Test drive: The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is a V8-powered king of the hill
The most-powerful Wrangler ever
Mother Nature had better get some ear muffs.
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the first V8 Wrangler ever and the most powerful. Needless to say, it’s a rowdy one.
It borrows its 392 cubic-inch engine from the Dodge Challenger RT Scat Pack, Grand Cherokee SRT, etc., and sends 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque to all four of the Wrangler’s wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission as it screams through a dual-mode exhaust that allows drivers to crank up the volume.
The Wrangler performs just fine with its selection of V6 and turbocharged four-cylinder engines, but plenty of customers have been swapping in their own monster motors, so Jeep decided to get in on the fun and throw in a warranty. Unlike the street-focused Grand Cherokee SRT, Jeep decided to pair it with the Wrangler’s most off-road capable Rubicon trim.
Its 10.3 inches of ground clearance is a half-inch less than Rubicons equipped with the other engines, however, and it trades the hardcore Rock-Trac 4x4 system for a Selec-Trac version that sacrifices extreme crawl ratio in favor of full-time all-wheel-drive capability.
With all of the torque on tap, it’s hardly missed. You can practically idle through and over most obstacles and I climbed a rocky 30-plus-degree slope with it on the Monticello Motor Club’s off-road course by practically looking at the gas pedal.
A low-range transfer case, front and rear locking differentials and fat 33-inch tall tires certainly helped, while an electronically detachable front sway bar lets you stretch the springs and high performance Fox shocks to their limits on the most uneven surfaces.
The Rubicon 392 can put some muscle cars to shame on pavement. It’ll accelerate to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and cover a quarter-mile in 13.0 on its all-terrain rubber. I tried this out on dirt and very quickly found myself going faster than was advisable. This truck is a real monster if you let it off the leash.
It does ride just as well as any other Rubicon on the street, though, and doesn’t give up much refinement aside from the engine and exhaust sound, which is relentless even in its "quiet" setting. Adaptive cruise control is standard and it can tow 3,500 pounds.
It can also impersonate a speedboat, or at least a semi-submersible. The Rubicon 392 is rated to wade through a very exact 32.5 inches of water, but also has a Hydro-Guide air intake system that can channel up to 15 gallons of water a minute away from the engine if you're cruising through a deep stream and create a bow wave that washes over the hood.
I’m sure there are people who will put the power to good use surmounting things no Wrangler has ever climbed before, but the Rubicon 392 is ultimately a pleasure craft designed to deliver you-know-what’s and giggles on command.
You’ll pay the price for them, both at the pump and the dealer. The EPA says the Rubicon 392 delivers a paltry 14 mpg combined and the window sticker demands $74,995 for you to find out for yourself.
That makes the most powerful Wrangler ever also the most expensive, but it does come pretty much fully loaded save for various roof and door options that now include a half-door, knobbier tires and a front camera for seeing over summits that should come in handy since it’s very much the king of the hill.
2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392
Base price: $74,995
As tested: $78,040
Type: 4-door, 5-passenger all-wheel-drive SUV
Engine: 6.4-liter V8
Power: 470 hp, 470 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
MPG: 13 city/17 hwy