This Car Review Is About: The long awaited (for Australia) bigger Jeep. The Gladiator has been touted as a Wrangler with a tray and that’s about as good a description as it gets. It’s a two model range, being the Overland and Rubicon, with a limited run Launch Edition. We drive the Rubicon.How Much Does It Cost?: An information sheet kindly supplied by Jeep Australia has the vehicle we were supplied as $88,405. There is a starting price of $76,450, with the exterior clad in “Gator” for a price of $1,035. Options fitted were a steel front bumper at $1,635, the blacked out wheels at $975, a three piece hard top in body colour at $1,950, a Rubicon luxury package at $2,535, and something called the Lifestyle Adventure Group at $3,835.
Under The Bonnet Is: Jeep’s 3.6L petrol fed V6. And only that motor. That’s right, no diesel. The auto is an eight speed and geared to see Aussie freeways speeds turning the drive-train over at just 2,000rpm. Peak power is 209kW at 6,200rpm, and peak torque is a typical petrol high of 347Nm at 4,100rpm. Economy is not a strong part of the equation with none of the three figures, urban/highway/combined being under 10.0L/100km. Our average around the ‘burbs was 13.5L/100km. The official figure is 15.4L/100km for the urban component, the highway at 10.6L/100km, bringing the combined to 12.4L/100km. Tank capacity is 83.0L.
The dry weight of the Gladiator is 2,215kg and a payload of 620kg takes kerb weight to 2,835kg. 2,721kg is the maximum braked towing capacity. There is a four mode transfer case for two- and four-wheel drive including low range.On The Outside It’s: A Wrangler with a tray. Big and bold Jeep front end, four doors, and the rear section is now a tray of 1,531mm in length and 1,442mm in width. Tray height is 861mm and it looks like it could be a bit higher. Tray capacity is rated as 1,000L.
Lights front and rear are LED powered. The rear bumper is steel as standard, and the optionable steel front looks as if it is fitted to allow installation of a winch. Both ends have bright red painted towhooks. The removable roof sections are detached by twisting pivot handles and lifting up and out. They’re a bit weighty and a bit tricky to reinstall.
The tray has a taut canvas-style tonneau There are a pair of pull-straps to unlatch a pair of clamps which allows the tonneau to be rolled forward. The tailgate has a soft-roll pair of hinges which helps lower the gate down gently.Wheels are 17 inch blacked painted and machined alloys. Rubber is 255/70 BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain T/As. Brakes are big 350mm front and 330mm rear. Fox-branded shockers are visible underneath and hold the Dana front and rear axles with locking diffs.
Front and rear overhangs on the 5,591mm long Gladiator allow for a 40.7 degree approach angle, a 25.1 degree departure, and the track & tyres provide 18.4 degrees of breakover. Wheelbase is a whopping 3.488mm.
On The Inside It’s: Comfortable, reasonably luxurious, and has a stand-out dash colour. It’s a hot red and matches the stitching in the Rubicon-embossed leather seats. The floor has bespoke rubber mats and they strongly point towards the Jeep’s legendary off-road ability. It’s a topographic map look and really sets off the cabin. Notable is the relatively short depth of the dash’s upper section to the base of the windscreen. Also notable is the lack of a footrest for the left foot, instead being cramped by the drivetrain tunnel.There are a couple of cool surprises in this vehicle. One is the hidden, portable, (optionable) bluetooth speaker that’s tucked away behind the driver’s side rear seat. the other is the storage lockers found underneath the same rear seats, accessed by flipping the squabs upwards and opening the plastic locker cover.In the dash itself is a very clean layout for operating the aircon, power windows, a tab for showing which USB ports (including USB-C) are in operation, and the 8.4 inch touchscreen that controls most of the functions such as climate control, audio, and satnav. In the lower left section is the button to lock the differentials and disengage the sway bars when getting serious in the off-road environment.On The Road It’s: Something that shouldn’t be as much fun as it is on tarmac. Admittedly some of that fun is tempered by the constant roar from the big rubber and the (necessary) looseness in the steering. It’s loose to deal with the off-road ability it has, and that is plentiful.
The tarmac steering is somewhat wayward and does require constant adjustment to keep the big machine in between the white lines. The high sidewall rubber and Fox-sprung suspension move the Gladiator around quite a bit, and having no load in the tray has the rear wallowing noticeably.
On the tarmac drive acceleration is adequate without being outstanding. There’s a faint snarl from the 3.6L V6 as it spins up. The transmission is a pearler, being slick and only juddery when cold. There are no paddle shifts, there is manual shifting via the super short throw gear selector.
Braking is superb and required given the mass. The pedal feel and feedback is spot on, with that sort of intuitive sense of knowing where the pads are on the discs as the foot presses and releases the pedal.It’s off-road, naturally, where the Gladiator’s heritage shines. Looking through the windscreen and seeing the Jeep logo in the outline of the window then peering further to the various rocky or muddy or puddled terrains brings it all together.
We drove the Gladiator on our four wheel drive test track, also known as a major 4WD enthusiasts track and a fire trail. This particular track is ideal to test off-road capable vehicles due to the varying surfaces and changes in topography.The Gladiator has a choice of 2WD, 4WD auto, and 4WD low range. The lever to engage is extremely stiff and requires some real oomph to move and engage low range. The buttons for disengaging the stabiliser bars then offer up a menu screen for off-road information.
When the low range is locked in, and the bars are ready, the Gladiator was given its druthers and in no way did it disappoint. It caught the eye of many on its tarmac travel time and there were some young drivers that stopped and frankly ogled the Gladiator as it worked its way through and over the changing surfaces. Suffice to say they were impressed as were we as it dispatched its challengers without a second thought.Crawling up, down, and at angles guaranteed to raise the heartbeat, the Gladiator’s Jeep heritage proved to be utterly suitable in proving just how good an off-roader this bigger than a Wrangler machine is. Peace of mind underneath comes from a standard skid-plate covering the transmission and fuel tank.
What About Safety?: It’s good. Four airbags come as standard and this is mainly due to the removable panels for the roof not being suitable to fit curtain ‘bags. Blind Spot Monitor is standard as is Adaptive Cruise Control, Engine Stop/Start, and Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus. Park Assist Front and Rear is also standard along with the vital Tyre Pressure Monitoring service.
What About Warranty And Service?: Five years unlimited kilometres along with five years capped price servicing along with roadside assist for life.
At The End Of The Drive. Jeep’s Gladiator has come into a marketplace that is quite well populated with four wheel drive capable, four door body styled, tray-back utes. Immediately it’s “up against it” on price, and it’d be also fair to say, for some the safety factor would count against it.
It doesn’t handle as well on tarmac as the competition and having only a thirsty petrol-fed V6 is also a negative.
Where it wins is crucial; everywhere it was driven heads would swivel. Other drivers from the same brand would smile and give a thumbs up. The interest level from outside the plush cabin was obviously high. Then there is that undoubted off-road ability, and proven on our drive. It really is a superb off-roader but in honesty what else would one expect?Therein lies the rub. To fully exploit what the Gladiator can do would require constant off-road usage, not tarmac driving. Simply put, it’s good on the black stuff but will be constantly outclassed by others of the same type. And that may not be enough to overcome the lack of time driven where it belongs.Towing and payload is another cross. Factor in the fuel usage in normal driving and count on that increasing when towing and/or loaded, and again the Gladiator falls short. In a way, it’s like winning the rights to having your own proper cinema, and using it perhaps once a month. It’s great to have, but…..Talk to your Jeep dealer for a test drive.