Engine / Transmission: 3.6 litre – 8 Speed automatic
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 12.4L/100km combined (we got nowhere near this)
Price: From $83,741 drive away
The Gladiator is the stretched dual cab version of Jeep’s off road legend, the Wrangler. EFTM first saw the Jeep Gladiator at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year (my God, that feels like a century ago!). At the time, crowds were still a thing and the big Jeep had a huge one around it all day, every day.
It looks absolutely awesome and if you need to seriously go off-road, this should be your weapon of choice.
The test Gladiator is a top-spec Rubicon. As such, it is loaded with niceties, such as keyless entry, heated leather and steering wheel, adaptive cruise, auto leveling headlights, cross traffic alert and autonomous braking.
Despite this safety tech, the Gladiator has received a lowly three star rating from ANCAP. Still, ANCAP ratings and adaptive cruise is not what the Gladiator is about; not even a little bit. The Gladiator is about going places that no four wheel device has any right to go. Off-road related technology is extensive, to say the least.
In addition to a traditional rear view camera, the forward facing TrailCam off-road camera provides a view of the area directly in front of the front wheels that is normally obscured by the bonnet. Directional wheel path indicators are a nice touch, allowing you to position wheels with pinpoint accuracy.
Tyre pressure monitoring is invaluable, especially when adjusting tyre pressures is a crucial element of off-road driving. The RockTrac four wheel drive system fitted to the Rubicon sports extra low 4:1 low range gearing, an electronically controlled detachable front sway bar, allowing maximum axle articulation, and front and rear electronically controlled differential locks. Translated, this all means that the Gladiator can virtually scale sheer cliffs.
If you’re in the market for a big American dual cab, like the Gladiator, you’re most likely cross shopping this top-spec Rubicon with a RAM 1500. They have a similar ‘Merica’ vibe and are even similarly priced. If you’ve got a few extra dollars, you might even pop over to HSV and check out their Silverado.
Be under no illusion though, compared to the Rubicon, both of these ‘trucks’ have the off road ability of a ‘67 Beetle. The Rubicon simply murders everything else on the road, er, off-road. Before you sign on the dotted line though, you really, really need to be sure that you want this much off road ability, because it doesn’t come without compromises.
Toyota’s Prado, for example, has an off-road ability that will be ample for most people, most of the time, but with extraordinarily more driver and passenger comfort. Still, no Prado ever looked this good!
Not So Impressive:
Make no mistake, the Gladiator is one of the most single minded forms of transportation you will ever find. This thing makes supercars look like tidy little run-arounds. The pumped guards add bulk, yet rob cabin space. The flat glasshouse causes all kinds of weird reflections.
The removable roof panels allow some serious radiant heat into the cabin. The live axles cause the chassis to shimmy across road imperfections at speed. The maximum towing capacity of 2721kg is impressive, until you realise that when towing this kind of weight only 300kg or so is left in reserve for passengers, fuel and luggage. It is a seriously compromised design, perfect at just one thing – off-roading.
Despite having the peace of mind of a solid 5 year factory warranty, a disappointing aspect of the Gladiator for me was the general feeling of quality, or lack thereof. The indicator stalk, for example, is a touch point that drivers will interact with countless times, yet it feels as though it is made from the same plastic as last night’s Chinese takeaway container. It’s horrible and is glaring in such an expensive car.
Ultimately, the Gladiator is just too compromised to be a realistic prospect for most people.
WHEN ON A TEST DRIVE:
Go and try RAM’s excellent range of dual cab mega utes.