by Brian Wong

Jeep’s most iconic vehicle adds yet another variant for 2021 with the introduction of the Wrangler Rubicon 392, which stuffs a V-8 under the hood of the off-roader because…well, why the hell not?

That’s at least part of the reason that Jeep shoved a V-8 into the Wrangler.  Jeep spokespeople said “our customers are doing it anyway.” Consider this my official request to someone out there who’s feeling creative to electrify a Wrangler, or solve those cooling issues and jam a Hellcat engine up there. Mostly because I want to see what happens in either direction.

The Rubicon 392 is much different in approach than the plug-in hybrid 4xe model that arrives next month, with its 4-cylinder engine and electric motor. The new most-powerful Wrangler goes all-in on performance over efficiency and utilizes the largest displacement V-8 that FCA has in the portfolio for a big spike in power. 

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

The 392 portion of the name refers to the cubic-inch measurement of the 6.4-liter V-8, which delivers a matching 470-horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. Power is routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission that has been tuned to provide maximum acceleration at launch. Speaking of launches, the Rubicon 392 sprints from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds and runs the quarter mile in 13.0 seconds. For some perspective, that 0-60 mph time is 40% faster than V-6 equipped Wrangler Rubicons. Jeep did not mention a launch control system on this vehicle like you’d find in a Ram 1500 TRX, but the transmission has a Torque Reserve calibration that is designed to help during brake torque launches. Jeep also confirmed an all-terrain tire-limited top speed of 99 mph. With a different tire it would certainly go much, much faster.

The hood, borrowed from the Gladiator Mojave, helps cool the big engine with its functional cold air scoop. A secondary air path is also built into the hood so the engine can continue running even if the hood scoop is blocked by mud or debris. This is further augmented by a grille design to allow great airflow—all of this makes me believe there really is no way to put a Hellcat engine in there without sacrificing some sort of off-road capability by further opening up the fascia or the hood.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

Power will flow to all four wheels, all the time via a Selec-Trac active transfer case with a 2.72 low-range gear ratio. Drivers will have four selectable  4WD modes: 4WD Auto, 4WD High, Neutral, and 4WD Low. An Off-road Plus drive mode also gives drivers the option 

Fuel economy ratings have not yet been revealed, but they certainly won’t be promising even if the engine has cylinder deactivation (premium fuel will be required). To make sure you and your neighbors hear the Rubicon 392 coming, Jeep outfits it with an active dual-mode exhaust that plays through quad exhaust pipes.

Jeep did not just stuff the V-8 under the hood of the Wrangler and call it a day. Numerous other upgrades will help buyers extract more than just added power from the Rubicon 392. They include beefed up engine mounts, frame rails, front upper control arms, and cast-iron steering knuckles to handle the additional weight and torque. Specially tuned Fox monotube shocks account for the different weight distribution, and Jeep thankfully upgrades the brakes as well.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

Off-road capability also gets a boost, the Rubicon 392 adds a 2-inch lift and features slightly improved approach (44.5 degrees) and departure (37.5 degrees), both are up 0.5 degrees better than the standard Rubicon, while the 22.6-degree breakover angle remains the same. Ground clearance actually falls slightly from 10.8 to 10.3 inches, but the water fording depth is very impressive at 32.5 inches—the highest ever in a Wrangler, thanks to an air intake system (running from the hood) that can divert water away from the engine intake at a rate of 15 gallons of water per minute. This being a Wrangler Rubicon, it has front and rear locking differentials, heavy-duty wide track Dana 44 axles, transmission torque converter lockup control, and a 3.73 final drive ratio.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

The Rubicon 392 will only be offered in Unlimited guise, so dreams of a two-door Wrangler absolutely blasting down a dragstrip are dashed. Bronze accents on the new beadlock capable 17-inch wheels, front and rear tow hooks, and badging make the Rubicon 392 stand out even if you can’t hear it coming. The seats have “Rubicon 392” stitched into them and get additional bolstering to account for the higher speeds. Jeep will also offer new half-doors for those who want to let in a little more air.

The Rubicon 392 will go on sale in the first quarter of 2021, which doesn’t offer much time for the last piece of the puzzle to be revealed: pricing. The 2021 Wrangler Rubicon with the diesel powertrain starts at $49,690 (including destination), and I would wager that the Rubicon 392 comes in with a significant premium over that vehicle. We’ll find out just how much closer to launch.