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Jeep’s Riposte to the Ford Bronco? For Starters, Enter the Rubicon 392 Concept

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With yesterday's presentation of the Ford Bronco, at least some attention now turns to the rival it is clearly gunning for. How will Jeep respond to protect the hegemony of its Wrangler model?

For years, of course, the Jeep Wrangler has been pitched as a unique product on the market. Its timeless design didn't need to be tinkered with; people like it just the way it is.

Now, with the arrival of a spectacular and successful Bronco design, what will be Jeep’s riposte? Obviously the company won’t stand still for this intrusion. For the first time in ages, the Wrangler will be robbed of sales by a direct competitor, so action is required. But neither can it redesign its iconic Wrangler so drastically that it risks alienating fans.

For consumers, this is pure enjoyable spectacle. Even better, an all-out war means more-competitive pricing. Until now, because of the virtual monopoly it enjoyed in the segment, Jeep could demand just about anything it wanted for its products. The arrival of the Bronco will calm its ardour; we could even see some interesting downwards price adjustments.

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Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 concept, tthree-quarters rear
Photo: Jeep
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 concept, tthree-quarters rear

392
In the more immediate, Jeep fired a first salvo even before the Bronco's unveiling yesterday, with its presentation of the Rubicon 392 concept. Essentially, this is a Wrangler equipped with a 392-cc V8 engine; the 6.4L unit is good 450 hp and as many lb-ft of torque.

Those are good numbers, of course, but it's going to take more than that. With the Bronco, Ford has raised the bar in some respects; specifically we’re thinking of the model’s 35-inch wheels, a terrain management system offering up to seven configurations, unique customization options and something the Wrangler no longer benefits from: the novelty effect.

Ford was late to the party, but it's making a very noticeable entrance. Now it’s up to Jeep to regain the spotlight. Might the Rubicon 392 concept be headed for production? Jeep’s been known to finish what it starts when it comes to prototypes, so we’ll see.

For our part, we're already looking forward to a front-row view of the action in this new arms race.