Compared: 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon vs. 2023 Jeep Wrangler 392

Let’s sort through the myriad trim levels and option packages Jeep offers on its versatile Wrangler to determine the most capable version between the Rubicon and 392.

2023 Red Jeep Wrangler RubiconJeep

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It’s tough to beat the Jeep Wrangler when getting out in the wilds. If you’re in the market for a 2023 model, you might be a bit confused by the nine different Wrangler variants. While some Wrangler models are just dressed-up appearance packages, two trims can actually take you even farther from civilization: Rubicon and Wrangler 392.

Engine Options

You can have your Wrangler with five different powertrains, but the peppy 2.0L, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine is a favorite. Those who want decent fuel economy should look to the excellent plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Wrangler 4xe with 21 miles of all-electric range. A diesel powertrain is also available for those who desire more low-end grunt.

The Wrangler is available with three different four-wheel drive systems. Command-Trac and Selec-Trac are serviceable, but you need the Rubicon’s Rock-Trac system for real off-road capability. Here you'll get a 4.0:1 low ratio for superior slow-speed rock crawling when precision is critical.

Good Stuff, Standard

While all Jeep Wrangler models will excel off-road, only the Rubicon and the 392 are offered standard with 33 inch BF Goodrich KO2 tires and front and rear locking differentials ("lockers"). These features separate the hard-core off-roaders from the dilettantes. Off-roading is all about grip, and the KO2 tires excel at it. Further, by sending an equal amount of power to each wheel regardless of traction, lockers reduce wheelspin and allow drivers to crawl up and over pretty much anything.

Jeep offers an Xtreme Recon package on the Rubicon and Wrangler 392 models. Here you’ll get 35 inch KO2 tires wrapped around 17 inch wheels, a 4.56:1 axle ratio for more low-speed control, a 1.5 inch lift, specially-tuned shocks, and a swing gate reinforcement to handle the extra weight of the larger spare tire.

Rockin’ Rubicon

The Rubicon and the Wrangler 392 excel in different ways. A Rubicon with a six-speed manual, the optional 4.88 rear axle ratio, and the 4:1 low range from the Rock-Trac four-wheel drive system will have a crawl ratio of 100:1. After you get through with the physics, this means there is a ton of low-end torque. Figure in the 10.8 inches of ground clearance, excellent approach, breakover, and departure angles, and disconnecting front sway bar for more articulation, and this Rubicon can traverse big rocks all day long with little issue if any.

Eight Cylinders of Glory

Still, the Rubicon is not very fast. If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of slow-speed prowess, you can snag a Wrangler 392, still in Rubicon trim, with a 6.4L V8 engine. This thing chirps tires all day long and provides enough power to muscle through soft dunes with ease. Choose the Xtreme Recon package for the lower gearing. The 392 is only available with the Selec-Trac four-wheel drive system, meaning there is no two-wheel drive option. The transfer case has full-time four-wheel drive and a low range of 2.72:1. The crawl ratio isn’t nearly as good, but it still comes with front and rear lockers, a disconnecting front sway bar, and all the clearance and geometry you could need. If you want to throw rooster tails in the dunes and beat your pals at a drag race, the Wrangler 392 is pretty lit.

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Emme Hall
Emme Hall loves small convertibles and gets out to the canyons in her 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata whenever she can. You can also find her in the dirt in her lifted (yes, that's right) 2001 Mazda Miata, or racing air-cooled Volkswagens in races like the Baja 1000. She's taken first place twice in the Rebelle Rally — once driving a Jeep Wrangler and then a Rolls-Royce Cullinan the second time. She was also the first driver to take an electric vehicle to the Rebelle Rally when campaigning the Rivian R1T to a top-five finish