One of the benefits of being a car company CEO is having partners like American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) on speed dial. When you get the whim to have them stuff your largest engine into one of your smallest trucks, bliss is but a phone call away. At least that was the case for Jeep’s CEO, Michael Manley, who did indeed have AEV stuff a 392 cubic inch Hemi V8 under the hood of a Jeep Wrangler. Officially, the project was built as a test mule for “executive evaluation”, but even knowing that something like this could possibly exist in a showroom, at some yet-to-be-determined time in the future, is good enough to make me happy.
It took me a few days behind the wheel to really understand the six cylinder Wrangler’s mission, but in the end I got it, loud and clear. It’s underpowered, but it’s underpowered by design; since no one leaves a Jeep in stock trim for very long, owners can upgrade the horsepower (and everything else on the go-anywhere SUV) as their time, budget and needs dictate. That said, I’d love to drive a Wrangler with the 470 horsepower, 6.4 liter Hemi under the hood, if only because it would be an entirely different beast. That much horsepower, and the speed it produces, could get you into trouble in a hurry, so I’d make sure to add beefier brakes to the menu at the same time.
I have to admit that the big Hemi wouldn’t be my first choice for an engine in the Wrangler. The 5.7 liter Hemi weighs a lot less than its big brother, but is still good for 370 horsepower. Of the two V8 choices, I’d opt for the smaller engine, but my real preference would be for the 6.7 liter Cummins turbodiesel from the Ram Heavy Duty pickup line. What’s not to like about 350 horsepower and 650 ft lb of torque, especially when it comes with quasi-reasonable fuel economy? I’m not sure how you’d get the Cummins mill in between the Wrangler’s fenders, but I am sure of this: if I were Michael Manley, I’d have someone working on it.