DIRT RIOT
Motor Trend|August 2021
THE LONG-AWAITED V-8 WRANGLER IS MORE THAN JUST AN ENGINE SWAP
SEAN P. HOLMAN

If we told you there’s a new vehicle on the block with 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque from a 392-cubic-inch V-8, a 0–60 time of 4.2 seconds, a quarter-mile time of 12.9 seconds, and that it’s an all-wheel-drive convertible, would you guess we’re talking about a Jeep Wrangler? Maybe—if we also told you the doors come off, the windshield folds down, and it has a crawl ratio of 48:1. Meet the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392.

After years of customer requests, Jeep finally put a factory V-8 in the Wrangler for the first time, and, holy heck, it was worth the wait. The powertrain is the same 6.4-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, but the engineering team needed to make several substantive changes to shoehorn the Hemi into the Wrangler’s tight engine compartment.

For example, a redesigned front accessory drive sees the alternator moved to the top of the engine, and the oil filter mount had to be adapted to clear the front axle’s travel. New cast-iron exhaust manifolds are tucked tight to the engine, and a rear-sump oil pan is fitted. The cooling module moves forward 0.8 inch to better manage heat, and the regular Wrangler’s 600-watt fan is now an 850-watt unit. The 392 also uses the Jeep Gladiator’s higher-airflow grille.

To feed even more air to the engine while still allowing the 392 to ford deep water, Jeep came up with the Hydro Guide induction system. This starts with a Gladiator Mojave hood, from which engineers removed the plastic panel to make the intake functional. Air travels via a pathway that separates water to the tune of 15 gallons per minute, ensuring neither a deluge of rain nor an errant bow wake will cause any H 2O to reach the throttle body. Auxiliary air paths in the system mitigate possible blockage of the hood intake by mud, ice, or other debris, and the 392’s air filter is about three times larger than a standard Wrangler’s.

In addition to the drivetrain changes, the 392 benefits from a reinforced frame. The front frame cross member is reshaped to clear the crank pulley, and the engine mounts are stiffer. Because the V-8 is so tall, Jeep increased the suspension height by another inch over the standard Rubicon’s to ensure no further hood modifications were necessary.

To retain proper suspension geometry for ride and handling, the rear suspension mounts are relocated, now 1 inch lower for the lower arms and 1 inch higher for the uppers. Despite featuring the tallest lift in the Wrangler portfolio, max jounce travel is restricted by 2 inches to clear the engine, giving the 392 the same effective travel as the Wrangler EcoDiesel.

Other handling improvements come by way of a front spring rate increase of 10 percent, while the rear spring rate drops by 20 percent. A stiffer rear anti-roll bar helps balance the changes and makes for a chassis that feels more planted. The Rubicon’s Tenneco monotube shocks are replaced with non-reservoir, aluminum-bodied Fox 2.0 monotube shocks.

Power flows from the 6.4-liter through the aforementioned eight-speed Torque- Flite automatic and the Selec-Trac full-time active transfer case with 2.72:1 low-range gearing. In 4 Auto mode, the default torque split is 30/70 percent front to rear and is variable up to 50/50. When the transfer case is in 4 Part Time mode, the split is 50/50 until the torque reaches the front axle’s limit, with any additional twist going to the rear axle.

The 392’s third-gen Dana 44 front axle comes straight from the Gladiator Mojave, bringing with it cast-iron knuckles and bigger brakes and thicker tubes than other Rubicons. The rear Dana 44 swipes its larger brakes from the Wrangler 4xe. Final drive gearing of 3.73:1 and electronic mechanical lockers on each end round out the axle setups.

Of course, no special Jeep model is complete without special aesthetics, and the 392 gets bronze accents on the tow hooks, shocks, hood badging, and Beadlock-capable 17-inch wheels wrapped in either 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 or Falken Wildpeak M/T tires. The interior receives an all-black leather treatment with bronze accents and embroidered 392 logos on the heavily bolstered front seats.

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