Even before the Durango had a high-power V8, Jeep already offered one in the Grand Cherokee. However, while Jeep’s most iconic SUV, the Wrangler, has a diesel and now a hybrid powertrain, it’s never had a V8. That is until the V8-powered Jeep Wrangler 392 Concept broke cover recently. And now, a few publications have had a chance to take it for a spin.
The Jeep Wrangler 392 has more than just a V8
To be clear, the Jeep Wrangler 392 doesn’t have a Hellcat V8. However, its 6.4-liter V8, the same one found in the Dodge Challenger, isn’t exactly lacking in power.
It’s not quite as powerful as the one in the Challenger, Automobile reports. But with 450 hp and 450 lb-ft, it’s more powerful than the Jeep Wrangler’s 285-hp 3.6-liter V6. The V8-powered Jeep Wrangler also has 75 more hp than the 4xe hybrid, though it’s down 20 lb-ft. But the Wrangler 392 does have more torque than the EcoDiesel model, Motor Trend reports. Thanks to the V8, 4WD, and an 8-speed automatic, the Wrangler 392 can go 0-60 in under 5 seconds, Hagerty reports.
However, the V8 isn’t the only thing different about the Jeep Wrangler 392. It rides on 37” off-road tires, Roadshow reports, and aluminum Fox 2.5” shocks from the Gladiator Rubicon. The shocks are necessary due to the engine’s extra weight. It also has a 2” Mopar lift kit, a functional hood scoop, a dual-mode exhaust, red leather seats, and a 12,000-lb Warn winch. And to better deal with the V8’s added power, Jeep reinforced the frame and upgraded the engine mounts.
The Jeep Wrangler 392 retains its off-road chops, and even expands on them somewhat, Roadshow reports. Not only does it have more ground clearance, but it can also wade into water 34” deep. Plus, the lift kit improves its approach, break-over, and departure angles over the standard Wrangler, MT reports.
But how does a V8-powered Jeep Wrangler drive?
Driving the V8-powered Jeep Wrangler
Automobile, MT, Motor1, and Roadshow got to jump behind the wheel of the V8-powered Jeep Wrangler concept. And to paraphrase the general response: Jeep, build this thing.
It’s still a concept, which means there are some minor bugs to work out. The stability control, for example, is a bit overwhelmed by the V8’s power and the Jeep Wrangler 392’s height. As a result, if you aren’t careful with the throttle, it will cut power.
Like the standard model, the Wrangler 392’s steering is rather vague, in part due to the off-road tires. Plus, the brakes are merely adequate. And finally, MT reports that the transmission tunnel and floorboards were hot after 15 minutes (and one burnout).
However, they all agree that a V8-powered Jeep Wrangler makes for hilarious fun. It’s a fast, loud SUV with a removable roof and doors. Plus, because it uses the same less-aggressive axle gearing as the diesel model, it’s easier to drive at low speeds.
Given a bit more working time, the Jeep Wrangler 392 could make for a genuinely interesting addition to the lineup. The keyword there being ‘could.’
Will Jeep make it?
Admittedly, while the Wrangler 392 may be the first time Jeep’s put a V8 in the Wrangler, it’s not the first time someone’s done that.
AEV, makers of the Ram-based Prospector trucks, offer a Hemi V8 engine swap kit for the Wrangler. Hennessey’s given the Gladiator a 1000-hp Hellcat V8. And if you want to give your Wrangler Demon power, Dakota Solutions can help with that.
The sticking point, though, isn’t fitting a V8 in the Jeep Wrangler’s engine bay. It’s making sure it can reliably work while it’s in there. As MT experienced with the excess heat, cooling becomes a problem. That’s why the EcoDiesel Gladiator can’t tow as much as the V6-powered one despite its extra torque, Hagerty explains. The 7-slot grille simply doesn’t allow sufficient airflow for both output and adequate cooling. And because of the grille, as well as the intake and exhaust hosing needed to get the 6.4-liter V8 into the Jeep Wrangler’s engine bay, it makes less power than in the Challenger.
Then there’s the emissions issue. One of the reasons why Jeep offers 4xe hybrid models is because of tightening emissions standards. It’s also why Ford won’t offer a V8 in the new Bronco, Road & Track reports. However, like Jeep, it may offer it as a hybrid.
Still, when it revealed the V8 Wrangler concept, Jeep claimed that it was gauging public reaction before committing to any manufacturing plans. Based on the critics’ responses, at least on a mechanical level, the idea works. Now we just have to wait and see.
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