The new Ford Bronco surely has Jeep very worried indeed. The Wrangler hasn’t had a direct competitor for years, but now, there’s a similarly capable off-roader on the market. In the face of a shiny new nostalgia-soaked rival reviving a badge not seen in over two decades, Wrangler sales may well take a hit.
That’s probably why FCA conveniently chose to reveal a Rubicon on the day of the Bronco’s grand debut with something its new arch enemy doesn’t have - a V8. Specifically, a 6.4-litre naturally-aspirated unit producing 444bhp and 450lb ft of torque. That’s enough thrust to haul the bulky Wranger to 60mph from rest in under five seconds.
Although it’s officially billed as a concept, the intent to build this is fairly obvious. “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,” Jeep’s brand boss Jim Morrison said, adding, “Jeep is clearly listening to its customers. We are anxious to gauge their reaction to this new Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept.”
What’s more, according to Road & Track, Jeep has already built 30 prototypes at its Toledo, Ohio plant, suggesting FCA might have green-lit the car for production anyway. This wouldn’t be much of a surprise - the company is likely well aware of how a V8 Wrangler might be received without the need to check with a concept. It’s more likely a PR exercise, given the timing of its release.
It certainly seems ready for the showroom. To accommodate a V8, the ‘Wrangler Rubicon 392’ has been given a beefed-up eight-speed automatic gearbox, new engine mounts and a modified frame. Underneath, you’ll find Dana 44 axles, electronic front and rear locking differentials, and huge 37-inch mud-terrain tyres.
To further help the 392 on tough trails, it also gets Rubicon rock rails, a winch, a steel belly pan and a two-inch lift kit from Mopar. Want a suitable soundtrack to go along with your off-piste adventure? The exhaust has two switchable modes.
Should the Wrangler Rubicon 392 - as we’re suspecting - go into production, it won’t be cheap - the Rubicon EcoDiesel is already $49,290, so we can expect the V8 to eclipse the $60,800 price of a range-topping Bronco.