The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most recognizable and off-road capable vehicles around, carrying with it a long lineage of being an American staple for go-anywhere transportation. To captivate hardcore enthusiasts, Jeep went to the extreme side of things by offering the Wrangler with a V8 engine for the 2021 model year, bringing us the baddest Jeep ever, the Rubicon 392. For the 2023 model year, Jeep gets to celebrate 20 years of the Rubicon name, which is taken from the popularized off-roading trail in California. The special 20th Anniversary edition brings us many goodies touting the new Wrangler Rubicon 392 as the most powerful and stout Jeep to come out of the factory.
As many may already know, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 comes stuffed with a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine good for 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and all four wheels are powered through a Selec-Trac full-time all-wheel-drive system that gets the proper manual transfer case along with a four-low setting. Having the full-time all-wheel-drive system allows you to keep the Wrangler clawing at all fours on pavement and not having the hassle of switching out of all-wheel-drive to normally select two-wheel-drive high. Clawing at the pavement and whatever trail or terrain you dare subject the Wrangler Rubicon 392 to are 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires wrapping 17-inch beadlock wheels, which are upgraded from the 33-inch tires because my test vehicle has the Xtrem Recon tire package. Such a tire choice proves to be surprisingly versatile, with not much-unwanted road noise (apart from the abundance of wind noise) and the proper off-roading chops to conquer extreme terrains.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is a beast. There’s no other way to put it. The 392 V8 engine dominates the Jeep world and has the proper sound to let everyone know it means business. That sound rumbles through the snappy-shifting gears out from a quad-outlet down-facing exhaust that has a two-mode sound setting, quiet and just outright loud. Switching the exhaust into its quiet mode really keeps things tame and quieter than a V6-powered Wrangler until you lay into the throttle, where the exhaust automatically opens up, sounding like a straight-pipped Baja racing truck. Leaving the exhaust open in its loud mode, there’s a welcomed V8 rumble that’s fit for putting a big smile on the face of enthusiasts. The only disappointment I had was how the cylinder deactivation system is rather aggressive, often putting the V8 into its 4-cylinder mode when maintaining speed to conserve fuel, but it came with a dull vibration and sound often followed up by an abrupt thump in switching back to the V8 mode.
Driving the Wrangler Rubicon 392 20th Anniversary with all its add-on equipment as part of the Anniversary packaging is simpler than I thought. Fundamentally, the Wrangler 392 20th Anniversary seems to ride smoother than my previous run-ins with Wrangler Unlimited (4-door) vehicles, and the steering seems to be more cohesive without as much wondering – it tends to track straight – imagine that in a Jeep Wrangler! While there’s still plenty of loose steering play because of the large 35-inch tires, the steering is more predictable than in other Wranglers that I’ve experienced, which could be a characteristic of having the big V8 engine weighing down the front a bit more. Speaking of the V8 up front, Jeep added extra cooling through functional hood vents connected to massive air-channeling scoops, as there’s not much spacing under the heavy hood of the Wrangler for such a large engine.
There’s an ample amount of power that can easily get you in trouble in the 392 Wrangler in more ways than one. Not only is it very loud, but the acceleration can easily catch you off guard as the Jeep reminds you at times that this isn’t a sports car by any stretch of the imagination. You’ll have to be mindful of taking turns, as the lifted suspension and stability control only do so much to keep you planted on the ground. You’re working with 35-inch tires and lifted suspension with 11.2 inches of ground clearance. You can get even more extreme with the limited AEV equipment, which is limited to 150 units for the 2023 Wrangler 392, adding other bits like even-larger 37-inch tires, off-roading lights, unique bumpers, an extra 2.5-inches of suspension left, and more.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 20th Anniversary edition immediately feels as if it is unstoppable, and that would mostly be true considering it is among the meanest Jeeps that you can get off the factory floor. The 4.56 rear axle ratio, onboard air compressor, gorilla-glass windshield, and heavy-duty rock sliders that serve double duty as smallish sidestep are all notable additions to the 20th Anniversary edition packaging. For the collective of its parts, the Wrangler Rubicon 392 20th Anniversary edition elevates most of what you’ve seen in the past for the most extreme Jeep Wrangler out of the factory, making it among the most capable for off-roading.
Having the big V8 shoehorned under the narrow hood of the Wrangler Rubicon, you’ll expect to pay dearly at the pump, and that’s just what I did during my week with the beastly Jeep. Surprisingly, even though the EPA estimates are dismal at 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway, the consumption is mostly consistent and never surprises you. In fact, I think that the distance to empty mileage computer is more on the safe side of giving you a lower range number than you get depleting the 21.5-gallon tank. Thankfully, you can burn regular-grade fuel, saving you maybe a few dollars, so you can burn up that savings to get ear-titillating doses of the exhaust note at full throttle – trust me, it’s fun!
The inside of the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 20th Anniversary is somewhat plush in the sense of having several soft touch wrapped dashboard surfaces with accent stitching and even optional red seatbelts. The accents, along with the red-accented leather-trimmed seats, all come together for a sporty but partly luxury-esq interior. Conversely, the ruggedness and durability of the interior isn’t lost in its theme, as you still have a cabin that can get a little wet without worry.
The seating areas, which haven’t changed, remain accommodating up front and out back with good spacing for most. If you are well over 6 feet tall, you may have to try out the positioning in its furthest manual setting as my knees come just to the lower dashboard, and I am 6 feet 3 inches tall. The Jeep Wrangler has never tried to be something that it’s not, and despite the plushness of the Rubicon 392 Rubicon 20th Anniversary edition, it follows suit. It never tricks you into thinking it’s a luxury SUV – until you look at the price – more on that later.
Apart from having a lot of hidden technology throughout the hardcore drivetrain and suspension setup of the Wrangler Rubicon 392 20th Anniversary edition, there’s a welcomed level of tech throughout the interior. Most of the tech surrounds the 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen system running the latest Uconnect software with an Alpine audio system. There’s also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration via USB connection that works seamlessly. The sound system sounds good and seems to adapt well to having the doors off and the unique Sky one-touch power soft-top fully opened, which can only be operated at up to 60 mph, but you can leave it open at any speed.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is just as safe as any other Jeep Wrangler, but it bundles up the standard active safety features of forward collision warning/emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, cross-path detection, adaptive cruise control, parksense rear parking-assist, rear backup camera, and a front trail camera.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 20th Anniversary edition isn’t shy about being at the upper echelon of the Jeep food chain, and its pricing reflects such by being rather pricy at the as-tested price of $95,385. While you have nearly a six-figure Jeep Wrangler here, it is also unique in its own right as the baddest and meanest Jeep that you can buy right now. Couple that with its competition found in performance trucks with just as much or more power, and you will then understand the price of admission in a V8-powered off-roading versatile monster – it’s a Jeep thing.