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.
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 4x4 wars kick off, we say to both Ford and Jeep: We're ready. Bring it.
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