By Jim Smart:
Ford has journeyed back to the beloved Bronco’s original bones—its very soul—to introduce the all-new Bronco for 2021. Light on its hooves and powerful in its heart, Bronco is poised to be a tough competitor in a very competitive off-road market.
Jeep has responded to Bronco launch with the JL Wrangler Rubicon “concept” vehicle, powered with a 6.4L “Hemi” V8 in an effort to distract potential conquest buyers. Don’t get out your checkbook because the Wrangler Rubicon Hemi V8 is a concept and may never enter production. Concept vehicles, like the Jeep JL Wrangler Rubicon V8, are built and shown to gauge public reaction. They are marketing tools to see if a concept has any sales potential. Automakers put them out there to tease the public and get buyers into showrooms.
In principle, the 6.4L Hemi powered Wrangler concept is more suited for the open highway, drag strip, or shuttling kids to school quickly when you are running late. Contrast that with off roading where low-end torque and lightweight power over the nose of the vehicle is critical to maneuverability in the wilderness. The concept Hemi engine weighs – as a krate engine – 700 pounds. Add accessories like power steering, air conditioning, and cooling components and you’ve got a lot of mass on the front of the vehicle.
Though the Wrangler V8 has its tough guy appeal with Hemi power, its power is of little use in the real world of off-roading. You want low-end power to rock crawl and hill climb. In current applications at Fiat Chrysler, the 6.4L engine produces 15-16 mpg with cylinder deactivation. The current JL offers two fuel capacities, the larger being 21 gallons which means straying too far from a fuel stop may be risky. With 16 spark plugs, 7 quarts of synthetic oil, and premium fuel “recommended,” cost of ownership will have to be a consideration.
In sharp contrast, the EcoBoost powered Bronco should deliver both low end torque and outstanding fuel economy. In off-roading, low end torque is everything. For the Bronco, the 2.7L Ecoboost V6 delivers an impressive 400 lbs-ft. of torque matted to a 10-speed automatic transmission. This is real turbocharged power where you need it most. Thanks to the great efficiency of Ford’s Ecoboost four and six-cylinder engines, you get fuel economy for the daily commute along with terrific power for off-road, without the weight penalty of a V8.
The Hemi Rubicon Wrangler may be nothing more than just a rumor, or a limited-production model. If it ever does become a production model, it may be fun on the open road, but will the +75 ft. pounds of torque be worth it? Bronco, on the other hand, is shaping up to be the perfect balance of power whether on the street or off-road.
Do you think Jeep will ever actually release a Wrangler with V8 power, and will it serve any purpose as an adventure vehicle? Visit the forum to share your thoughts!