Funny, isn't it, how ostensibly similar cars can be perceived so differently. An enormous V8 in a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5 attracts nothing but ire; yet insert an enormous V8 into a Jeep Wrangler - also an off-road vehicle with four doors and five seats - and, well, you probably don't need us to tell you the response. Because it's awesome.
And, yes, the Wrangler isn't a conventional SUV, although it did seem to be heading in that direction with the latest iteration, boasting technology such as a plug-in hybrid and eight-speed automatic. And an interior. So it's something of a welcome surprise to have the V8 offered; there hasn't been one in the line-up for 40 years, after all. Jeep is presumably aware of a similar configuration making its way to the Land Rover Defender in time, and potentially the Ford Bronco as well. No harm in getting a head start on the opposition.
As its full name - Wrangler Rubicon 392 - alludes to, this Jeep is powered by a 6.4-litre V8. With 470 imperial horsepower (or 477hp) and 470lb ft, the Rubicon is miles faster than any other Wrangler currently offered: it's said to hit 60mph in 4.5 seconds and run through the quarter-mile 8.5 seconds later, powering all four wheels through the familiar eight-speed auto.
That said, straight-line performance isn't really the Rubicon's game, however entertaining that may prove to be. Instead the torque of that V8, with 75 per cent of it on offer "just above idle speed", will aid off-road performance. As will Dana 44 axles, Tru-Lok diffs, a two-inch lift kit, Fox dampers, 33-inch off-road tyres and the ability to disconnect the front anti-roll bar. The Wrangler 392 is brawn and brains, Jeep-style.
That even extends to a new air intake system, which aims to keep the V8 out of trouble even if your off-road adventure is tougher than expected. 'Hydro-Guide' can channel up to 56 litres of water a minute away from the engine, meaning the Wrangler can wade through up to 82.5cm of water; there's even a secondary air path fitted for the engine, should the hood scoop get bunged up with crud. Those features, in addition to more than 10 inches of ground clearance plus approach, breakover and departure angle of 44.5, 22.6 and 37.5 degrees respectively, mean there will be little excuse for getting stuck off-road beyond driver error. There's even an 'Off-road Plus' drive mode, which permits the rear axle to be locked "at high speeds while in 4 High", which sounds like just the ticket for playing the rally raid driver.
Still, why burrow away in the middle of nowhere in a car that looks this good? Jeep is clearly keen to ensure the Rubicon 392 attracts all the attention it deserves, with bronze accents unique to the model and half doors available "for those who crave an open-air feeling." And an open-air V8, of course, especially with a standard active exhaust fitted for "an exhilarating and unmistakeable sound." Just make sure that exhaust isn't at its loudest when the Fuel Saver Technology kicks in; the 392 aesthetic doesn't suit four cylinders and 196 cubic inches quite so well...
Finally, if all this isn't enough, the Rubicon 392 will launch with a range of Mopar off-road accessories as well, with Jeep Performance Parts including winches, wheels for even bigger tyres, rock rails, off-road bumpers and different axles on offer. For those really serious about tackling trails - and goodness knows the US has plenty - Jeep has them covered.
Even from afar, the Wrangler 392 is an easy car to admire - something V8-powered that looks like this, and is offered in colours like Snazzberry Metallic, Punk'n Metallic and Sting-Gray, is kind of hard not to. Which makes it all the more disappointing that this particular Jeep won't make it to Europe, the flagship Wrangler destined only for North American and Middle Eastern customers. In fairness, they're probably the easier markets in which to offer a 6.4-litre V8 nowadays. Still seems a bit of shame, though. Those in an eligible market will be able to order a Rubicon 392 very soon - we suspect there might be quite a few willing customers...
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