The Jeep Wrangler 392 is the work of eccentric geniuses, a concept that makes little sense, yet one I absolutely fell in love with.
I like to imagine the brief from management — after they stopped laughing, thinking no one would actually build it — was to find completely incompatible numbers and make them work. For instance, give this Wrangler 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tyres fitted to 17-inch rims, but match them to a 470bhp, 6.4-litre V8 from the Dodge Challenger muscle car, so those balloon tyres have to find traction and sidewall stiffness to catapult the car’s 2.4 tonnes from 0 to 100kph in 4.6 seconds with the aerodynamics of a broken house brick.
Thankfully, some sanity prevailed, and, even though the 6.4 V8 in the Challenger is good for nearly 290kph, it’s been curtailed and limited to 180kph in the Wrangler. Otherwise, those giant tyres combined with a ladder-on-frame chassis would literally make the 392 — which is still essentially a heavy-duty off-roader — undriveable at speeds beyond. I’m glad Chrysler didn’t go all the way and fit the Hellcat, 707hp supercharged version.
Being speed-governed also means gearing has been shortened to maximise the lowdown performance to deliver that sub five-second acceleration time, as well as offering loads of lowdown grunt, including 637Nm of torque from 4,300rpm.
There are other high horsepower off-roaders of course, but forget your Mercedes-AMG G 63 or 700hp Aston Martin DBX, because this is still a genuine sand dune climber, wadi basher and mud plugger fitted with proper tyres to tackle those. Unlike the Jumeirah-restricted Jeeps, I sense the owners of this Wrangler won’t mind a scratch or two to wear as a badge of honour after a solid weekend away.
While it will comfortably out-accelerate a Lamborghini Countach LP500 S, an R34 Nissan GTR and even a new Tesla Model 3 to 100kph, it definitely won’t slow down or negotiate a corner like any of those, either. The driver needs to be alert and ready to react to healthy swings of understeer pitching into oversteer from the tyres and body roll from the ladder chassis if there’s a corner approaching after an acceleration run. Remember this and all will be OK.
The 392's full-time four-wheel-drive system doesn't offer a two-wheel-drive mode. While there's no 2Hi mode for the transfer case, there is low-range four-wheel drive plus a new button on the dash that lets you choose between a loud exhaust and an ear-piercingly loud exhaust. This was exacerbated on our test car by the fact it featured half doors with the top half being removable vinyl panels to let that aural goodness, combined with a healthy dose of fresh air, drown out every ounce of conversation.
There are very few specimens left on the new car market that let you interact with nature, bugs and all, as much as a half-doored and topless Wrangler powered by a giant V8. If this weren’t sitting so high, it’d be a genuine old-school 1950s-style hot rod. I love the fact a company such as Chrysler can still loosen its corporate tie and make outrageous cars like this every so often. Of course, we need to be responsible and think of the future (and this won’t be built in great numbers), but we also need to keep the fun as well.
The Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the anti-PC, antisocial media hate, anti-woke car we need just occasionally to escape the ever-increasing scrutiny of regulations. It’s a reminder of how life once was and I, for one, would love a 392 Wrangler in my garage for those few times when I need to go offline, grab a fishing pole and speed off to my favourite campsite.