If you’re in possession of a decent amount of common sense, this review probably isn’t for you.
If you’re opposed to irresponsible expenditures, I implore you to move along now. If you’re aware of climate change, go on and click the link to that hybrid crossover you’ve had your eye on. But if you’re the “challenge accepted” type, or have your own oil refinery, then please continue reading.
The grownups have gone away, and those left behind are fulfilling their adolescent fantasies by stuffing big, nasty V8s in places they have no business being. One such place is under the hood of the 2022 Jeep Wrangler 392 Rubicon, a ridiculous machine that simultaneously produces fits of laughter and a cold sweat of discomfort; and even after spending a week emptying my life savings into its gas tank, I still really want one.
If the concept of fitting a rock-crawling off-road machine with the bellowing V8 from a Dodge Challenger Scat Pack isn’t bonkers enough, know that this is the first Wrangler to cost six figures. Starting at just over $103,000 with destination fees, our tester was optioned up to nearly $117,000 before taxes. For perspective, the second-most expensive Wrangler is the Unlimited Sahara High Altitude edition that barely crests $80,000 with every option box checked; and you could buy two V6-powered Rubicons for the price of this 392. Across the showroom, an even wilder (yet more comfortable) Ram 1500 TRX is basically the same money.
Still, Ford’s new Raptor version of the Bronco is priced within a whisker of the 392, and a V8-powered Land Rover Defender 110 will clear $130,000 without much effort, so it’s not like Jeep has waded into the six-figure off-roader pond alone. Meanwhile, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is notably costlier still.
While Jeep has claimed that this will have a limited production run, it’s safe to assume the brand won’t be selling a ton of these anyway. And with the V8’s days seriously numbered anyway, there’s a chance this will have some collector appeal in the not-too-distant future.
Fuel Economy: 4/10
The Wrangler 392 can pass plenty on the road, but fuel stations aren’t among them. Rated at 18.5 L/100 km in the city, this is the most fuel-greedy machine I’ve driven this year – and the 392 prefers premium-grade gas. On the highway that figure improves to a rated 14.1 L/100 km thanks in part to the engine’s cylinder deactivation, although given its aerodynamic properties that are shared with a shipping container, pushing a Wrangler beyond the speed limit causes consumption to increase. At the end of the test week, an indicated average of 16.5 L/100 km matched the official combined rating.
Wranglers aren’t typically quick machines, and they’re not meant to be. Speed is the enemy when crawling methodically over rocks and tree stumps, and with the transfer case set to low range, a Wrangler can chug along contentedly at about five km/h, even with the 3.6 L V6’s relative lack of low-end torque. The 6.4L V8 brings an extra 200 lb-ft of torque tallying 470 total to go with 470 hp, too.
Where a typical four-door Wrangler reaches highway speed from a standstill in about seven seconds, the 392 will do it a lot quicker. One American magazine clocked a zero-to-60 mph time of four seconds flat and a quarter mile of less than 13 seconds – and that’s wearing huge, heavy 35-inch tires and with taller rear-end gearing.
The standard eight-speed automatic transmission seems just as content to snap off quick shifts under full throttle (there are even steering wheel paddles), as it is to smoothly go about its business the rest of the time. The squishy suspension means amusingly squatting the back end and pointing the headlights skyward whenever the throttle is stomped.
Here in Southern Ontario, off-road adventures typically involve tight, rocky, forested trail drives – settings in which the 392’s power is mostly pointless. But for those with access to open dunes or big mud bogs to play in, the V8’s grunt takes the Wrangler to a whole new level of fun and excitement.
To try to understand the 392’s offroad appeal, I sought out some sandy paths and a few mud holes despite our unusually arid summer. One stretch known to the locals as The Longest Yard is a succession of bogs that gets increasingly gnarly.
After the first big splash had me wiping my sunglasses and closing the power roof, I better understood the complex set of plumbing on the underside of the hood that keeps the engine breathing well while separating out the flow of water. The second hole was smaller in area, and seemed shallower, but had a thick, mucky bottom that mired the 392 within a few metres. Nearby spectators covered their ears while the big V8 bellowed and mud rained down from the heavens (put there by the wildly spinning tires).
The 392 is the only Wrangler with full-time four-wheel drive, but this bog required a switch to the system’s low-range gearing, plus both front and rear differentials locked, enabling the Jeep to walk out effortlessly.
Driving Feel: 5/10
With the mechanical underside of a Wrangler more closely resembling a tractor than pretty well anything else on the road, they can be tiring to drive distances at highway speed. The s-called Xtreme Recon package lifts the 392 (or other Rubicons) 38 mm (1.5 in) on Fox high-pressure monotube shocks to accommodate the 315/70R17 BFG K02 tires and amplifies the Wrangler’s propensity to wander around on pavement, requiring constant driver corrections. Thanks to its height and boxy shape, cross winds can add to the excitement.
With so much power, I found myself approaching curves quicker than expected, causing the Jeep to keel over alarmingly when cornering. The recirculating ball steering is sluggish and offers very little road feel and a notable dead spot on centre, serving as a constant reminder that this setup is meant for extreme bashing off-road. Just because it can get up to speed in a hurry doesn’t mean it can stop or turn with the same swiftness.
It’s not like Wranglers have historically been known for their safety, either. Of course, a lot has changed over the decades, and the current Wrangler features all the mandated protective elements like air bags, a strong structure, and stability control. The tall ride height and extreme suspension articulation that make the Wrangler adept offroad can be liabilities on-road, and for 2022 Jeep has made minor adjustments to help offset potential roll-overs resulting from front-end crash testing.
The Wrangler is about as much an automotive icon as you can get, instantly recognizable by young and old alike. The familiarity and overwhelming popularity of the Wrangler hasn’t diminished its visual appeal, and the Xtreme Recon package gives it the serious (off-)street cred that prompts so many Jeep owners to lift their rigs. From the steel front bumper, past the trademark seven-slot grille, and over the hood pillaged from the Gladiator Mohave, there is no mistaking it for anything else.
The 392 is likely to be heard before it’s seen, but keen-eyed Jeepers will notice the gold tow points, quad tail pipes, and, of course, the displacement decal on the hood.
Interior details are similarly discreet with gold-coloured accent stitching found on the steering wheel and standard leather seats. Otherwise, it’s only the dashboard button that switches the exhaust from loud to seriously loud that sets the layout apart from lesser Rubicon models.
User Friendliness: 8/10
There’s a lot going on with the 392’s interior, with the central dash littered with buttons, knobs, and switches for the climate control, audio system, and various off-road features. There’s also a lever for both the automatic transmission and the transfer case, the latter becoming a rarity these days when most off-road vehicles have automated the features into electronic drive modes. The Wrangler still requires its driver to understand the various functions to get the most out of their vehicle off-road.
It can feel cramped for taller drivers, and with so much ground clearance getting in requires a combination of a climb and monkey-swing into the cockpit. But once there, the outward view is commanding and the most oft-used controls fall readily to hand.
The 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen isn’t as big or slick as the newer systems appearing in other vehicles, but it’s simple to use and works well. Even the sound quality from the upgraded audio system is pretty decent, not that you can tell beyond the cacophony of the drivetrain and giant tires.
Beyond the engine and road noise, there’s also a lot of wind noise, partly because of the way the Jeep crashes through the air, but also because of the giant canvas-covered hole in the roof.
There’s a lot of rubber between the road and the cockpit that takes the sharpness out of small and large bumps alike, but the solid axle set up means a lot of bouncing around, and more bobbing, weaving and rolling than a dinghy at sea. The seats, too, are mediocre, and for the cost of the 392, more supportive (and electrically operated) seats wouldn’t be out of place.
As far as off-road warriors are concerned, the leather-clad Wrangler 392 is decently equipped. Although noisy, the power-actuated canvas top is convenient, the infotainment system is effective and easily connected to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and there’s onboard navigation and adaptive cruise control.
Pitch, camber, and roll calculations can be displayed on the screen, and front and rear cameras are welcome when navigating tight trails without a spotter. The ability to disconnect the sway bar for greater suspension articulation with the switch of a button is a welcome convenience off-road, and electronic locking front and rear differentials can be the difference between getting stuck or not. These are features found only on the most capable off-road machines and help the Wrangler remain astonishingly capable off-road.
A vehicle this crude, loud, inefficient, and difficult to get in will never be truly practical for daily life. And yet, with room for five, a decent-sized cargo hold, and the ability to get a driver through anything short of the apocalypse, it can be far more functional than many motorized toys, but the 392’s modest towing capacity of 1,587 kg (3,500 lb) falls short of its competitors.
The 2022 Jeep Wrangler 392 Rubicon is a ridiculous noise machine. It’s a four-wheeled middle finger to environmental crusaders and some of its interior and exterior finishes would raise eyebrows at half the cost of what’s surely the most unrefined $100,000 new vehicle. And despite the silliness of it all, it’s as capable off road as any Jeep before it, and it’s far quicker to boot. It’s a machine that, in this day and age, shouldn’t exist. But with its kick-in-the-pants power, savage mechanical soundtrack, and the way that it can bound over anything in its path, I’m so glad it does. Buying one could be the best worst decision ever.
|Peak Horsepower||470 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||470 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||18.5 / 14.1 / 16.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||784.4 L / 1,908.6 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2022 Jeep Wrangler 392 Rubicon|
|A/C Tax||$100 + Federal Green Levy, $2,000|
|Price as Tested||$116,890|
$11,250 – Hydro Blue Pearl paint, $395; Trailer Tow Package, $495; Xtreme Recon 35-inch tire package, $4,995; Mopar floor mats, $225; Gorilla Glass windshield, $250; Sky One-Touch power top, $4,295; Integrated off-road camera, $595