Jeep Australia today expanded its Gladiator range with a new base model, but there’s still no diesel option available here – despite the company’s global boss saying he’d “love” to offer it.

    The more affordable Jeep Gladiator Sport S derivative cuts the price of entry by a whopping $10,000 to $65,490 before on-road costs. That’s Ford Ranger Wildtrak money.

    As with the existing Gladiator Overland and Rubicon grades, it’s powered by a 3.6-litre petrol V6 making 209kW and 347Nm, mated to an eight-speed automatic and low-range four-wheel drive.

    Jeep Gladiator now starts $10k cheaper, still no diesel
    Pictured: Jeep Gladiator Sport S

    While the Sport S model will no doubt open up the incredibly distinctive “open-air truck” to more buyers, it’s fighting against the odds without a diesel option.

    VFACTS industry data shows that of the 205,597 light commercial vehicles sold in Australia during 2020, 189,535 of them ran diesel. That’s 92 per cent of all utes and vans.

    There is a potential option: the US-market Gladiator can be ordered with a 3.0-litre variable-geometry turbo ‘EcoDiesel’ V6 with 190kW and 600Nm. But it ain’t cheap, commanding a US$4000 premium using Jeep’s American quote generator over a petrol/auto model.

    Jeep Gladiator now starts $10k cheaper, still no diesel

    “So, we’d love to have a diesel on the Gladiator in Australia. [But] we didn’t have a business case that worked,” claimed Jeep’s global president Christian Meunier in a recent interview with local motoring media.

    We suspect that’s more or less code for ‘a profitable sale price for a Gladiator diesel after factoring in right-hand drive costs on top of the already premium-priced engine would make it tough to sell at volume’.

    Nevertheless, Mr Meunier was confident that Gladiator would grow in its second year on sale.

    Jeep Gladiator now starts $10k cheaper, still no diesel

    “I think we’ll have all the elements to be very successful in 2021,” he contended. “I think 2021 is going to be a very strong year for Gladiator because we’ve addressed some of the specific requirements of your market.”

    Jeep sold 573 Gladiators in Australia last year, between May and December. It sold a further 71 in January this year.

    “We’ve done well on Gladiator. We are adding the Sport S version and that’s going to bring a new entry price, and we’ve got some other elements that we’ll share with you in due course. But I’m very confident in our plans for Gladiator and achieving it,” said Jeep Australia managing director and CEO Kevin Flynn.

    Jeep Gladiator now starts $10k cheaper, still no diesel

    One of these “other elements” might include electrification. The Wrangler is available internationally as a ‘4xe’ plug-in hybrid (petrol-electric) and is on Jeep Australia’s wish list.

    When asked about the plans for a Gladiator 4xe spinoff, Mr Meunier responded “yes, the 4xe for sure”.

    What about a V8, though? The Wrangler Rubicon 392 has petrol-heads excited. Any chance of a V8 Gladiator? “TBD” was all Mr Meunier would say…

    There are some lines to read between there.

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    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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