CHATHAM, Mass. – Jeep, which prides itself on designing vehicles capable of conquering virtually any off-road challenge, has engineered its latest Gladiator mid-size pickup variant to vanquish desert terrain.
Resembling the offspring of a Jeep Wrangler and a mid-size pickup truck, the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator was unveiled in late 2018 as a 2020 model in four versions: Sport, Sport S, Overland and ultimate off-roader, Rubicon. This year, the Desert Rated Mojave we’ve been driving on Cape Cod during late July, joined the Gladiator family (which now also includes the Altitude and North Editions).
The basic Gladiator specifications encompass the Mojave: 218-inches long (compared to the mid-size Toyota Tacoma at 212 inches and Ford Ranger at 210.8 inches), 137.3-inch wheelbase (Tacoma 127.4 inches and Ranger 126.8 inches) and 73.8-inches wide (Tacoma 75.2 inches and Ranger 77.8 inches). This puts the Gladiator on the larger size of mid-size (for comparison, the full-size Ram 1500 is 228.9-inches long, 140.5-inch wheelbase and 82.1-inches wide).
Earning Jeep’s first Desert Rated badge
Jim Morrison, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA North America, talked about the Mojave’s capabilities.
“The new Gladiator Mojave is a natural extension of our legendary Trail Rated 4×4 capability leadership,” he said. “Jeep Gladiator is already the most capable Jeep pickup on the planet and, with the addition of the new Mojave model, we are delivering our most passionate customers a new level of capability with the ability to master high-speed desert and sand terrains.”
The Jeep Gladiator Mojave is the first Jeep to earn its Desert Rated badge. To achieve this rating, the company says the “vehicle has been developed and has succeeded against a series of strenuous tests in five categories: Ride Control and Stability, Traction, Ground Clearance, Maneuverability and Desert Prowess.”
To achieve this rating, Jeep engineers equipped Gladiator Mojave with high-performance FOX 2.5-inch internal bypass shock absorbers to maximize handling, comfort and bottom-out resistance on high-speed sand runs.
Industry-first FOX front hydraulic jounce bumpers act as a secondary pair of shocks, which provide additional damping force as the suspension reaches maximum compression, to soften impacts and prevent bottoming out in harsh off-road situations at speed. The FOX shocks and jounce bumpers provide drivers confidence and capability, including bottom-out control on harsh desert terrain at high speed, while delivering a comfortable ride over gravel washboards or broken pavement on the backroads.
Jeep Gladiator Mojave features a one-inch front suspension lift for increased jounce travel, with a silver front skid plate and standard 33-inch Falken Wildpeak All-terrain tires or optional Falken Wildpeak Mud-terrain tires (which our Gladiator had).
These engineering enhancements provide ride control and confidence on any high-speed sand or desert terrain, while an Off-Road Plus button on the lower center of the dashboard allows drivers to take Gladiator to the next level of tractive capabilities. With a push of a button, drivers can adjust throttle, transmission shift points and traction control for peak performance on higher speed passes on sand terrain, as well as during low-speed rock crawling.
The power train motivating the Gladiator Mojave is the proven FCA 3.6-liter V6 engine putting 285 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission and Jeep’s robust Command Trac (part-time) two-speed four-wheel-drive system.
The power train and chassis combination produces a sensation of strength while driving the Gladiator Mohave. You feel like you can just turn off the road and power through sand, dirt and grass – I never worried about getting stuck or losing traction.
On the road, like the Wrangler we put through its paces last month, the Gladiator is a bit noisy and lets you know when the 33-inch LT 285/70R17C Mud-Terrain tires encounter a divot in the road or a slight bump. The ride is a bit stiff, but the fun factor of driving the Gladiator smooths out any irregularities. There is something magical to buckling into a Jeep like this which overwhelms and lets you forget any un-car-like characteristics.
Gladiator features modern environment and ADAS
Inside the Gladiator Mojave is a virtual mirror image of the Jeep Wrangler – not a bad thing since the latest generation was introduced in 2017 as a 2019 model. Once upon a time the Wrangler interior and controls meant rudimentary, but that condition is long gone.
Our tester included leather-trimmed (heated) bucket seats, shift lever, parking-brake handle and steering wheel (which was also heated).
In front of the driver is a customizable seven-inch LCD information/instrumentaion screen, while to the right in the center of the dash is the 8.4-inch color multi-media display which is the focal point of the Uconnect 4 infotainment system. Again, this screen is highly customizable, intuitive and easy to use. The system encompasses AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio/HD Radio/Apple CarPlay and Android Auto playing through an Alpine Premium Audio System, control of the climate-control system, navigation, smartphone operations and other services. Simple buttons and controls supplement the on-screen versions with voice activation available for these as well.
Gladiator, like its Wrangler relatives, brings thoroughly modern safety and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to the off-road-fun party. This truck featured the Jeep Active Safety Group (ParkSense® Rear Park-assist system and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection system); Adaptive Cruise Control/Forward Collision Warning+ (adaptive cruise control with stop and full-speed forward collision warning plus including automatic emergency braking); ParkView® rear backup camera, front trail-view camera and multiple airbags.
The cost of entry and operations
Throughout several hundred miles of driving in traffic, on highways, through the tight, tourist-filled villages I never saw fuel economy drop below 19 miles per gallon and when the week ended the total was 20.6 mpg. The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the Jeep Gladiator Mojave as 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway/19 mpg combined, so we were able to beat the official numbers.
Jeep offers seven basic trim versions so you can build the Gladiator you want beginning with the $33,545 Sport through the top-end North Edition with an MSRP of $45,915.
The Mojave and Rubicon variants represent the epitome of Gladiator off-roading setup both with a $43,875 base price. Our comprehensively equipped Mojave topped out at $61,310 which included significant options like the leather ($1,495), upgraded Uconnect 4C with navigation ($1,695), roll-up tonneau cover for the pickup bed ($2,000) and destination charge of $1,495.
If you love the capabilities of the iconic Jeep Wrangler, but want or need the functionality of a pickup, the Gladiator is the perfect combination. And if your idea of fun includes taking on the sands of America’s various desert terrain, the Jeep Gladiator Mojave will get the job done!