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by Matt Konkle
Torque Editor-in-Chief

Automotive concept vehicles by their very nature are both frustrating and exhilarating because, on the one side, they are often a design, or have modifications that you could really see yourself owning. But on the other, they are just one-off vehicles that get shown off at a few auto events before disappearing into the back of a warehouse.

That is, until they aren’t. And Jeep’s latest concept may just fit that category.

Jeep today unveiled a new 6.4-liter V-8 Wrangler Rubicon concept dubbed 392, a name modeled after its engine’s 392 cubic inches of displacement. While that engine is certainly powerful enough, what the brand said in the vehicle’s press release was just as strong.

”Jeep enthusiasts have been clamoring for a V-8-powered production Wrangler in recent years and the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept is an indication they may soon get their wish,” the company said in its release.

That wasn’t someone else’s interpretation of the Wrangler Rubicon 392 concept. It came right from Jeep itself. It also came on a day when Ford plans to unveil its latest off-road creation, the new Bronco.

“Jeep Wrangler enthusiasts have been asking us for a Wrangler V-8 and our new Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept proves that we have the ability to make that happen,” said Jim Morrison, FCA’s Head of Jeep Brand. “From the recently introduced 29-mpg Wrangler EcoDiesel to our award-winning Jeep Gladiator, and the upcoming Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, Jeep is clearly listening to its customers.

”We are anxious to gauge their reaction to this new Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept, a vehicle that delivers an incredible and unmatched level of fun-to-drive performance and capability, on- and off-road.”

Although it may be hard to believe, Jeep has never offered a V-8 engine in a production Wrangler. So those looking for the extra power—or especially torque—have been forced to spend time, and money, swapping in that kind of powerplant. The last time Jeep offered a factory installed V-8 was in the 1981 CJ, and that engine boasted a 5.0-liter V-8 that made 125 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque.

For the Wrangler Rubicon 392 concept, its engine bay contains a 6.4L Hemi V-8 which churns out 450 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. Engineers bolted that Hemi on upgraded engine mounts, the brand said in a statement, and then beefed up the eight-speed automatic transmission to run power to third-generation Dana 44 axles featuring Tru-Lok electronically locking differentials and 3.73 gearing. Jeep indicated in its concept release statement that this gearing is designed to help improve on road performance and add greater off-road capability.

Overall, for those who want to know, the Wrangler Rubicon 392 concept rumbles from 0-60 in less than five seconds.

Jeep designers modified the vehicle’s frame to put up with those added performance features and built in a Selec-Trac two-speed, full-time four-wheel-drive transfer case. The brand also gave the vehicle a two-mode exhaust that alters the Hemi engine’s sound profile at the push of a button.

Despite the engine and performance enhancements, Jeep made sure to note the Wrangler Rubicon 392 concept is just as capable off road as every other Trail Rated edition—a message that will certainly be welcomed by those who hope this concept comes to production.

The vehicle includes a Jeep Performance Products 2” lift kit with Fox aluminum monotube shocks that help mitigate heat and dampen bumps and jumps at higher speeds, while 17” beadlock wheels allow for lower tire pressure and greater off-road traction to compliment the massive torque boost.

Rubicon rock rails, steel bumpers and belly pan, along with a Warn-branded winch and 37” mud-terrain tires round out the off-road enhancements.

Jeep said that the vehicle’s approach (51.6 degrees), breakover (29.5 degrees) and departure angles (40.1 degrees), as well as ground clearance (13.25-inches) have all been improved appreciably over the stock Wrangler. Water fording also increases from 31 inches to 34 inches.

The Wrangler Rubicon 392 concept even includes a unique look that features a granite crystal metallic finish with bronze tow hooks, badging, springs, shocks and wheels, while displaying offsetting with Rock Red interior leather seats with gold trim and a performance steering wheel inspired by the Mojave Gladiator.

Finishing off the concept's appearance is an aggressive heavy-duty raised hood, the brand’s Sky One-Touch powertop with removable panels and custom half doors—another item many wish would re-enter production.

For its part, Ford dismissed Jeep’s Monday announcement with a image of Lucy from the Charles Schultz cartoon series snatching a football away from Charlie Brown as he tries to kick the ball.

"It's just a concept — again. *whisper voice* (someone is very, very nervous)," tweeted Mike Levine, Ford North America product communications manager.

Let the games begin.

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