in their best days; add a ton of power and the 392 is downright weighty. This is a bit predictable given the architecture of the Wrangler – it’s a 5,000-pound box designed to go just about anywhere. The 392 is really fast in a straight line, but it’s no corner carver.
The Wrangler 392 has a 1-inch lift on a Rubicon and a 2-inch lift over the standard Jeep Wrangler, so its off-road geometry is slightly better. Curiously, the 392’s ground clearance is actually half an inch lower than that of the Rubicon – 10.3 inches versus 10.8. The 392 has front and rear locking differentials, a disconnect sway bar, and a two-speed transfer box. The 392 has the Jeep Selec-Trac transfer case with a low range of 2.72 and once the calculations are done with the final drive ratio of 3.73: 1 in the Dana 44 axles, a ratio is obtained impressive drag of 48: 1. A standard Rubicon has a ratio of 77.2: 1, but remember, this is just a representation of how much torque is multiplied across the axles before it hits the ground. Since I have 470 foot-pounds, the 392 can still crawl with the best of them.
However, if you expect Wrangler 392 to go bombing through the screams of the desert at 50 mph like it’s a, you can forget it. The Wrangler’s Fox shocks are tuned to handle higher speeds, but the 392 can only handle 15 mph to 20 mph in whoops before maximizing suspension travel. It is all too easy to overcome the capabilities of shocks. A long travel aftermarket kit with piggyback tanks would definitely be my first upgrade if I owned one.
As I approach some steep dunes, I press the Off-Road Plus button and gauge it for Sand, which adjusts the throttle, transmission, and traction control. I can also lock the rear differential in high four-wheel drive if necessary. The dunes all have screams at the bottom so I can’t take too much speed. But once they’re out of them, it’s hammered and the 392 easily climbs straight up. Here, I can use the forward facing camera to get a glimpse of what’s on the other side of the dune before launching into the next one.
And that’s the pleasure of the 392. The standard Rubicon often doesn’t have the power to accelerate dunes and other soft, rough hills unless the momentum is carried across the bottom of the terrain. With the 392 I can stroke the Wrangler until he is safe and still make it to the top like a boss. This is the Jeep I want in the dunes.
I feel like I could climb every mountain in 392, and I could probably wade every stream if I could find one here in the desert. The 392 has a makeup suction system that can eliminate 15 liters of water per minute. It is safe to wade through 32.5 inches of water, even if the water initially comes out of the hood. And if the hood vent gets blocked by mud or snow, there is a secondary path for air to enter the engine. I’ll have to wait for the monsoon season to try it out.
Visually there’s not much to distinguish the 392 from a standard Rubicon save for a few bronze accents, required badges, a thicker steering wheel, and some more aggressively braced seats. The Uconnect infotainment system itself is found inside, withis on an 8.4-inch color touchscreen. Uconnect is easy to use and a roadshow favorite. I love Jeep’s off-road pages with information on pitch and roll, power distribution, temperatures and GPS coordinates with altitude.
My tester also has with the Sky One-Touch power soft top patterned pants. It can be called one-touch, but the button must be held all the time for the top to retract and it takes 17 seconds to do so. It’s a nice upgrade, but the standard soft top is easy enough to use. Well, easy for a jeep. Lowering the top, opening the windows and doors is not exactly a quick process. Oh, and word to the wise, be sure to close the top if you leave the 392 for a period of time in the desert sun. Black leather seats can get quite hot.
As expected, all of this insane power will cost you. The 392 is the most expensive of all Wranglers, starting at the whopping price of $ 74,995 including $ 1,495 for the destination. That’s $ 31,025 more than a basic Rubicon. My tester with the updated soft top, trailer tow package, and forward-facing camera comes in at a staggering $ 78,545. Yowza.
It’s also worth mentioning that you can get a 392 crate engine from Mopar and all the necessary equipment for around $ 19,000 if you want to go the DIY route, but this isn’t an option for most of us and it doesn’t exist. any kind of factory warranty on the parts installed by you.
Hmm, I suppose I should mention fuel economy, not that anyone is buying a V8-powered something with efficiency in mind. The EPA estimates the 392 to 13 mpg city, 17 mpg freeway and 14 mpg combined; after a week of testing, I see 13.3. And you know what? I don’t even care. The 392 may be faulty, expensive, and thirsty, but it offers silly thrills you won’t find anywhere else.