2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392: When too much is just barely enough
The Jeep Wrangler is an American icon, tracing its history back to the simple Jeeps that carried U.S. forces to victory in World War II. The surprising thing is that the modern Jeep still has much in common with the ultra-spartan idea on which it's based, and at the same time it's a completely modern vehicle with every comfort we've come to expect.
In the modern era, the Wrangler first gained an available second set of doors, and the four-door Wrangler fast became the best-seller of the breed. Jeep also came out with the current Rubicon off-road feature set, which makes the new Wrangler the most capable go-anywhere vehicle in the world.
With all that, what was left to do to make the Wrangler a standout vehicle? The answer was, "let's put a huge V8 Hemi engine under the hood." So that's what they did — a 6.4-liter engine that is roughly 392 cubic inches.
The Wrangler Rubicon 392 is in many ways an ultimate vehicle. Sure, maybe they could have put the supercharged Hellcat V8 in there, and maybe that's still on the drawing board. But for now, the 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque is all the engine you can get in a Wrangler. That engine is paired with the usual 8-speed automatic transmission and Jeep's best two-speed transfer case for four-wheel-drive. Equipped with this engine package, the Wrangler will hit 60 MPH in just 4.5 seconds.
For off-road use, the Rubicon package includes electronically locking Dana 44 axles, a two-inch lift, heavy duty brakes, FOX performance shock absorbers, beadlock wheels, and electronically disconnecting sway bars. Several cameras help you navigate obstacles without leaving the Jeep, and various skid plates and body protection help to keep the Jeep in as-new condition.
Inside, the Wrangler Rubicon includes comfortable leather seats, a good technology package with a touchscreen interface, and of course, the removable hardtop or soft top options, according to your preference.
The real analysis of the Wrangler 392 is all about the driving. If you want a big Jeep that will do a 0-60 sprint in the same timeframe as a muscle car, this Wrangler will definitely do that. However, if you're not planning to do that kind of acceleration the big Hemi can be a little over the top for daily driving. The base 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine produces 285 horsepower, and it's a perfect choice for the Wrangler. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder can feel a little bit thin even with 270 peak horsepower. Jeep also offers a 3.0-liter diesel engine and now a plug-in hybrid, too, so there are plenty of options to choose from.
On the road, the 392 is reasonably tractable, but the big 33-inch Rubicon off-road tires tend to wander a bit on Portland's deeply rutted highways. Together with a tremendous amount of torque on tap, it's quite easy to scare yourself. Of course, the modern Wrangler has traction and stability controls, so it's perfectly safe, but if I was buying a Wrangler for myself, I'd choose a more temperate and less expensive option.
Which brings us to the price. The Wrangler starts off fairly affordable, but the four-door version and the Rubicon package each add a lot of features that drive up the price. Then the 392 adds even more price, over $20,000 more than any other Wrangler. If you want a Rubicon 392, you're looking at $73,745, plus options. So you've got to really want this Hemi V8 to lay out that kind of money.
The bottom line is that the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is an ultimate Jeep option. It's not for everyone, but there are those who will fall in love at first sight, and for those people, it's the perfect choice.
2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392
Base price: $73,500
Price as tested: $78,565
Type: Off-Road SUV
Engine: 6.4-liter Hemi V8 (470 hp, 470 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 13/17
Overall length: 188.4 inches
Curb weight: 5,103 pounds
Final assembly: Toledo, Ohio
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