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Confirmed: Jeep Wrangler V8 is coming

By Tim Robson and Matt Raudonikis, 16 Nov 2020 Car News

Jeep Wrangler v8

Jeep confirms that its Wrangler will get a V8 - but what about Gladiator?

CONFIRMED! Jeep will build a V8 version of the Wrangler.

A single Instagram post has revealed that Jeep will follow through with a production version of the Rubicon 392 Concept it showed off in July.

While only the Wrangler was mentioned in the post, a Jeep Gladiator V8 would certainly be on a drawing board somewhere within the company, given the two vehicles share a lot of mechanical underpinnings.

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Unfortunately, it looks like Australia will miss out on it, with a Jeep Australia spokesperson confirming left-hand-drive only production for the first V8 Wrangler in more than four decades.

The Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept packed a 6.4-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol engine, while the rest of the four-door dirt digger has been tweaked to suit.

Under-bonnet modifications to engine mounts and chassis rails were needed to fit the big 392ci engine, which has an eight-speed automatic transmission hanging off the back.

Outputs of the 392 Concept are slightly down over other applications for this engine, with 336kW and 610Nm on offer. It'll apparently do 0-100km/h in five seconds, but that's really not what this 4x4 is about... and with live axles front and rear, we're not that keen to test the claim!

The Wrangler Rubicon 392 keeps its offroad Trailhawk rating, according to Jeep, thanks to a brace of high-end off-road geat including a two-speed transfer case, locking front and rear diffs and a factory-supplied 2.0-inch lift kit for the body.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept

This allows the fitment of those huge 37-inch tyres, which wrap around custom-made 17-inch rims. Fox shocks have also been added.

“Jeep Wrangler enthusiasts have been asking us for a Wrangler V-8 and our new Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept proves that we have the ability to make that happen,” said Jim Morrison, the head of the Jeep brand in North America, when the concept was previewed - incidentally at the same time as Ford previewed its new Bronco

"We are anxious to gauge their reaction to this new Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept, a vehicle that delivers an incredible and unmatched level of fun-to-drive performance and capability, on- and off-road.”

As evidenced by the work that's gone into this concept, there are a number of hurdles for Jeep to overcome to make it a reality.

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The engineering of such a transplant won’t be especially difficult, thanks to the traditional north-south layout of the Wrangler/Gladiator’s drivetrain.

Jeep officials have indicated previously, however, that while the company’s larger Hellcat V8 fits under the bonnet, a lack of clearance could potentially compromise crash structure performance – and if there is something that Jeep would dearly love to avoid, it’s more crash test controversy.

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However, the regular V8 – as fitted to the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT – lacks a supercharger, which increases the height of the engine and would, therefore, affect clearance.

Of the two, the Gladiator makes more sense as a potential recipient of a V8 powerplant; not only is the ute the newer of the two products, a more powerful engine could potentially give the Gladiator more towing capacity, though it’s unlikely to improve its payload.

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Jeep Flatbill concept from 2019

Both 4x4s would require brake and suspension upgrades to deal with the higher power output and heavier driveline, which will push the already expensive Gladiator, in particular, pretty hard in terms of affordability.

No word, of course, whether a Jeep Gladiator V8 would be built in right-hand-drive – it hasn’t been confirmed at all yet – but if it were to come to Australia, it would slot in at the top of the dual-cab ute category (not counting the larger RAM and Chevrolet 1500s), with its potential for 344kW and 624Nm comfortably eclipsing the Volkswagen Amarok V6 580’s numbers.