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The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is a halo car you can drive

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the halo car for Jeep, with a HEMI V-8 and gigantic off-road tires. Can I get it stuck?

jeep-rubicon-392-soul-score

I must admit, I never understood the concept of a halo car. Well, I get it. Someone builds a car with an astronomical cost attached to it, and includes all the engineering bells and whistles in the hopes that it casts a halo over the rest of whatever pedestrian lineup they’re trying to push. The buying public sees one on the news, or in a showroom (unlikely), and extrapolates that their Lexus ES300 is juuust like that LF-A over there. But I think I’ve finally found a halo car that works – the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392.

“Oh, Mike, that’s not a halo car, that’s a Jeep Wrangler.”

Yea? Did your car give birth to an entire brand?

Jeep Rubicon 392

2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Quick Take

Get one:

The hilarious roar of a HEMI V-8 without anything between you. Rugged cabin that’s better equipped than the G63’s. Going topless is easy. Always trying to make you smile.

Don’t get one:

A dog off the leash on pavement. Fuel mileage of an A-10. This is a lot of money for a Jeep.

Soul Score: 9

Anything else that gets this dirty with this much enthusiasm probably charges by the dance.

The 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 overview

Jeep Rubicon 392

I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic. You can trace this car’s lineage all the way back to World War Two (Jeep has some ‘Murica flags festooned on here in case you forgot). And if I say the name Jeep, you’ll undoubtedly think of this car first, the progenitor of all things SUV, off-road, and dirt.

But I’m also not exaggerating about this specific Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392. Stuffed under its square-jawed hood is a HEMI V-8 with 470 horses. While not quite the Hellcat engine, it’s got enough juice (and roar) to give you the giggles every time you step on the gas. You also get giant mudder tires, and enough off-road chops to turn this Jeep into a supercar once the paved road disappears.

Jeep Rubicon 392

Also included? A halo car price: $95,945. But that’s half the price of the G-Wagon, while being much more useful (sort of). Plus you get a power canvas top, the doors still come off, and there’s a front winch to get you (doubtful) or someone else (nods approval) out of trouble.

There are some warts too, especially on-road, but this thing is a riot. Let’s get dirty.

Performance Score: 9. Rubi-conquer

Jeep Rubicon 392

Obviously, this is no sports car. Taken out of context, it’s a pretty atrocious daily driver. But like any Ferrari, reserved for the most beautiful of days on the smoothest roads, this Jeep has a higher calling than simply lugging around the weekly shopping list.

Check those gigantic 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires. They don’t allow the 392 to go above 112 mph (that’s ok, trust me). Peep the old-school four-wheel drive lever and the kind of e-brake you yank up, not pop up like a can of Diet Coke.

There’s a lot of charm here.

Engine

Jeep Rubicon 392
392 stand for displacement. Lots of it.

With the Charger and Challenger gone, and the Ram TRX going away at the end of 2024, this Jeep is left holding the famous 6.4 liter HEMI V-8 in its hands.

But now is not the time for sadness. Instead, fire up the engine with what is honestly a gigantic roar loud enough to make you think the Allies have invaded. There’s a toggle switch inside that will quiet the exhaust if you wish, because it can get downright loud inside – 87 decibels when giving it the beans. But it’s a satisfying sound, like listening to a concert of your favorite band in the front row. You know you’ll leave with that ringing in your ears, but whatever.

Jeep Rubicon 392
This unassuming exhaust produces as much noise as a chain saw.

No turbochargers, no superchargers. You don’t need them. Jeep has managed to create a perfect balance of throttle tip in and response, giving the Wrangler smooth control off the line and a progressive climb to redline with a linear power band. Make no mistake though – pin the gas and you’ll be pinned to the seatback. This 392 gets to sixty as fast as an M3. And yes, the hood scoop is functional.

Why did Jeep wait until now to put a V-8 in one of these things?

Transmission

Jeep Rubicon 392
No fuss for the transmission and four-wheel selector.

So old-school in its approach, this Jeep is. Reach for the shift lever on the eight-speed automatic, and pull from P to D with nary a quizzical face. It’s nice to know how to just get in and drive a car for a change.

The transmission is a sweetie that’s paired perfectly with the engine. Pull on what are best described as tabs on the steering wheel to change gears manually. But right below those tabs are buttons for radio controls, so it’s hard to know if you’ll get a gear change, or a radio station change. I’d have separated the controls more.

Jeep Rubicon 392
The front and rear diff can be locked separately.

Also here is full-time four-wheel drive, which isn’t the same as all-wheel drive. I left it in auto around town and let the Jeep decide where best to send the power, but there’s a range for low gears as well. You can also lock the front and rear differentials together, or just have the rear engaged. It’s a unique feeling as the trans and differentials work together in tougher dirt roads searching for grip.

I took it to the beach and went past signs that said I’d get stuck if I went further.

They lied.

Steering and chassis – On-Road

Jeep Rubicon 392
Gigantic tires follow every rut in the road.

It’s difficult to blame this Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 for being so unkempt on pavement. With those gigantic bead-lock tires, it’s eager to follow every rut, divot and road crown into oblivion. The effect is one of always tugging your dog on the leash.

“No, boy, not that way.”

This is by no means a tossable car. With over 5,000 pounds of box and the overall height of the thing, it’s pretty eager to roll as you pick up some speed. Like the G63, there’s a sudden change around 70 MPH, where going faster no longer seems like a good idea.

The steering is a bit heavy and old school in feel, but it’s accurate, so at least you’re not sawing at the wheel all day. Get off the freeway and keep it local, and this Jeep will do just fine, thank you very much. It’s hard to hold this behavior against it – you wouldn’t take your NSX off-road, would you?

Steering and chassis – Off-Road

Jeep Rubicon 392
The Jeep comes alive in an off-road environment.

A ride that’s loud and clangy turns smooth once the pavement goes away. Live axles at the front and rear provide the ruggedness you’d expect for this platform, allowing bigger wheel articulation while keeping the tires square to the dirt.

Jeep Rubicon 392
Consider this expert mode.

The standard 35-inch mudder tires add to this air of invincibility, giving the Jeep a mini monster truck appearance. There’s an option for almost every scenario, from disconnecting the sway bars via a button on the dash to a high 4.56 Rear Axle Ratio.

Going off-roading around the Jersey Shore, I looked for some specific areas that might give this Jeep some fits – you know, half mud, half sand traction areas and things of that nature. Nothing made it break a sweat. It’s the most capable thing I’ve driven off-road, and the easiest to adjust on the fly.

Brakes

Jeep Rubicon 392
Brakes look tiny for a truck of this size.

Can you find them behind those 17-inch rims? They are there, but nothing fancy. Not that you need cross-drilled discs on a truck like this. Pedal travel is firm, but if you need to make a panic stop, they must be pressed hard for a reaction, especially toward the end the pedal travel.

This is a unique vehicle that’s built for a very specific purpose. The V-8’s power feels necessary once you drive it, spoiling for any other Jeep variant. The off-road performance makes it a supercar for dirt, while its on-road behavior most likely relegates it to a third car toy.

See? Halo car.

Utility Score: 7. It’s hard to screw up a box

Jeep Rubicon 392
Trunk size is sufficient, but difficult to access.

Living with this car is a bit of a chore. Climb up, way up, to get inside the cabin. My daughter needed an airline ladder to climb into the back seat, and it’s pretty tight back there. Certainly plenty of headroom through.

Jeep Rubicon 392
It’s a bit tight back here, but you can make it work.

In the rear is a tailgate with a large wheel assembly attached to it, because active lifestyle. That means opening the door requires a gym membership, so just be aware before you purchase. Swings wide too, so clear the area. It reveals a trunk that can fit your gear, though it’s a bit shallow in depth.

Jeep Rubicon 392
Heavy metal.

In front, the seats are actually quite comfortable. While not offering the adjustability of a luxury marquee, they hold you in place with enough support, and are supple enough to make all those gyrations easier to tolerate. I do wish for the bottom cushion to be a bit longer, but it’s good enough. Shorter people might not even notice.

Fuel Economy: 1: Tough stuff

Jeep Rubicon 392
Fluid icons resemble old fuel cans – accurate, since you practically need to carry extra.

As usual, you can blame me for part of the problem. I do not drive these things in an economical fashion. Hey, it’s hard to resist doing a pull with the HEMI at every stop light.

Still, 12 MPG on the dash – that’s average too. There’s cylinder deactivation here, and it’s sometimes obvious when it engages, but this Jeep needs all the help it can get.

I won’t pretend it would deter me though. Going for gas every few days isn’t a bummer if you’re enjoying the car, which I was. The alternative is much less appealing.

Features and Comfort: 7. Easter eggs galore

Jeep Rubicon 392

Part of the fun of this Jeep is just sitting in it and finding all the little Jeep icons and fun Easter Eggs they’ve placed throughout. Where ever you look, there’s something interesting.

Willy’s not Wonka

Jeep Rubicon 392
Everything in here is plastic, but soft and detailed.

Land Rover, AMG, and other snooty brands are always so serious and buttoned up. But once you sit inside this Wrangler, you forget about the soft leather thrones of those makes, and instead focus on the fact that you can essentially hose this thing out and call it good.

As you know, the doors come off, something I regretfully did not do because it was late November by the beach. Above is a cloth power top that folds away over both rows, revealing the great outdoors and essentially making this a convertible. That I did partake in, and wind noise isn’t bad at all. This is a big box, after all.

Jeep Rubicon 392
Opening the top makes this even better.

There’s a pretty good Infotainment system that’s easy to use, and it works better than anything in a BMW as far as smart phone integration goes. Forget about the G63, which lacks even a touch screen. A traditional dash features real needles and a screen in the middle, yet another throwback on this machine. Gauges for fuel and temp remind of WW2 gas cans, and little Jeep icons sit on the shifter top and in the trunk.

Jeep Rubicon 392
Little details are all over.
Jeep Rubicon 392
The center console keep important electronic connections protected and out of the way.

Is it plastic fantastic? Yea, but it’s functionally so, and there’s effort here.

It’s a Jeep thing

Jeep Rubicon 392

The look outside is not so subtle, with that hood scoop and big boy tires. But unless you happen to rev it next to a civilian, they’d be none the wiser to your ballistic missile ability. Maybe the optional Fire Cracker Red paint job gives a clue.

The only other option outside is a Warn tow winch, to get yourself (or others) out of trouble. For $1,995, you might as well if you plan on serious off-roading. The Machined Bronze Beadlock wheels look the part too, and I loved this Jeep’s headlights. So tall above traffic, everyone was flashing me that high-beams were on. They were not – I’m just better than you, peasant.

Jeep Rubicon 392
A 1.5-inch lift is standard.
Jeep Rubicon 392
A winch ensures your friends will always want you around.

Naturally you get all the bells and whistles that Jeep has to offer. The Xtreme Recon package is no longer a thing, instead becoming a standard part of the 392. Would you have ordered yours without anyway?

The 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 refuses to compromise for you

Jeep Rubicon 392

And I love cars that don’t compromise. This Jeep is singular in its mission – it makes you unstoppable in nearly all conditions. A toy, but one that is just as focused as a Ferrari Enzo.

Now at some point, you are going to ask yourself if you’ve been wise with your spending. A regular Jeep is a pretty bare bones thing, and it starts at $38,390. Tough to compare to the 392, with its unpainted fenders and no options. Climb up the model ladder, and you can get a Rubicon with a six-speed, or even a Sahara, for significantly less. All share the same turbo four or V-6 engines.

Jeep Rubicon 392

Jeep has also already started the electrification process with its 4xe, and it will overlap in price a bit with the 392. But come on – that’s like comparing Jeff Bezos’s yacht to the U.S.S. George Washington. Both are really cool boats, but which would you have the keys to?

Unkempt. Rude. Domineering. Fun. This Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the entire point of Machines With Souls – a car that makes you smile the entire time you’re with it.

Jeep Rubicon 392

2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Specifications

Vehicle Type: Front-engine, four-wheel-drive, five-door, five-passenger wagon.

PRICE

Base: $87,595
As tested: $95,945

POWERTRAIN

6.4 liter HEMI V-8
475 horsepower @ 6,000 RPM
470 lb-ft @ 4,300 RPM
Eight-speed automatic transmission

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 118.4 in
Length: 192.5 in
Width: 79.3 in
Height: 73.6 in
Curb Weight: 5,259 lbs

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined/city/highway: 14 / 13 / 16 MPG

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