By on May 20, 2022

 

2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392 Fast Facts

6.4-liter V8 (470 horsepower @ 6,000 RPM, 470 lb-ft @ 4,300 RPM)

Eight-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive

13 city / 17 highway / 14 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

18.5 city / 14.1 highway / 16.5 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $73,500 (U.S) / $101,445 (Canada)

As Tested: $78,545 (U.S.) / $111,445 (Canada)

Prices include $1,495 destination charge in the United States and $1,895 (up to $2,795) for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared. Note: This trim wasn’t available in Canada in 2021 but was added to the lineup for 2022, so Canadian numbers are based on the 2022 MY.

No one needs a V8 in a Jeep Wrangler. But sometimes brands do things just because they can. Which is the case with this particular Jeep – there’s a freakin’ Hemi underhood, for no other reason than Jeep can do it.

Well – there’s one other reason. The company can rake in some serious cash.

That’s because adding the 6.4-liter V8 adds a lot of heft to the price tag. My test vehicle stickered for nearly 80 grand.

Eighty grand for a Wrangler. One that outside of the V8 and the Rubicon off-road trim – something that is available with other powertrains – adds very little to the overall Wrangler experience.

That said, the extra power – and the exhaust burble, especially when the dual-mode exhaust system is set correctly – are appreciated. I’ve driven many a Wrangler, and the 392 is the first I’ve piloted that had true passing punch. It might be overkill, but who cares? At least until it’s time to refuel – which it will be often.

Editor’s note: Although we’re well into 2022, we’ll still be running reviews of some 2021 models, particularly models that don’t change significantly for 2022. That’s in part because these models are significant to the market, in part because yours truly had to back-burner some reviews while working on other internal projects, and in part because some 2021s are still in the press fleet. Indeed, I just recently tested a 2021 Bronco.

Picking this Wrangler with the Rubicon trim gets you the 6.4-liter V8 (470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, Fox shocks, water fording of up to 32.5 inches, 33-inch tires, 2-inch lift, eight-speed automatic transmission, and a 48:1 crawl ratio.

V8 aside, you have the bog-standard Wrangler experience, meaning a wandering highway ride that requires frequent steering corrections, plenty of road and wind noise intruding at speed, and a bouncy ride. It’s not all bad, of course – the modern Wrangler’s interior is a pleasant place to do business, Uconnect remains one of the better infotainment systems out there, and there are plenty of off-road goodies, especially in Rubicon models, that you can use should you like having off-pavement adventures.

This author had an adventure, all right. I took this Wrangler off-road and it acquitted itself as well as any other Wrangler would, though the extra torque seemed unnecessary on slicker surfaces (even 4WD engaged and axles locked appropriately). You might want the V8 for its burble, passing power, or wretched excess, but you probably won’t need the extra oomph off-road.

Here’s the point of this piece where I ‘fess up – just like with the Ford Raptor from a few years ago, I got stuck. Big time. It was a similar situation – went too slow into a water-filled hole and had no traction to get out. In my defense, part of the reason I didn’t just blast through was that the trail was slick and there were trees on each side – too much throttle would’ve likely resulted in fishtailing that could’ve bent sheetmetal.

I felt a little bit better about my dumbassery when the park ranger who winched me and my companion out told us that the same mud hole had killed a Mojave Gladiator the week before. Better, because the Mojave is just as capable as the Rubicon and this water hole took out two mean machines, but also worse, because the Gladiator was apparently heavily damaged.

As for this test rig, it got us home, with no obvious drivability issues while moving. That said it, it stopped running whenever it was placed in Park.

I dug around some forums after the incident and found that other Wrangler owners have reported the same issue occurring after off-roading if they got a bit too dirty. Perhaps rocks or dirt/mud got somewhere they shouldn’t and were causing trouble.

I also attempted to pick Jeep’s brain about the incident – after apologizing profusely, of course – but was told that while Jeep PR wouldn’t hold what happened against me (shit happens off-road, no sheetmetal was bent, I apologized, I was transparent, et cetera), they would prefer to keep any lessons learned internal. I did hear that perhaps the trans was replaced, though I could not confirm it.

To be clear, I am not saying the Jeep failed its off-road test – I am the one who failed. And the Jeep gets credit – it got us home. So if you have your eyes on this Jeep in Rubicon trim, rest assured it’s just as capable as any other Wrangler I’ve tested, and it fell victim to a bad decision. I’ll also give a shout-out to the air-intake system for keeping the Jeep running even when semi-submerged.

Bad days at the off-road park aside, the V8 Wrangler experience, especially in Rubicon trim, is much like the experience in most other Wranglers – you’re asked to sacrifice some comfort, as well as ride/handling, for off-road capability. Here you’re further asked for more sacrifice – a much larger cash outlay and even worse fuel economy. The trade-off is a serious increase in power that’s pretty useful on road, and may or may not help off-pavement, depending on the situation – sometimes, more power is helpful, sometimes it’s unnecessary or even counterproductive.

Other than the engine, what does 80 grand get you? Full-time four-wheel drive, of course, and a 3.73 rear-axle ratio. Other standard features include locking front and rear axles, remote start, tow hooks, keyless entry and starting, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection, heated front seats, Uconnect, Alpine audio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, audio, USB ports, Bluetooth, 17-inch wheels, three-piece body-color hardtop, fender flares, and automatic temperature control.

Optional features included the Firecracker Red paint, a towing package, a cargo package, all-weather floor mats, off-road camera, and Jeep’s one-touch power top (replaces the body-color hardtop). The out-the-door price, including the $1,495 destination charge, was $78,545.

Those dismal fuel economy numbers I hinted at? 13/17/14. Yeesh.

Once I shook off the shame of getting stuck (again) and put the Wrangler in proper perspective, I walked away with mixed feelings. Putting a V8 in a Wrangler sounds good, and when you tromp the gas, you understand why Jeep did it. But the extra power is probably not necessary for most off-roading. I’m not even sure it’s all that helpful on-road – yes, I talked about how this Wrangler has much more passing punch than most, but the other powertrains on offer aren’t totally anemic. They can do most passing and merging work without much drama, especially if you’re patient.

Younger me would just, without much thought, say “screw it, V8 all the things”. Older, more experienced me says putting a V8 in a Wrangler is a lot like buying first-class airfare – it’s a lot more expensive and definitely more fun, but not strictly necessary.

What’s New for 2021

The availability of V8 power and upgraded off-road capability.

Who Should Buy It

Those who absolutely, positively need V8 power in their Wrangler – and can afford the payments. And the fuel.

[Images © 2022 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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26 Comments on “2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392 Review – Jeep In Excess...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “…too much throttle would’ve likely resulted in fishtailing that could’ve bent sheetmetal.”

    Makes me wonder if the most oft-damaged press cars are of the off-road variety.

    As much as MOAR POWER appeals to me, I have to agree here – the 392 is, by all accounts, a great engine, but it seems poorly suited for something like a Wrangler. I tried out a base Wrangler with the V-6 and a manual a while back – and it’s got plenty of giddyup, and it won’t set you back eighty large. I’ve also driven an AMG G-wagen, and I came to the conclusion that driving an overpowered, high-riding off-roader is more frightening than entertaining.

    If you have to have the 392, buy a Challenger, and open up a Tire Rack credit card for all the tires you’ll go through on Smoky Burnout Day.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      In my time here, plus the 15 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve probably done more damage off-road and parking than while on a track or driving hard on a backroad. The Lexus was my only sheet-metal bending off-track excursion (and hopefully my last). Most of the damage I’ve done to press cars has been curbing wheels parallel parking or the occasional door dings. Stuff like that.

      Meanwhile, I dinged the Raptor, may have cost this car a tranny, and got the TRX stuck but no damage. So, yeah…just a lot more things to hit, a lot more close by.

      From what Jeep folks told me, sounds like a lot of stuff gets damaged off-road.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Probably yet another reason not to spend eighty large on one of these.

        • 0 avatar
          Tim Healey

          To be clear, it sounded like it wasn’t because the Jeeps can’t handle it, but because journalists run out of skill/talent/luck.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            Breaking down after getting wet and/or spinning the tires a little bit, and forums repeating same, sounds exactly like Jeeps can’t handle it.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “From what Jeep folks told me, sounds like a lot of stuff gets damaged off-road”
        It’s a forgone conclusion. The bigger the rig the worse it gets. I don’t think my son’s F150 bogger has a panel on it without damage. His Cherokee has faired better but is used on tighter trails. My friend’s Jeeps and Toyota’s are covered in trail pinstripes.
        My 12 year old F150 has a few dings and scratches from it’s more limited excursions off road

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The Durango 392 is reasonably well-sorted but even there I find it something of a tough sell over the 345ci trim. The engine does feel best in the Charger/Challenger IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I rented a Durango R/T recently. It was nice enough (though the wife took one look at the black/red interior and said “trying too hard”), but so brutally heavy that it really didn’t feel all that fast. I can imagine the extra power of the 392 being appreciated by someone who uses their Durango in the mountains.

        I really don’t understand why they put so many lead bricks in the Durango that it weighs 800 pounds *more* than my similarly sized Highlander Hybrid despite not having a battery or any electric motors.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I’ve run across Jeep owners who’ve replaced the 3.6 V6 with a 5.7 V8. The V6 is an unreliable piece of sh!t. Once off warranty it’s cost effective to do a V8 swap.
      The 6.2 does appear to be overkill and it’s obviously more of a vanity purchase. All that extra torque makes it more difficult to maintain traction and increases the odds of breaking components.

      • 0 avatar

        The first few years of Wrangler Penta stars had issues with the head cracking, and some exhaust routing issues. The later ones don;t have many issues, in general the Penta star v6 is regarded as the most reliable engine in the FCA stable. How ever your more likley to have issues in the Wrangler then any other vehicle they sell it in.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Wouldn’t the Jeep Wrangler be a handful on the highway with a V8 engine. Wranglers are not the most stable vehicles especially in areas where there are heavy crosswinds.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Around here, we don’t have deserts to fly across. Off-roading is slow, bumpy, and often technical. The V6 has plenty of power to deal with it. In a Wrangler in my environment, the only relevant thing the 392 can do that the V6 can’t is make noise and burn lots of gas. I have zero desire for it.

    I agree with others that the 392 is the Goldilocks engine in LX cars. If only it existed, a 392-ized Chrysler 300 would be an intriguing car to me.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    I rented a Wrangler Unlimited for a week, my wife and I (plus the dog) went to Santa Fe and put just shy of 2000 miles on it. It had the 2.0T and while I found the turbo lag a little off putting in traffic, it had tremendous acceleration and passing power. It was not a slow car and anyone who claims that it’s slow has ridiculous and unrealistic expectations. It is more than adequate and, with the 2.0T, more economical than I expected. Powerful turbo engines with direct injection and high levels of boost are one more reason why big V8’s are (and should) go away. Also, have fun trying to reach the spark plugs on this pig.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      YMMV, but after daily driving a reasonably powerful twin-turbo DI V6 for 4 years I’ve concluded that I prefer the power delivery of a naturally-aspirated engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      My friend loved his 2 month old Unlimited Rubicon with turbo 2 litre until it blew up on him. I don’t think they’ve yet to tell him what failed. It does have better fuel economy and power than the V6.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It’s fine if you leave it stock, tires everything. It’s hilarious though when you have the dude in the lifted Wrangler, big tires, custom bumpers, winch, the works, driving aggressive, high on a redbull and axe body spray cocktail, dodging traffic like we’re standing still, but once stopped at the next light, everyone is dusting him, even beater Hyundais.

      It shouldn’t have to be huge V8, a 4.7 available in base trim would be perfect. The problem is they would sell a million of them a year.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Denver – My friend’s blown up 2.0 turbo Jeep is totally stock. His only planned mods were 35’s (33’s are stock), a 10k winch and HD front and rear bumpers.

    • 0 avatar
      Funky D

      “Powerful turbo engines with direct injection and high levels of boost are one more reason why big V8’s are (and should) go away.”

      It remains to be seen if such engines will reliably reach 150+ miles. In a smaller car, it makes more sense, but not in a truck. I will stick with a V8 for now.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        I’ve driven V8 cars and trucks over a million miles, from new but most starting with over 150K, unknown history, never blew one, wore one out, not one blown head gasket, no timing chain issues, nothing ever what so ever, just change the oil every 25K miles or so. Total hard use and abuse.

        If it doesn’t have a V8, sorry I’m not interested.

    • 0 avatar

      Tim has picked on acceleration before on Wrangler, I again say its a matter of perspective as I never found one feeling underpowered.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I’m on my second JL Wrangler. First was a V6 Sport, current is a 4xe Rubicon. The 4xe is better, and not as cool as the V8 but miles more practical at least for my usage. EV mode around town, same torque as the V8, zero issues with power, and the extra weight of the batteries mounted low and midships really settles the ride. And cheaper than gas comparably equipped considering the $7500 rebate.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “Better, because the Mojave is just as capable as the Rubicon and this water hole took out two mean machines, but also worse, because the Gladiator was apparently heavily damaged.”

    I’d have to disagree. The “Mojave” is tuned for desert running and does not have the Rubicon T-case. The Mojave T-case 4lo is 2.72:1. The Rubicon 4lo : 4:1. The Gladiator has a 137.3-inch wheelbase, while the JL Wrangler Unlimited is 118.4 inches.
    I’m not surprised that the Gladiator took damage.

    My “Jeep” buddy said he’d take a ZR2 over a Gladiator if he wanted a small truck.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    13 city / 17 highway / 14 combined
    “I approve” – Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

    (To summarize, this vehicle is terrible on-road and not very good off-road — did I read that correctly?)

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      I see curb weight as 5,103 pounds, which makes the torque-to-pork ratio… well nevermind, we should probably just focus on the torque figure.

      Does this use the carbon-fiber frame or have they moved to titanium? Oh sorry, I was looking at bicycles — automobiles are much more sophisticated and I apologize.

      What’s the current draw of the taillamps? If it were less in some way, could the wiring be thinner and lighter do you think? What is the density of copper? Again, sorry — I’m sure they’ve been over all this already.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Near as makes no difference 80 grand for an old engine in a vehicle that doesn’t benefit much from it.

    The smart money will wait for the Stellantis turbo-charged straight six. That motor will, most likely, replace most V8s in their lineup.

    Wranglers should always have a straight six anyway…

  • avatar
    Funky D

    I had been jonesing for a Gladiator since they first came out, but wasn’t sure if I could live with it long term, so we rented a Wrangler Unlimited V6 for a 2000-mile road trip last year. While I found that the Wrangler was reasonably quiet, the ride was decent, tracking was fine (longer wheelbase helps here), and it got decent mileage (22~24).

    The problem was that after about 300 miles or so, the comfort level started dropping precipitously. We were both saddle sore after arriving at our destination (about 450~500 miles). Granted, that is not what Wranglers or Gladiators are designed for, still I’m glad I found this out before committing to one.

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