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Jeep is testing new ground with a hot-rod version of its Wrangler SUV.

Meet the Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept, a 450-hp Trail Rated 4x4 that can zip from zero to 60 mph in under five seconds...although perhaps not off-road.

No Foolin’

The four-door concept’s name is inspired by its 6.4-liter, 392-cu-in V-8, which is mated to a fortified 8-speed automatic transmission. Helping to manage the engine’s 450 lb-ft of torque is a full-time, two-speed transfer case and a pair of Tru-Lok front and rear axle locking differentials.

 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept  (Image: Jeep)

The torquey engine allows 3.73 final gear ratio that Jeep says enhances highway fuel efficiency and expands the range of off-road capabilities.

The last time a Wrangler-style Jeep came equipped with a V-8 was in the 1981 CJ. That model was powered by a 5.0-liter engine that produced a not-so-whopping 125 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque.

In case bystanders need help realizing there’s something nasty under the 392’s hood, there’s a menacing (but apparently decorative) hood scoop. The driver can underscore the engine’s potency with a two-mode exhaust system whose sound can be turned up or down electronically.

Extra Strength

Not surprisingly, the 392 concept sits on a toughened frame with upgraded engine mounts and monotube Fox shock absorbers. The SUV also rides 17-inch “beadlock” wheels that hang onto the tire bead for dear life when low-tire-pressure offroading meets the strain of extreme lateral vehicle movement.

The SUV rides on 37-inch tires designed for muddy terrain, and its suspension rides 2 inches higher than a standard Wrangler. Those features look mighty good. But they are not the ideal setup for exploring the top-speed behavior of this beast.

Inside, the concept tips its hat, a little bit, to luxury. There are red leather seats with gold stitching, a performance-style steering wheel and Wrangler’s power top system. No individualized HVAC system, although the half-doors and removable panels offer no shortage of fresh air for all occupants.

The last time a Wrangler-style Jeep came equipped with a V-8 was in the 1981 CJ. That model, Jeep notes, was powered by 5.0-liter engine generated a not-so-whopping 125 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque.

Production Plan?

Wrangler fans, many of whom have been clamoring for a V-8 model, “may soon get their wish,” says Jim Morrison, who heads the Jeep brand in North America. The concept, he points out, “proves that we have the ability to make that happen.”

Much will depend upon customer reaction. Just guessing here, but Ford’s debut the new Bronco today also could play a role in the decision.

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