The Great 5.7 liter Hemi V8 Jeep Wrangler that Could Have Been!

Jeep really hit a home run with its 2021-2024 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 which was a marriage made in Heaven consisting of Mopar’s stunning 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque 6.4 liter Hemi V8 and Jeep’s toughest off-roader, the 4-door Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. Fortunately Jeep currently produces this wonderful vehicle. Unfortunately as I write this, the Wrangler Rubicon 392 is entering into its hospice stage where production is expected to end sometime during this current 2024 model year.

The existence of the Wrangler 392 proved what many had already assumed or had known down deep in their guts – that the Wrangler needs a V8 engine with lots of low-end torque. This is not to say past Wrangler engines or the current turbo 2.0 liter 4-cylinder or Pentastar 3.6 liter V6 have fallen short of the task. Truth be told the Wrangler has never had a bad engine. Even the unpopular Dodge mini van sourced 3.8 liter V6 found in the early-JK Wrangler was up to task for most of the Wrangler’s on and off-road duties. However none of these engines seemed to be as perfect a powerplant for the Wrangler as the 6.4 liter Hemi V8 has been. Unfortunately for most Wrangler buyers the Wrangler 392 is way out of reach with its current base sticker price of $94,035. Add some options and the price easily approaches the 6-figure mark, go crazy with selecting options and you surpass the $100,000 mark with ease.

Unfortunately with the upcoming more stringent fuel economy and emissions standards, more than likely the current Wrangler 392 will forever have the honor of being the first and last production Wrangler to have a V8 under the hood. It should be noted that the Wrangler’s predecessors the CJ5 and CJ7 last had a V8 under the hood for the 1981 model year, a 304 cubic-inch V8 which produced a paltry 120 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque. The Wrangler since its introduction for the 1987 model year has had plenty of space under the hood to fit a V8 engine but never took advantage of this space by offering a V8 until the Wrangler 392. Jeep even teased the possibility of producing a V8 powered Wrangler as far back as the 1990s with the 1997 Jeep Wrangler Tabasco Concept which was equipped with Mopar’s 5.2 liter Magnum V8 rated at 220 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.

The Wrangler Tabasco would have certainly been a massive hit. Jeep not green-lighting it for production proved to be a truly missed opportunity. For 2007, both the introduction of the JK Wrangler and the addition of the 4-door Wrangler to the Wrangler lineup with no V8 option proved to be an even bigger missed opportunity. For at this time the 5.7 liter Hemi V8 was a staple in several Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles. It is a mass produced V8 which runs on regular 87 octane fuel and is not a lower production high-performance and high horsepower V8 like the 6.1, 6.4, and supercharged 6.2 liter V8s which were all developed and engineered by Mopar’s SRT division for generally expensive low production performance vehicles.

The 5.7 liter Hemi V8 during its life has produced anywhere from 330-395 horsepower and 375-410 lb-ft of torque. Had Jeep offered in the 2007-2024 Wrangler the 5.7 liter Hemi V8 as an optional engine, it would have most certainly been a big hit with buyers and provided great low-end torque and plenty of horsepower across the entire rpm band for off-roading, cruising around town, or accelerating onto a highway. It would have been a lot more affordable than the Wrangler 392’s 6.4 liter V8 which required a lot of extra upgrades including frame reinforcement, a sophisticated exhaust system, an upgraded suspension, a fancy hood that allowed both air and water to flow through its hood scoop, etc.

The 5.7 liter wouldn’t have required all these extras. It’s price point would have been just a few thousand dollars tacked on to the sticker price at the most, not the $25,000 premium of the current Wrangler 392 over a well-equipped Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. The 5.7 liter Wrangler could have used the same type of free-flow single outlet exhaust system as the other Wrangler engines. It would have run on less expensive 87 octane fuel vs. the Wrangler 392’s more expensive 91-93 octane fuel which the 6.4 liter requires. And the 5.7 liter’s gas mileage would have been noticeably better than the 6.4 liter especially on the highway. The 5.7 liter’s power output easily bests the current turbo 2.0 4-cylinder (270 horsepower/290 lb-ft of torque) and 3.6 liter V6 (285 horsepower/260 lb-ft of torque) and on paper matches up pretty close to the Wrangler 4XE’s hybrid battery and turbo 2.0 liter 4-cylinder combo which produces 370 horsepower and 370 lb-ft of torque. However the operation of the 5.7 liter would be much more seamless and provide better immediate throttle response along with being less expensive than the hybrid 4XE. Just as the 5.7 liter Hemi has been a perfect engine for many Ram 1500 owners, it would also have made a great engine choice for the Jeep Gladiator pickup which is stuck with a willing but underpowered in comparison, Wrangler’s 3.6 liter V6.

There have been many aftermarket 5.7 liter Hemi V8 conversions done by reputable third party firms for 2007-2018 JK Wranglers and 2018-current JL Wranglers over the years which have provided many miles of very reliable service for their owners. Unfortunately these conversions generally run at a minimum cost of around $20,000 (the 6.4 liter Hemi V8 conversion starts at around $30,000). It’s a shame that Jeep didn’t start offering the 5.7 liter Hemi V8 as a Wrangler engine option back in 2007 and continued the option to the present. As mentioned before, it would have been the perfect factory V8 option since its substantially lower sticker price would have been available to many more Wrangler buyers than the Wrangler 392.

As an example take a base 4-wheel drive 2024 Jeep Wrangler Sport Unlimited (4-door) with a $38,390 sticker price and then a hypothetical factory 5.7 liter Hemi V8 option for $3,995 which is the same price this engine is available as an option in the 2024 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve. The total would come to only $42,385 which would be a lot of fun for the money. Unfortunately back to reality, it would cost a minimum of $58,390 for this type of setup with the $20,000+ aftermarket engine conversion cost. Though this option is much pricier than a factory option would be, it is still a viable option that is within reach of many Wrangler owners and one that will hopefully be around for the foreseeable future. This all depends on how long Stellantis continues (as it has done for many years) to produce the 5.7 liter Hemi V8 as a special order brand-new crate engine which can be used in modern Stellantis vehicles or in classic vehicles.

Unfortunately all of this speculation and “what if” type pondering is really irrelevant because it never happened and more than likely never will happen. The 5.7 liter Hemi V8 is scheduled to be permanently retired from the few remaining Stellantis’ vehicles that are available with it when the 2024 model year ends. What a crying shame, how Jeep Wrangler history could have been written so much better with this engine. Definitely a big missed opportunity.

 

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