When you think of Jeep, you probably think of the iconic Wrangler climbing a mountain as its owner enjoys a lifestyle many of us dream of but few live – even though in the real world, the brand’s best-selling model is the Grand Cherokee SUV.
Why? The Wrangler is seriously cool.
But there’s a chance the brand icon, the Jeep that pops into your head, could soon become the Gladiator dual-cab ute. Why? Because it’s arguably even cooler.
Hold your breath. If you want a Jeep Gladiator you’re up for at least $75,450 before on-road costs – or more than $80,000 drive-away.
That puts it within touching distance of the Ford Ranger Raptor ($76,490 before on-roads) and narrowly undercuts the cheapest Ram 1500 Express.
That may be expensive, but given the Australian dollar is valued around 60 US cents at the time of publish, it’s also equivalent to roughly US$47,000.
To put that in perspective, the Gladiator Overland costs $75,450 before on-road costs in Australia, which converts to roughly US$45,000.
In the USA the same car is US$40,395 – which is not particularly different when you consider the cost of freight, not to mention luxury car tax and import duties.
The same goes for the Rubicon, priced locally at $76,450 before on-roads. That equates to roughly US$46,000 – and the American price is $43,545.
Given the shipping cost and relevant taxes, the price of the car in Australia is actually (are you still holding your breath?) cheaper than the USA as it stands today.
The other variant locally is the Australia-specific Gladiator Launch Edition, of which just 100 will be offered with $86,450 price tag before on-road costs.
You get a Jeep Gladiator, which is probably going to be the coolest ute on the road for the foreseeable future.
It’s not quite as intimidating as the (more expensive) Ram 1500 but it’s far better equipped, and feels far less like a truck.
The Gladiator measures 790mm longer than the Wrangler, but it does look a lot bigger than that on the road.
Jeep really has built the Gladiator to be part Wrangler, part truck. As such, there are heavy-duty cooling modules, suspension components borrowed from Ram, hydraulic engine and body mounts, and a 2721kg trailer towing capacity.
The 1500mm-long tray can take 620kg, but the tailgate itself can withstand a load of 816kg sit on it.
From a technical perspective, the Rubicon is the more off-road focused model.
Nevertheless the Overland is, as we found, still very capable with active on-demand four-wheel drive and a two-speed part-time transfer case. That gives the entry-level Gladiator a 2.72:1 low-range ratio and a 3.73 rear-axle ratio.
Step up the Rubicon and you get electronically controlled sway-bar disconnect, and the ability to tweak the throttle, transmission, and traction sensitivity for off-roading.
You also benefit from active on-demand four-whee drive with a 4.10 rear-axle ratio, a 4:1 low-range ratio, and locking differentials for all your off-road needs.
Add that to a 77.2:1 crawl ratio and you’re getting close to Wrangler levels of off-road ability.
Similar to the Wrangler and still suited to the task
The Gladiator is yet to be tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP. The Wrangler on which the Gladiator is based received a three-star rating, so we suspect it will fare similarly.
It isn’t possible for the car to receive a five-star ANCAP rating under the latest rules.
In saying that, the Gladiator gets plenty of active and passive safety features including forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera with guidelines, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and electronic stability control with roll mitigation.
Very similar to the Wrangler. The cool thing is it can be a hard top, soft top, or a convertible – and if no-one is looking you can even pull the doors off and fold the windscreen. Just don’t be seen doing that on the road.
There are neat touches like removable speakers, and lockable under-seat bins, not to mention a roll-up tonneau cover, spray-in bed liner, and four custom auxiliary switches.
The Gladiator is still a bit plasticky, and certainly for $80,000 you probably wouldn’t mind more luxuries, but it works well with the rugged character of the car. There are genuinely two usable rows of seats here, and you’d happily sit in the second row even on long drives.
From a technology perspective, the 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system is decent, and incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There are two USB-A and three USB-C ports, too.
We want a diesel but all we get for now is a 3.5-litre petrol V6 with 209kW of power and 353Nm of torque, mated with an eight-speed automatic.
Jeep claims a fuel economy of 12.0L/100km but that’s probably on the low side if you intend to tow or are a aggressive with the right pedal.
It’s pretty amazing on-road and for the regular joe, pretty spectacular off-road. Of course its longer wheelbase mean it isn’t quite as capable as the Wrangler when the bitumen runs out, but unless you’re a truly hardcore off-roader there aren’t many places the Gladiator won’t go.
It has 760mm of water fording ability, an approach angle of 40.7 degrees, departure angle of 25 degrees, and a break over angle of 18.4 degrees.
We drove the car extensively off-road in New Zealand, and it’s very comfortable.
But the real surprise was how well it did on-road. It’s genuinely the sort of car you can drive day in, day out, and never feel like you’re in a truck.
It’s as good as the Ford Ranger in that regard.
The Gladiator is expected to go on sale in May. Once we have the car in our hands here, we’ll have a better idea of servicing costs.
We love the Jeep Gladiator. It’s not cheap but, unless you’re willing to fork out for a Ram 1500, the Gladiator remains the coolest ute of its kind. It will be the talk of the town on any worksite just as it would be parked on a high-end shopping street.
It’s the sort of car you can’t not love. It’s a Wrangler that can carry stuff. It’s pretty simple, really.
Would we buy one? With a five-year warranty, lifetime roadside assistance and a capped-price servicing schedule the short answer is yes.
The long answer? We might wait for the diesel. Or even better, can you imagine this with a V8? Bring on the Gladiator Hellcat.