Knuckle-scraping Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is hardly ‘last ditch’
While D Trump’s final flailings set a poor example of grace in defeat, states Iain Robertson, his ‘private militiamen’ can look forward to an antediluvian class of SUV from next year that brings back a burbling V8 and plenty of space for armaments.
‘Damned if we do, damned if we don’t’, could well become a rallying cry from fans of piston engines, as the motoring world transitions from traditional fossil fuels into blindly blameless electricity. With a decade to go before a new petrol/diesel ban in the UK, at least, in a move that for the first time in many years puts us in a world leading role, we might as well start the party to end all parties, with a balls out invitation to gas-guzzlers, yowling multi-valvers and supercar performers of all designations.
Do not misconstrue my opinions: I am NOT against EVs but I am against EVs that cannot be refuelled readily with renewable energy; I am against the exorbitantly high prices being demanded for them (even though very few end-users will ever buy one outright); I am against the EVangelistic bandwagon-hopping and blinkered attitude of many Millennials and even more so against the stance of vehicle manufacturers that throw sops into the ring, without backup on repairs, spares and dealer support. All of which begs a question: do I support automotive insurrection? Bloody right I do!
Still, we have ten years of joyful celebrating, during which time the depreciation of piston-driven investments should plummet to savings squandered levels of ignominy. While I admit that this portent is not the most encouraging, I, for one, will be in my mid-70s and will cling onto whatever my ‘final motor’ might be, full in the knowledge that incoming EVs will never be within affordable reach, ever. If that is not a good reason to blow the lot and enjoy what is left, then I am afraid I do not know what is!
Rubicon has fantastic memories for me. In the dying breaths of the last century, I was in a most privileged but small and final group of six UK motoring scribes invited by Chrysler-Jeep, when it was part of Merc’s empire, to spend five days in the US, commencing at Lake Tahoe but ending in Hollywood. It was by far the costliest of media trips, which involved dining at Francis Ford Coppola’s lakeside residence (famous for its role in ‘The Godfather II’), residing in the magnificently luxurious Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, dining at Wolfgang Puck’s celebrity-packed restaurant, spending a VIP day at Universal Studios theme park and experiencing a VIP (private) shopping trip in downtown LA, like the stars do.
What I omitted to include in the above list was the reason for being there: to drive the infamous, highest-rated, most treacherous and taxing Rubicon Trail. The trail has historical import, as the route taken by Red Indian tribes to their hunting grounds and mountain summer camp of the High Sierra range above Lake Tahoe. Accompanied by a crew of ‘Jeepsters’, we rock crawled, negotiated tree-lined tracks, drove through rivers, camped overnight, with rattlers, black ants and brown bears for company, and, for more than 24 hours on the trek, seldom exceeded 5mph. It was, without any hesitation, the most exhausting, most exciting and most unforgettable trip I have ever undertaken.
For as long as the Wrangler model has been available in Jeep’s line-up, there has been a Rubicon option. While the latest Wrangler is by far the best equipped and most luxurious of its breed, it has never forgotten its indefatigable roots and remains the most capable of multi-surface vehicles in the world. It is not a comfortable road car, because its engineered bias is definitely off-road, but its multi-functionality, with removeable doors, lift-off roof panels and fold-flat windscreen that reveal its purposeful roll-cage, all of which can achieved with moderate ease, help the driver and passengers to feel as though they are vital components of the off-road environmental experience. There is nothing like it.
This latest ‘392’ version is powered by a thumpingly powerful 6.4-litre engine; the first time in 40 years that a V8 has been a factory option for the Wrangler. It develops 470bhp and 469lbs ft of torque, 75% of which is on tap from little more than engine idle speed. It also helps this ungainly, two-tonne truck to clock the 0-60mph dash in a scarcely believable 4.5s, accompanied by a switchable exhaust tone, from pleasantly burbly to edgily and militiaman metallic.
A functional ‘hood’ scoop feeds cool air to the engine, its ‘Hydro-Guide™’ air intake system featuring tri-level ducting to enable deep water (825mm) traversing, or, should the scoop become restricted by snow, mud or debris, a secondary air path within the bonnet structure to feed the engine. All four wheels are controlled by an 8-speed automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) and transfer ’box, with selectable modes for when the going will get tough. Naturally, its chassis features upgraded frame rails, front upper control arms and cast-iron steering knuckles to take full advantage of its power and torque. Heavy-duty brakes bring the Rubicon 392 to a composed stop regardless of terrain.
The off-road prowess of the Wrangler Rubicon 392 is underscored by its wide track, heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles, with thicker axle tubes, and Tru-Lok electronic locking differentials. An electronically disconnectable front anti-rollbar maximises suspension travel for the most-demanding off-road situations. Augmenting the multi-link front and rear suspension, the Wrangler Rubicon also comes with a two-inch factory lift and is fitted with specially tuned FOX aluminium monotube shocks to make the best of its handling and relative comfort.
Now for the even worse news: the Rubicon 392 version of the Wrangler is not destined for sale in Europe. If you are lucky, you might obtain a rental example, should we ever be allowed to take holidays in North America again. However, that would be if Jeep cannot sell every single example of its V8 thumper to the class of Trump supporters that likes to ‘play in the woods’. Personally, I would love one, if for nothing else but to leave indelible tyre tracks across the EV mandate.
Conclusion: Not exactly a ‘last ditch’ effort by a car company wishing to display its gas-guzzling potential, the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is a dinosaur making impact.