Is the 392 V8 worth it on the 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited?

The 392 differs from the regular Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon in a few key ways, but does it live up to its six-figure price tag?

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With an as-tested price of $112,695, why would anyone buy the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392 over the regular Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon? After all, that’s a difference of around $34,000 when the two are equally equipped. From the outside, it’s the obvious character the Wrangler brings to the road that sets it apart. It’s just that nothing can really compete with Unlimited for its in-your-face style.

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In the 392’s case, it’s the functional hood and “392” badging that stand out. Of course, a serious punter must add the Xtreme Recon 35-inch tire package. These monster mudders not only add a healthy dose of muscle to the look, the package includes a 38mm suspension lift. The increased ground clearance enhances the Wrangler’s already serious off-road chops by increasing approach angles (to 47.4 degrees) and departure angles (to 40.4 degrees). On the downside, the raised ride height makes it more difficult to climb up to the driver’s seat.

When it comes to dirt, there is little difference in overall ability. Both versions of the Unlimited get Dana axles with Tru-Lok differentials front and rear. This setup allows the driver to lock the differentials when traction is at its highest – just the rear, or, when things really go pear-shaped, the front as well. In four-low with both axles locked, the traction available is unreal, although it’s also harder to steer. Both versions of the Unlimited also have an electronic disconnect front sway bar, which increases axle articulation when driving over a rock.

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The difference is that the standard Rubicon’s Rock-Trac 4×4 system has a 4:1 low gear ratio. It’s better in an extreme rock crawling situation than the 392’s 2.72:1 low range gears. But, get back on the road and it’s benefit 392 — The Selec-Trac system has an automatic set-and-forget mode that switches between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive based on driving conditions. In practice, the setup provides traction when needed.

Conversely, the standard Rock-Trac setup is a part-time system that drives the rear wheels until the driver manually engages four-high. The problem is that this setting should really only be used on a loose or slippery surface. On a high-traction surface, large steering inputs see the system wind up and crow, which can cause damage. This means those buying the regular Wrangler should opt for the full-time Rock-Trac system – it has the missing set-and-forget position.

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So far, the Unlimited 392 has a slight advantage. Lift the hood and you’ll find the real advantage.

2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392
2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392 Photo by Graeme Fletcher

While the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon comes with 2.0-liter turbo-four and 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine options, the top choice is the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with eTorque mild-hybrid system. It is married to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This combination delivers 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to make it a satisfying ride and a capable on- and off-road unit.

The Unlimited Rubicon 392 gets a monster 6.4L Hemi V8. This engine is all about the muscle and the rumble that comes with 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. The muscle side is shown in a straight line drawing. The 392 is so quick off the line that it surprised some sports car “people” – these are the people who like to bump in front of traffic by blasting off the line and cutting in rudely. Well, sorry, folks, not here. The 392 proved to be equal to everything encountered.

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As for the numbers, the honking V8 rips the 392 from rest to 100 kilometers per hour in five seconds; regular V6 Rubicon takes 7.5 seconds with a tailwind. The downside is that the 392 can handle anything and everything except a gas station. A test average of 17.3 liters per 100 kilometers, compared to 11.2 l/100 km for the V6-powered Unlimited, made my wallet burn!

The rumble of the V8 is found when the 392’s loud button, just below the climate controls, is activated. Now the four-wheel exhaust pipes blow loudly, making the V6’s burble sound decidedly sweet. I loved the four-pipe sound, although the ability to turn down the sound when leaving early was much appreciated by the neighbours!

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Both the standard Rubicon and the Rubicon 392 use a “performance” suspension, although the fundamentals are different. The standard Rubicon uses a heavy-duty setup with gas-charged monotube shocks; The 392 gets a modified suspension with Fox shocks and, thankfully, the bigger brakes needed to rein in the horsepower. What doesn’t change is the Wrangler’s steering setup. The steering wheel, rather than the more sophisticated rack-and-pinion design found in most cars and crossovers, leaves the center feel quite dom.

So how broken is the road handling given the near-unstoppable off-road capability? Well, it’s not as bad as expected, although this has to be tempered by the driver’s onboard yaw sensor sitting over a meter off the road when the 35in tire package is in place. Quite simply, the feeling of body roll is exaggerated by the ride height. The reality is that the amount of body roll, especially in the 392, is pretty well controlled. But the perception is that Wranglers will show their underpinnings in public when pushed into a corner, which doesn’t inspire the driver to push hard towards the top!

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In the deadly Rubicon, this aspect is something you quickly learn to live with. It is, as they say, what it is. It proved more difficult to accept in the 392 because of the open power. Ultimately, this required a modified driving style. Toe through the curvy bits and hammer down the straight sections with the accelerator buried – now, this was great fun!

So, what’s the bottom line? While it’s true that the Wrangler Unlimited appeals to those who enjoy life on the wild side, the deadly model can’t match the 392. chutzpah. Yes, the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392’s as-tested price is hard to swallow, but looking to the future, there’s a silver lining. Its brash, ill-conceived muscle car outlook makes it one of the few “stock” cars likely to achieve collector status and the value retention that entails. After all, this is probably the last hurray for a full-on V8, considering the world is going electric.

Oh, and FYI: The Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon we tested was $55,945, plus $22,095 in options ($78,040). Conversely, the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392 was $101,445 plus $11,250 in options ($112,695).


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