Trucks & SUVs

Is a Jeep Wrangler Hellcat More Than Just a Pipe Dream?

The unveiling of the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 opens the floodgates for some interesting questions. For starters, is a Jeep Wrangler Hellcat even a possibility? Given FCA’s track record of jamming Dodge’s 700-hp Hellcat engine into just about anything, the question is not unfounded. However, being an off-roading SUV, the Wrangler faces a unique set of challenges to handle such high horsepower. Today we’ll be looking at why a Jeep Wrangler Hellcat will likely never exist.

The Jeep Wrangler’s chassis likely can’t handle 700 hp

A photo of the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 on the road.
2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 | FCA

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392’s main highlight is undoubtedly its 470-hp 6.4-liter naturally aspirated V8. However, Jeep didn’t just stuff a massive V8 into a Wrangler and call it a day. The Wrangler’s chassis had to be reinforced to handle the engine’s extra weight and power. Keep in mind that the Jeep’s base engine is a much lighter 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V6.

To ensure the V8-powered off-roader doesn’t just fall apart, it received upgraded frame rails, new front upper control arms, and cast iron steering knuckles. According to FCA, the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 also got a two-inch lift with FOX shocks to fit larger wheels and tires.

If a 470-hp engine required such massive upgrades, a 700-hp engine likely would require significant upgrades, perhaps exceeding the chassis’ capabilities. The wrangler’s body on frame design is meant to flex while off-roading to provide greater grip, not exactly what you want when pushing a supercharged 6.2-liter V8.

High center of gravity and high horsepower don’t go together

Powering the 2021 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine delivering 707 horsepower and 645 lb.-ft. of torque
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk | Fiat Chrysler Automotive

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One of the greatest perks of the Jeep Wrangler is its high center of gravity. While a higher ride provides significant ground clearance benefits off-road, it results in greater instability on-road. Let’s take the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk as an example. Although the larger Jeep is also an SUV, it is significantly lower to the ground. In fact, the Trackhawk is 2.7 inches lower than a Wrangler. That doesn’t even consider how tall the off-roader is with larger wheels and tires. The result is that despite having 700 hp, a lower ride height allows the Trackhawk’s adaptive dampers to manage the power.

The only feasible way a Wrangler Hellcat would be possible is if it borrowed heavily from the brand-new Ram 1500 TRX. The Wrangler would need the TRX’s Bilstein adaptive dampers, wider track, and reinforced suspension for starters. It is important to note that the Ram 1500 is a much larger vehicle, meaning its components likely won’t directly transfer over. As a result, a TRX-based Wrangler Hellcat is highly unlikely.

Safety would pretty much go out the window

A 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon on display at an auto show
The 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Aside from the physical challenges faced while trying to jam an enormous V8 into a Jeep Wrangler, there is also the issue of safety. In an interview with Drive, Tim Kuniskis, head of Jeep North America, confirmed that the Hellcat V8 actually does fit in the engine bay. However, the engine sits so tight that there isn’t any room left over for crush space. This means that having a safe and powerful SUV is almost impossible.

Tim’s knowledge of the V8’s dimensions means the development team tried fitting it. This should come as no surprise as the Hellcat engine has been making its rounds. Regardless, all of the odds are stacked against a Jeep Wrangler Hellcat. The likelihood we’ll see one is slim to none, not in this current-generation at least.