Have you ever driven a Jeep Wrangler at higher speeds and thought, “This is not sketchy enough”? Probably not. But some people do wish for that, and have been for decades, which is why swapping V8s in Wranglers has been popular for years. Jeep, though, weirdly, has never offered it. Well, after years of customers begging them, they finally did it, they put a Hemi in a Wrangler, and they called it the Wrangler Rubicon 392. Unlike names used on other high-performance models like TRX, Hellcat, Demon, or Trackhawk, 392 is kind of unassuming, but worry not, it is just as insane.
Under the hood of the Rubicon 392 is a naturally aspirated 6.4 L Hemi V8 that develops 470 hp and the same amount of torque, it is paired with a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission, which sends it from 0 to 97 km/h in 4.5 seconds, making the 392 Wrangler both the quickest and the most powerful Wrangler ever made. With a base price of over $110,000, it also is the most expensive, by far. Considering the second most expensive model in the Wrangler range is cheaper by around $43,000, this may appear very expensive for a quick Jeep, but let’s not forget the Bronco Raptor also has a base starting price of over $110,000, while offering 418 hp, which is 52 less than the Jeep.
Speaking of horsepower, it’s fast, so fast. The impressively quick throttle response combined with the torque and the sound makes you forget you’re driving a Wrangler, I was not expecting that. You see the numbers online and you think “yeah ok, sure” but then you press on the accelerator and you start laughing because of how ridiculous it is. The sound of the exhaust is addictive, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and hearing. I was looking at a Jeep, but I was hearing something completely different. It is loud, throaty, and obnoxious, which is terrific as far as I’m concerned. Thankfully, you can make it a lot quieter by simply pushing a button that will close the valves in the exhaust and make it surprisingly civilized. I wouldn’t suggest you do, though, since it’s pretty much the only sign you’re driving the expensive version.
Don’t get me wrong, the Rubicon 392 looks very cool, but for most people, it’s just another lifted Wrangler with big tires, which is unfortunate considering the price. I would have loved for it to have more exterior changes to make it look really unique and easily distinguishable from a normal Wrangler. That’s one area where I think the Bronco Raptor is scoring more points, its over-the-top styling makes it impossible to confuse with a lesser Bronco. I encountered one not too long ago, and I could tell from far it was a Raptor, I’m not sure I could do the same with the Jeep.
So, besides the engine, what makes the 392 a 392? I believe it’s the only Wrangler with a full-time 4WD system, no burnouts in the 392. Outside, one of the most obvious changes is the hood, it features a functional vent that separates air and water, Jeep calls it the “Hydro-Guide Air Induction System”, and it allows you to drive in wet conditions without risking getting water in the intake—it also looks pretty cool. Thankfully, upgraded brakes are standard, as well as a strengthened frame. You also get beefed-up suspension with FOX shocks that raises it by two inches. When it comes to the wheels and tires, you have two options; the standard package consists of 33-inch all-terrain tires wrapped around 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels. Also offered is the Xtreme Recon Package, which features 35-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires and an extra inch and a half lift, on top of the two inches. The Jeep I tested was equipped with the 35s and they worked wonderfully off-road, which is where the 392 really shines in my opinion. Unfortunately, I doubt many people will actually risk damaging their $110k vehicle in the woods and so, the rare units that will be sold are most likely going to be driven downtown, which is where I’ve seen the only four other 392s I’ve encountered, and on the highway, which is where it gets sketchy.
The Rubicon 392, at the end of the day, is a Wrangler with a big V8 and big tires, and that’s exactly how it drives. I was expecting it to be pretty bad and I was not disappointed, it’s good enough going around town, besides the terrible gas consumption, but it gets scary on the highway. Any sudden changes of direction or slowdowns and it quickly gets wiggly, it really took me by surprise at first and I will advise you to keep both hands on the wheel. I’m very happy they don’t offer this as a 2-door. If you’re planning on using it as a daily driver, I wouldn’t go for the Xtreme Recon Package.
A Wrangler with extra power is not all bad, though! You get all of the legendary off-road capabilities of a Wrangler, plus enough power and torque to go pretty much anywhere. I didn’t have a chance to take it on some actual trails, but I did go mudding with it, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had in a vehicle, which says a lot about this thing. You get power, sound, cool looks, and legendary capability, sure it’s not very stable, but compromises are expected when you buy what is literally a toy.
Inside the Wrangler Rubicon 392, it mostly feels like a normal Jeep. It has seats with extra bolstering and embroidered 392 logos, bronze stitching throughout, and that’s pretty much it. As per the exterior, for the price, there should be more going on. The 392’s clientele is looking for something crazy and it simply doesn’t feel that way looking inside. Just like the Gladiator I had the chance to review last year, the interior is mainly not focused on luxury, but rather on durability. It was made to get dirty and easy to clean, and like every Wrangler and Gladiator, it features drain holes in the floor for added convenience. The 392 also features the same infotainment screen as the Gladiator I’ve reviewed, which is a good thing because I truly liked it back then. It’s an 8.4-inch touchscreen display with the latest version of Uconnect, it also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. I’ve used Uconnect in the past and it is a responsive, easy-to-operate system that I have no problem recommending.
In conclusion, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 may not look like much, but it provided me with the most fun I’ve ever had driving something. It combines the acceleration of a sports car with the well-known off-road capabilities of the Wrangler, which can only be a recipe for greatness. Ultimately, the Rubicon 392 is an adult-sized toy, a vehicle that makes absolutely no sense, and that’s why I love it. It didn’t bring me any confidence on the road and I would have liked to see more features exclusive to the 392 to make it truly distinctive, but I still enjoyed driving it around town, disturbing the peace with the loud exhaust. If you’re into Wranglers, this is the ultimate one, and if this is what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed—maybe a bit sad when it will be time to pay for it. Now I can’t help but wonder, where is the Gladiator 392, and when can I drive it?
Vehicle provided by Jeep Canada
Photography by Olivier Lessard