SUV Review: 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392
Too much of a good thing is a good thing
“Bloodcurdling” isn’t just an expression. Research shows certain activity, like watching horror movies, can actually increase certain clotting protein in our blood. In short, it literally curdles when Chucky or Jason takes to the screen.
Or when you nail the throttle of a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392.
Let’s be honest: there was also probably some bloodcurdling going on at Jeep when Ford unveiled the Bronco in all its off-road glory last year. For the first time in an epoch, the Wrangler had competition — and not just a tangential competitor like the burly 4Runner, which has off-road chops but cannot shed its doors and roof at the drop of a hat (or the turn of a few bolts). Forced to up its game, Jeep quickly rummaged through its corporate treat bag and found a gargantuan 6.4L pushrod V8, an engine that was — to that point — reserved for angry variants of the company’s sedans and pickup trucks.
Under the barn door hood of this Jeep, it’s tuned to make 470 horsepower and an identical amount of torque, figures which are a lot closer to the Challenger/Charger duo than the Ram. This is good news for the power hungry folks like us (with all apologies to Sgt. Tanner in the original Fast & Furious ) who have nitrous oxide in our blood and a gas tank for a brain. Funnelled through an 8-speed automatic transmission, it can rocket to highway speeds from rest in about 4 seconds and crack off a quarter-mile in the high 12’s, all despite its 5,100lb curb weight.
You’ll want to keep its front wheels pointed straight during these tricks. The almighty Wrangler has never been known for its on-road precision handling, thanks to its unique measures for wheelbase and centre-of-gravity, and imbuing the thing with 470 horsepower simply exacerbates what is an already a tenuous connection with paved roads. Plant your right foot and all hell breaks loose, along with the knobby 285/70R17 mud terrain tires — especially if you’ve had the foresight to punch the button which uncorks the active exhaust.
And you had better punch it, as this is not a rig in which the driver presses or touches any buttons. That active dual-mode exhaust bellows like Chewbacca having a bad fur day, roaring its baritone way through the gears like hacksaw blades in a Cuisinart. It works one’s psyche like a mixture of red meat and bare-knuckles kickboxing, and is the highest-testosterone sound ever to emanate from the back of a factory Wrangler. It may have made a stop sign pregnant while driving to the off-road course.
Ah, yes — the off-road course. We sampled this swivel-eyed lunatic, complete with 44.5 degrees of approach angle and 10.3 inches of ground clearance, on a purpose-built track in the woods surrounding Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, heaving it over off-camber whoops and several tire-dangling obstacles. The same traits which make this (and any) Wrangler a handful on pavement permit it to shine in the dirt. A square body means fantastic sightlines when picking one’s way over rocks, and the amount of articulation provided by its front axle — especially with the electronically disconnecting sway bar — permits the type of yaw not seen since Blackbeard leaned the Queen Anne’s Revenge headlong into gale-force northeasterlies.