Honor among thieves? That concept is D.E.D. dead. Automakers are warming up to trolling one another, Jeep being the latest to don a pointy hat for a dig at Ford. Roughly 48 hours before the Ford Bronco comes back from the dead, Jeep tweeted a sketch of either a Gladiator or a Wrangler with a hood scoop bearing the script “392.” In Fiat Chrysler-speak, that has only meant one thing: Dodge’s 6.4-liter Hemi V8. The obvious inference is that we’ll soon be treated to a V8-powered dirt monster, and the Bronco’s moving target just moved further into the distance. The 392 Hemi in the Dodge Durango SRT makes 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. The Bronco is expected to launch with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 with around 325 hp and 400 lb-ft as its top option.
— Jeep (@Jeep) July 11, 2020
What are the odds of a V8-powered off-road-focused Jeep? Well … if we think about the 2018 Jeep Easter Safari … the odds could be good. That was the year Jeep brought the “loud ‘n’ rowdy” Sandstorm concept to Moab, it’s “high-speed desert-style truck” based on the Wrangler chassis that led to the production Gladiator Mojave, followed lately by a Wrangler Mojave. The retail rigs can only be had with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. But does anyone remember what powered the Sandstorm concept? A 392 crate motor. At the time, Jeep told us that space constraints in the engine bay necessitated using the hydraulic steering box from the last-gen JK Wrangler instead of the bulkier, electrically-assisted steering setup in the current JL Wrangler. And the Sandstorm’s six-speed manual gearbox was donated by a Dodge Dakota.
It’s possible Jeep engineers sorted out those hiccups. And the Mojave hoods already have scoops — the only Gladiator and Wrangler trims to boast that feature.
In January 2019, Jeep Gladiator Forum said the automaker was in the early stages of plotting a “high-performance off-roading Jeep Gladiator Hercules.” Matters had only got as far as “being evaluated for market viability,” but there is headroom above the Mojave, and a V8 in the segment would attract a ton of eyeballs and nearly as much cash. The aftermarket has already profited from Hemi and Hellcat swaps, and in April, Muscle Cars & Trucks wrote about a Jeep dealer doing its own swaps, selling a jumped-up turnkey Gladiator 392 for $129,995.
The phrase “competition improves the breed” applies off the track, too. If this is how the midsized 4×4 wars kick off, we say to both Ford and Jeep: We’re ready. Bring it.