Jeep hinted that it was going to bring us a Wrangler with a pickup box some time ago and off-road enthusiasts heralded the return of a configuration that many SUV makers have embraced over the years.
Of course, there’s nothing new about an SUV with a pickup box and most serious manufacturers of off-road products have offered one over the years, including Land Rover, Toyota and, of course, Jeep itself. Jeep’s links with this configuration go way back to 1947 with the Willys Overland and continued with the Comanche in 1968. There was even a model called “Gladiator,” the name used for Jeep’s newest take on this practical vehicle type.
The Gladiator is not aimed at competing with “real” pickups like the Ram 1500, Ford F-150 or Toyota Tundra – even Jeep would confirm that. The Gladiator offers the ultimate in practicality because the pickup box is grafted to a roomy four-door Wrangler. For serious off-roaders and overlanders, this configuration is highly desirable as the box can carry an amazing amount of gear for many days out in the bush.
The Gladiator has had an impressive debut, selling strongly right from introduction and winning the prestigious 2020 North American Truck of the Year. Many other awards have also been gleaned by the rig. Jeep’s “Groundhog Day” Super Bowl TV commercial included the Gladiator and the ad has been acclaimed as the best shown during the big game.
At the pinnacle of the Gladiator lineup is the Mojave, equipped for the worst kind of terrain and even proudly carrying a Jeep’s first “Desert Rated “badge. This version uses Jeep’s Command-Trac 4X4 system with a two-speed transfer case for tackling the worst kind of sand, mud and loose rock. The Mojave features a raised front suspension and a slightly wider track than the basic Gladiator. All Gladiators use a 3.6-litre 285-horsepower V-6 with lots of torque mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission (an 8-speed is optional). The Mojave features a wide range of mechanical and cosmetic upgrades to make it the ultimate trim level for this product. Three other basic trim levels are on offer – Sport S, Overland and Rubicon.
The Gladiator is already highly successful, proving that there was a large contingent of Jeep-lovers waiting to snap one up as soon as it hit the market. This is not a basic take on off-road prowess but a highly sophisticated product aimed at people who really know what they need for serious off-road duty. Consequently, it’s understandably expensive but this hasn’t slowed sales in any way.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: SUV/pickup
ENGINE: 3.6-litre V-6, 285-horsepower
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with overdrive (8-speed optional on some models)
TOWING CAPACITY: 6,000-lbs
FUEL ECONOMY: 10.4-litres/100km highway; 14.3-litres/100km city
PRICE: Gladiator starts at $47,545 MSRP