Driven: The Jeep Gladiator
In all honesty, we have waited a rather long time for this Jeep-based bakkie to arrive on local soil. From a design perspective the Gladiator is relatively large while remaining unmistakably Jeep. You can fold the windscreen forward and remove the doors. And thanks to its three removable roof panels it is also the only convertible bakkie on the market.
The Jeep design team kept the legendary seven-slot grille seen on Wrangler, but widened the grille slots for additional air intake to assist with the increased towing capacity. The top of the keystone-shaped grille is gently swept back to enhance aerodynamics.
Gladiator Rubicon features LED headlamps and fog lamps that project crisp white lighting, adding to the bakkie’s modern look. Daytime running lights, which form a halo around the outside perimeter of the headlights also highlight the traditional Jeep face, with indicators positioned on the front of the trapezoidal wheel flares.
From behind, traditional square tail lamps feature LED lighting and give way to a wide tailgate opening for unobstructed loading of cargo into the bed. The tailgate is damped and capable of stopping in three positions, while cargo is easily secured with a power-locking tailgate.
Clever functionality and versatility were the focus while designing the Gladiator’s durable load bed to streamline usability. Under-rail bed lighting, and strong integrated tie-downs, provide durability and versatility. The Gladiator’s load bed is lined with a special scratch-resistant layer and a roll-up rigid loading cover.
You can even take the roof and doors off and you can lower the front windshield. Jeep has made it easy to remove the doors which was a cumbersome job in the past. Now, for this new model, lightweight, high-strength aluminium doors feature the Torx bit size stamped directly onto the hinge to eliminate guessing which size bit is needed to remove the doors. A tool kit with the necessary Torx bits to remove the doors and lower the windscreen is provided as standard equipment.
Inside, the heritage-inspired centre stack features a clean, sculpted form that complements the horizontal dashboard design. A hand-wrapped instrument panel features a soft-touch surface with accent stitching. Functional features, including climate and volume control knobs, media charging and connectivity ports, and Engine Stop Start have all been ergonomically placed. The dials are also large thus can be operated while using heavy-duty gloves.
An 8.4-inch touchscreen houses the fourth-generation Uconnect system and sits prominently atop the centre stack. The fourth-generation Uconnect system enhances the user interface. It offers clear and easy to use menus. It also supports smartphone connectivity such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The upgraded sound system has been cleverly placed, for example there are speakers above the driver and passengers head on the roll bars. The interior of the Jeep Gladiator is truly an experience and an enjoyable on at that.
The Gladiator remains a off-road icon thanks to 249mm of ground clearance, 35-inch FB Goodrich off-road tyres, Fox aluminium shocks, Dana 44 front and rear axles with Tru-Lok locking differentials, which can be operated at the push of a button and a sway-bar disconnect system. The vehicle has an approach angle of 43.6 degrees and departure angle of 26 degrees, while the break over angle is listed at 20.3 degrees. Jeep claims a braked towing capacity of 2712kg for the Gladiator while the payload is listed at 693kg.
This Gladiator definitely entertains! It does so by employing the use of a 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V6 engine. It develops 209kW and 347Nm. It is however the 8-speed automatic that enables best use of that power. Shifts are quick, smooth and allow for an uninterrupted aural experience. It is also, as one might expect, quite heavy on fuel, especially if you want that V6 to sing. We managed around 12l/100km.