The Allure of Ultimate (Horse)Power
Over 50 years ago, Chrysler left two parallel tire marks in the performance world by stuffing elephant-sized truck engines into stripped-down hardtop sedans and launching down the quarter-mile. Since then, the formula has not changed as Stellantis (formally known as FCA) keeps giving car buyers vessels that encapsulate the intoxicating allure of raw power. The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the latest vehicle to receive a Hemi makeover, and die-hard enthusiasts have been waiting years for this moment.
Finally, you can buy a Hemi-powered Jeep Wrangler straight from the dealer without involving an aftermarket speed shop. Where there is a will and a checkbook, there is a way, so seeing a Jeep burn fuel with a supercharged V8 is nothing new. What makes the Rubicon 392 special is a 470-hp rating with a dealer warranty. The new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is a factory hot rod truck in the same niche class as the Ram 1500 TRX, Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. While not flexing a supercharged spec Hemi like its larger siblings, the Rubicon 392 guarantees fun in all-terrain.
The new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is a factory hot rod truck in the same niche class as the Ram 1500 TRX, Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.
It’s easy to dismiss this vehicle as a “rich kid toy” under the logic that nobody needs a Wrangler this loud and fast. Granted, it does look like the sort of vehicle a star quarterback would drive to school during homecoming week. The “witness me” quad-tailpipe exhaust note, leather interior, functional hood scoop, and $75K starting price does make you think “daddy’s money”, but when you ignore the price tag and what other people think, you’re left with a Jeep Wrangler that wants to behave like a Baja truck. During October, I had the opportunity to test the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 on the street and off-road at two different events.
On The Street With A 470-HP Jeep
The 2021 Texas Truck Rodeo hosted by the Texas Auto Writers Association provided the opportunity to test the Rubicon 392 on public roads. The terrain was two-lane, twisty, Texas hill country highways loaded with passing traffic, construction zones, and horse trailer convoys. Starting up, the Rubicon 392 tickles the muscles in your face into a smile as the 6.4-liter Hemi bellows into life through its quad-tip dual exhaust system. Jeep rates the engine’s performance numbers as 470-horsepower and 470 lb.-ft of torque, which is neat if you’re the type who enjoys seeing even numbers at gas stations pumps – something you’ll see a lot with this V8 4×4.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 comes standard with 33-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires wrapped around 17-inch bronze-colored Beadlock-capable wheels. This tire and wheel combo is excellent for shooting dirt, sand, and mud in huge rooster tails. But, on the street, I had to make constant steering adjustments like an actor in a 1970s road movie. But, if you already drive a vehicle with chunky mudding tires on the road, this will feel normal.
Pushing the gas pedal down to the floor triggers the Hemi into a berserk mode with a Viking roar. Take hold of the wheel and do not drive it like a regular car. All the power in the world doesn’t change that it is still a tall, boxy SUV with wide off-road tires. The sensation of the Rubicon 392 accelerating under full throttle feels like it wants to tackle the pavement while gravity tries to hold it back like the beginnings of a bar brawl. The Jeep Wrangler’s handling characteristics have always made me think of a trusty pack mule capable of traversing wild terrain. A Hemi engine is the carrot on the stick, ensuring the mule will never stop.
Even though the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 can accelerate from zero to 60 in under five seconds and clear a quarter-mile in 13-seconds, it is electronically limited to a top speed of 99 mph.
However, don’t expect to win any long-distance sprints with this fast Jeep either. Even though the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 can accelerate from zero to 60 in under five seconds and clear a quarter-mile in 13-seconds, it is electronically limited to a top speed of 99 mph. The fact that the speedometer needle will never get to touch triple digits is disappointing but understandable. Regardless of the parental blocker top speed, getting to 99 mph feels like a Hollywood action scene with a killer soundtrack. My biggest nitpick with this Hemi Jeep is not having a 2Hi mode for its transfer case.
Off-Roading The Hemi Rubicon 392
Mud testing was done at General Sam’s Off-Road Park as part of the Texas Off-Road Invitational hosted by Texas Motor Press. This park provides guests with over 700 acres of trails to test their bike, ATV, and 4×4’s prowess. The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 felt more at home in this environment. Standard off-road options on the Rubicon 392 include a two-inch suspension lift, upgraded frame rails, Fox shocks, and heavy-duty brakes.
On the trails, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 was like a powerlifter do curls with 20-pounds weights – no sweat. During the rare moments where the tires slipped traction on wet mud, all I had to do was squeeze the throttle. Low range four-wheel-drive is available, but I never needed it as the Hemi provided more than enough torque to get up and over anything in my way. Certain sections of the trails allowed enough space to open up the tabs and hear the Hemi sing. As mentioned earlier, it is a shame this variant does not offer the option to disengage 4×4. The front end understeers and plows into the terrain if you force it into a sharp turn like a Baja 1000 Trophy truck. I kept fantasizing about how easy it would have been to drift and make donuts if that 470 lb.-ft of torque was being sent only to the rear wheels.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility And An Even Greater Price Tag
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 gives off a rebellious attitude but doesn’t want to break the rules. It gives you power but on a leash. It wants to have fun but within reason. This is a wild 4×4 with a sense of responsibility like Bruce Banner stuck in the transition of turning into the Hulk but never going fully green. But, of course, this is not the first high-performance vehicle that feels like a broken-in wild horse. Safety standards need to be met to protect us from “hold my beer” peer pressure.
If you’ve always wanted a Jeep Wrangler that sounds like a muscle car and goes like a Baja truck, the Rubicon 392 is here to grant your wish.
The starting price of the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is $75k. That does not include the cost of premium fuel. Jeep claims it will average 13 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. However, during heavy-footed testing, I was averaging 11 mpg. Hopefully, I will get a chance to test the Rubicon 392 in a week-long review and find out how practical it can be as a daily driver. Until then, if you’ve always wanted a Jeep Wrangler that sounds like a muscle car and goes like a Baja truck, the Rubicon 392 is here to grant your wish.