G’day. Bob Aldons, The Car Guy, with a couple of thoughts on the 2020 Jeep Gladiator.
It was 10 years ago, that the late Sergio Marchionne told the assembled throng in Florida that the world would be getting a Jeep Ute before too long. He even showed us one on screen. 10 years later, and Australia gets that jeep Ute, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator. Now before you think that Jeep has changed its relationship with me and that they invited me along to the 3-day launch in New Zealand, think again.
Both publications were invited along to test the 2020 Jeep Gladiator months before it goes on sale here. Lucky bastards!
I tried to find the video of Matt Raudonikis from the Which Car. Couldn’t find it, so chose this one by US commentator Doug De Muro. Get over Doug Speak and he shows the Gladiator quite well. And forget the pricing that Doug mentions. Wouldn’t you like it for that?
WhichCar: The Jeep Gladiator pick-up lands in Australian dealers midyear, but to give us a taste of what is to come Jeep shipped a handful of the muscular trucks to New Zealand’s South Island to see how they drive. While we did get a quick blast in a Gladiator Rubicon in the Nevada desert last year, it was great to spend a few more days with this much-anticipated model in extremely different terrain.
The vehicles on offer were American-spec Gladiator Rubicon models, so they were equipped with Jeep’s full arsenal of off-road weaponry. This includes Dana 44 live axles (front and rear) fitted with extra-low 4.1:1 gear and locking centres, plus 4.1s in the transfer case for extra-low crawling ratios; a disconnecting front swaybar; and 33-inch off-road tyres and suspension. Some of the vehicles were fitted with extra Mopar accessories including 35-inch tyres, taller springs and Fox shocks … one rig even had tube doors.
As with the Aussie-spec JL Wrangler, we will get an ‘international-spec’ JT Jeep Gladiator, which means the transfer case will offer 2WD, full-time 4×4, and 4×4 locked high and low range. Smaller 255/75R17 tyres are likely to replace the 33s and, much to the dismay of off-road enthusiasts, those 35s will not be offered as a factory option.
Full local specification and pricing are yet to be revealed, but we can tell you that when it lands here the JT will come in two model variants – Overland and Rubicon – and will be powered exclusively by the 213kW/353Nm 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 backed by the eight-speed ZF transmission. No manual transmission option and no diesel engine option (for now). This powertrain is backed by either a Command-Trac transfer case in the Overland specification or the 4.1:1-geared RockTrac T-case in the Rubicon Gladiator.
Like the Wrangler Rubicon, the Jeep Gladiator Rubicons have solid rock sliders running down their flanks to protect the sills against rock rash. Additionally, JT Rubis also have rock rails under the trailing edges of the cargo tub to protect the tub on departures. We did bump these on a non-Mopar-equipped JT on a particularly rocky descent, but their solid construction did the job of protecting the sheet metal.
On the more open gravel roads, the extra wheelbase of the JT Jeep Gladiator gives the truck a more planted and stable feel on the terrain than its wagon sibling, which also improves the ride quality on rougher ground.
The Fox shocks fitted to some of the vehicles delivered a notably more controlled ride and handling. The steering is still light and vague in places, typical of Jeep’s off-roaders, but it keeps the driver on his or her toes. The long 3487mm wheelbase didn’t give any notable troubles in terms of turning circle on the tighter rocky tracks.
Performance-wise, the Pentastar V6 still delivers its best when revved hard and lacks a little down low. Thankfully the extra-low gearing in the transfer case and final drive reduces that lack of low-down grunt when driving off-road, but it’s still nothing like the torque of a diesel engine, or an EV motor for that matter.
IT’S TAKEN JEEP a while longer to introduce a ute (again) than anyone first thought, but they’ve finally delivered. We’ve been itching to drive it and recently finished a three-day test around New Zealand both on and off-road. Here’s our first-drive review before local models arrive later this year.
THE GOOD: Uncompromised off-road ability, good on-road composure and comfort, nails the adventurous Jeep brief.
THE BAD: No diesel option will put some off, could be expensive.
IN A NUTSHELL: The all-new Jeep Gladiator feels just like a Wrangler, it looks a lot like one, and is just as capable on and off the road… but it’s more practical for throwing stuff in, and even cooler.
Is the Jeep Gladiator good to drive off-road?
Our off-roading test was only in the Rubicon model, which is better equipped for offroad use than the Overland. It has more capable 255/70 Bridgestone Dueler HT 685 rubber wrapped around 17-inch strengthened alloy wheels, and a raft of other additions.
The approach angle is 40.7 degrees, breakover angle 18.4 degrees, and departure angle 25 degrees. Ground clearance is 282mmm and the wading depth 763mm. We don’t doubt either, having driven across New Zealand soon after major road flooding which required wading through waist-high waters. And some bouldering put both the ground clearance and underbody protection (including rock rails) to the test, both of which cleared basketball-size rocks without fuss.
The Rubicon is highly equipped with Dana 44 axles, Tru-Lock front and rear diff locks and electronic swaybar disconnect. Low range can be accessed by way of 4:1 transfer case with a 77.2:1 crawl ratio, which is brilliant for slow going. We went all the way with locking down the Wrangler for a slippery 90-degree turn into a fast-flowing water crossing over boulders and up a steep incline on the exit. It was no sweat for the Gladiator at a crawl and likely overkill. The grip was always sure, and the wheels rarely slipped. It was also the sort of offroading that requires a moment to pause and assess, so it was impressive how easily the Gladiator drove through.
The Gladiator is shaping up to one of the most off-road capable utes available in Australia on the showroom floor, and for most buyers, there won’t be much if anything more you need.
So, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is due here in Australia later this year. And yes it will arguably have as much safety tech as Jeep can cram in, but I don’t think it will get any more than a 3-star ANCAP safety rating. But if you’re a Jeepster and you’ve been waiting for the ute, be patient, it’s coming.