The Best Off Road Vehicles of 2023
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Ever since the birth of the very first CJ, we’ve lived with the immutable truth that a solid-axle, open-topped Jeep can’t be fast. A long line of CJs and Wranglers has taken factory-stock off-road capability to unbelievable heights, but if you wanted speed, you went elsewhere.
Well, Jeep just punched a 6.4-liter hole through all of that. Feast your horsepower-crazed eyes on the Wrangler Rubicon 392, with 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque.
Yep, that’s the same 392-cubic-inch V-8 that powers the Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack or Charger R/T Scat Pack, as well as numerous other Mopars. It’s the first time Jeep has offered a factory V-8 in any Wrangler (the AMC 304-c.i. V-8 was available in later CJ-5 and CJ-7 models). It’s a brawler: Jeep says the Rubicon 392 will do 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and the 1/4-mile in 13 flat. For comparison, the last time our colleagues over at Car and Driver tested a Dodge Challenge R/T Scat Pack with a six-speed manual transmission, they clocked 0-60 in 4.4 and a 12.9-second 1/4 mile. An extra-aggressive dig from the Jeep, or the slightest hesitation from the three-pedal Challenger, and this would be a dead heat.
The Jeep will be way easier to launch, too. The Rubicon 392 comes with Jeep’s Selec-Trac full-time four-wheel-drive transfer case. The good news is, you’ll always have four-wheel traction to put that 470 lb-ft to the ground. The bad news, for hooligans, is that there’s no 2WD setting in the Selec-Trac transfer case, meaning no smoky burnouts in your V-8 Jeep. (The other bad news: The only transmission available on the Rubicon 392 is the ubiquitous eight-speed automatic, though this will be the first Wrangler with paddle shifters.)
(The other other bad news is that the Rubicon 392 will only be available as a four-door—packaging tolerances, cooling, and driveshaft strength all prevented us from getting a factory V-8 two-door Wrangler.)
The Rubicon 392 packs a bunch of chassis improvements. This ultimate Wrangler comes from the factory wearing a 2-inch lift kit, with Fox high-performance shock absorbers and strengthened frame rails and front upper control arms. Wearing 33-inch tires on 17-inch wheels, the Rubicon 392 offers 32.5 inches of water fording capability—helped by an elaborate system of drains and auxiliary ducts that keep the engine from sucking up river water even if the scoop briefly dips below the waterline. As for that big ol’ hood scoop (swiped from the Gladiator Mojave), a clever auxiliary air channel lets the engine keep breathing even if the scoop is crammed full of snow, mud, or other off-road debris.
This grunty Jeep will also include another Wrangler first: dual-mode exhaust, with an internal valve to keep things hushed by default, with a dashboard button opening the pipes for uncorked V-8 music. Prediction: Nobody will ever drive a 392 Wrangler with the exhaust valves closed.
The 392 will be a true off-roader, with the Rubicon’s signature electronic front swaybar disconnect and front and rear axle lockers. A new Off Road Plus driving mode allows you to lock the rear axle in 4-High. Curiously, the Rubicon 392’s low range is geared at 2.72:1, whereas other Rubicons get a 4:1 low range for improved rock crawling.
Aside from the exhaust note, you’ll know the Rubicon 392 from its bronze wheels, bronze “392” badging, and bronze upholstery stitching on the interior. Every V-8 Rubicon will come standard with a whole bunch of luxury options, including leather interior and body-color hard top and flares. Jeep hasn’t mentioned pricing yet, but has confirmed that the Rubicon 392 will hit dealers in the first quarter of 2021.