UPDATED - It's a Wrangler! On the eve of the launch of a key rival to Jeep's iconic off-roader, the company has released images of a fat-tyred Wrangler Rubicon four-door it says is packing V8 heat under its hood. Err, bonnet.
As previewed over the weekend, the Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept packs 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 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.
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.
"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.”
The jury is still out on whether this car - which has been called out across the internet as merely a spoiler for the new Ford Bronco - will actually see production. As we've suggested below, the larger V8 engine is not simply a set-and-forget upgrade for the Wrangler or the Gladiator ute.
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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Cooling, crush space for crash structures, suspension behaviour, brake performance, emissions, homologation costs and crash-testing are just the start of a very long list of checkpoints Jeep needs to tick to get this beast across the line - and this all costs a LOT of money to perform on a vehicle that's already in-market.
It's obvious now that the Wrangler/Gladiator platform was never destined to get V8 petrol power, as the company focuses its attention on electrification and diesel... but that doesn't mean a limited run of top-dollar V8 Rubicons couldn't be rolled out.
Right-hand-drive, though, is another story all together./Tim Robson
Jeep has thrown up a shadowy pic that potentially teases that a V8-powered version of one of its most iconic cars is on the cards.
The front clip of either a Wrangler or a Gladiator – the two are identical up to the B-pillar and are built on the same platform – is shown in the pic, complete with a more bulbous bonnet decorated with a decal that reads ‘392’.
This refers to the company’s 344kW 6.4-litre V8 Hemi engine, suggesting the company is keen to give one, either or both of its off-road kings a solid power-up.
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The timing is interesting – the company has just announced the launch of a diesel-powered version of the Gladiator, while pundits in the US suggest that Jeep is merely running a smoke-and-mirror show to take some of the shine away from the impending launch of Ford’s Wrangler-rivalling Bronco.
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.
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.
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.
We’ll have to wait and see what the next few weeks bring from Jeep.