What Bronco? Jeep Wrangler Previews Factory V-8 Engine on Eve of Ford Launch

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The hardcore factory 4×4 competition may be heating up, but Jeep isn’t ceding anything to those other guys across town. Today, Jeep revealed the Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept, serving up its idea of what a factory V-8-powered Jeep Wrangler could look like. This bombshell landed just hours before Ford is set to pull the sheets off its new Bronco.

A Factory V-8 Wrangler? That’s a First

Believe it or not, Jeep has never offered a Wrangler with a V-8 from the factory. Ever since the Wrangler launched as a 1987 model (the codenamed YJ generation), power-hungry enthusiasts and aftermarket outfits such as AEV have taken matters into their own hands, swapping all sorts of V-8s into their off-roaders. The last time Jeep’s famous utility vehicle, the pre-Wrangler CJ, was available with a factory-installed V-8 was in 1981. That vehicle had a 304-cubic-inch pushrod V-8 that made 125 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque. How time flies.

The thoroughly modern Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept, on the other hand, is stuffed with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 rated at 450 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. Jeep has bolted the Hemi to strengthened engine mounts and hitches up an eight-speed automatic transmission to route engine torque to stout third-generation Dana 44 axles with Tru-Lok electronically locking differentials and 3.73 gears. That last bit, the gearing, is intended to temper the V-8’s thick and broad torque curve. Despite wearing huge 37-inch Falken Wildpeak MT01 tires, the Rubicon 392 is said to sprint from zero to 60 mph in fewer than five seconds.

To cope with that level of performance, the 392 Concept’s frame has been modified and uses a Selec-Trac two-speed, full-time four-wheel-drive transfer case (which spreads more widely throughout the Wrangler lineup for 2021). In addition to the obvious performance enhancement of the V-8, would-be Wrangler 392 owners can take advantage of an SRT-inspired dual-mode exhaust, which can alter the Hemi’s sound profile at the push of a button.

Jeep assures us that none of the Trail Rated goodness you have come to expect from the Wrangler lineup has been compromised. The concept’s Mopar-sourced Jeep Performance Parts 2.0-inch lift kit includes Fox aluminum monotube shocks for improved damping performance and enhanced thermal management over quick-cycling bumps and jumps; the extra height also improves wheel travel and axle articulation in the real rough stuff. Custom 17-inch beadlock wheels that grip the tires’ sidewalls allow for lower tire pressures (and improved traction), and there is a full complement of Rubicon rock rails, steel bumpers, a belly pan, and a Warn winch for protecting the 392 Concept and saving its bacon off-road. Thanks to the taller tires and ride height, approach (51.6 degrees), breakover (29.5 degrees), departure angles (40.1 degrees), as well as ground clearance (13.25-inches) have all been improved appreciably over the stock Wrangler. Water fording also increases from 31 inches to 34 inches.

To ensure every bit of that V-8 goodness underhood doesn’t go unnoticed, the 392 Concept has a unique look that will undoubtedly turn heads, even when that big V-8 isn’t rumbling. The special color scheme takes a Granite Crystal Metallic exterior with bronze-colored accents on the tow hooks, springs, shocks, wheels, and badging and mixes it with an interior done up in Red Rock leather seats and gold contrast stitching.

The raised performance hood partners with Jeep’s Sky One-Touch power top and the long-anticipated half doors (sans the holes we originally saw them sporting at the JL launch) and looks pretty damn awesome doing it. Notably, the rear glass of the power top has been removed, a feature we’ve been requesting since our first experience with the premium top. Drivers will be able to wrestle those 392 Concept’s impulsive side machinations with a performance steering wheel, donated by the Gladiator Mojave.

Did Jeep Just Pop Ford’s Balloon?

So, is this real? Should Ford be worried? The 392 Concept’s production prospects haven’t been officially announced—yet—but one sentence from Jeep’ s press release is awfully telling: “Jeep enthusiasts have been clamoring for a V-8 powered production Wrangler in recent years, and the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept is an indication they may soon get their wish.”

We take that to mean stay tuned for a first look at the production V-8-powered Jeep Wrangler later this year, and don’t be surprised if it has even more to offer than what is being teased here. In the meantime, enjoy the Ford Bronco‘s splashy debut. Wonder if that truck will have a V-8—you know Jeep will press the question . . .

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