What is it?
Think of the American military Humvee and you wouldn’t be far off.
Gladiator is Jeep’s entry into the four-door utility market and bears a striking resemblance to the Humvee both in size and profile.
It has been available in the Aussie market since mid 2020, with a three-model range — Overlander, Rubicon (as tested) and Launch Edition.
What’s it cost?
Right here is the first hump to get over.
Starting price is a recommended $76,450 plus . . . plus what you ask?.
There’s the paint called Gator at $1035 and the review vehicle was also fitted with a range of other options.
They include: black wheels ($975), steel front bumper ($1625), Rubicon luxury package ($2535) and what Jeep calls a Lifestyle Adventure Group at $3835.
Finally, there’s the three-piece removeable roof at $1950, bringing the grand total to . . . drum roll . . . $88,405 plus on-roads.
Leather is fitted to the tiller and gear selector knob (it’s a beautiful short throw lever too), with heating for the steering wheel too.
It may be a mud-eating brawler, but it comes with some true luxury appointments.
Rubicon logos are embossed into the heated leather seats, with topographical terrain look floor mats and the dash is finished in a striking red colour.
The rear seat area hides a couple of cleverly packaged features, with seats that fold up to reveal a storage locker, small net storage, and a removable Bluetooth speaker.
This last item is from Alpine, as are the speakers for the main audio system.
The sound is powerful, with door and roof pillar mounted speakers providing an almost ATMOS feel to the tunes.
As expected, the Jeep runs an 8.4 inch touchscreen that controls audio, satnav, climate etc — and it’s super easy to use.
This sits above buttons for unlocking the stabiliser bars and they sit above a very hard to move lever for engaging 4WD low range.
Unlatching the roof panels was simple, with a simple twist of the various levers.
Getting the panels back into place? Not so easy.
The rear tonneau is also easy to release, with two two-string type gadgets to unlock and fold the material forwards.
Being a box, in essence, the cabin has plenty of head and shoulder room, with a flat, shallow dashboard.
Rear legroom is okay for people of a certain height, but six footers may feel a little cramped.
Overall it’s an impressively sized vehicle at 5591mm in length, 1909mm in height and 1894mm in width.
Dry weight is 2215kg but the payload at 620kg is down considerably compared to the 4WD, four-door ute competition.
Towing is 2721kg at maximum.
The tray itself is 1531 x 1442mm.
Wheelbase is massive at 3488mm, which means a 13.0 metre plus turning circle.
It was a touch tight but manageable in shopping centre car parks but the front guards aren’t visible for judging distance.
Lighting inside and out, front and rear, are all LEDs.
Safety is okay, with Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, but only four airbags as there is no real ability to fit roof mounted curtain bags — and no safety rating from ANCAP.
What’s it go like?
If diesel or the word economy are part of the search parameters for a buyer, they’d best look elsewhere.
The 3.6-litre petrol V6 is the only powerplant available, and it’s a drinker. Factor in a minimum of 13.0L/100km around town and that’s before any talk of towing or loading up the tray.
Jeep’s own figures say 15.4L/100km from the 83L tank for the 209kW/347Nm engine, even with that ripper 8-speed auto. Highway isn’t much better at 10.6L/100km.
This means getting up to freeway speeds requires a bit of patience. Otherwise it’s a deep breath and go, and watch the fuel level drop before your eyes.
Steering is vague and rubbery, but that’s on tarmac. It needs to be, as off-road it is one of the best of its kind.
On our favoured test track, both 4WD high and low range were used.
Low range and the uncoupling of the stabiliser bars generates body movement, but translates into superb grip from the massive 255/75/17 BF Goodrich off-road rubber.
The tread is of a proper, chunky, mud eating type but it makes for noisy runs on the blacktop.
On gravel, rock, and through mud and pebbly surfaces, the tyres do exactly what they’re intended to do, as does the low range system.
It’s the kind of vehicle that will be better off-road than many of the people that buy one can handle.
Steep inclines, deep puddles, varying terrain — from dry to muddy to rocky — the Gladiator Rubicon takes all in its stride.
Being endowed with an approach angle of 40.7 degrees, a departure of 25.1, and a breakover or roll angle of 18.4 ensures that it’s able to get up as easily as it gets down.
To engage low range however needs some muscle; the lever is very hard to shift, whether by design (to stop being accidentally knocked) or not — it’s not an easy mover.
When the Gladiator is ploughing through, a screen option becomes available, called Off-road pages.
It brings up visual representations of the car’s pitch and yaw, and a forward-looking camera helps the driver work out the best path to take.
Driving on “normal” roads, the brakes are superbly calibrated. At all times the pedal communicates with the foot, letting the driver know just where it is in travel and pressure being applied.
It’s a vehicle that draws attention too, with waves, thumbs up, and sheer admiration from two other drivers we encountered on our off-road excursion.
The Gladiator some has genuine eyes-on, street cred.
What we like?
- It’s a Jeep, so off-roading is in its blood
- Impressive stature brought plenty of recognition
- The clever (optional) extras such as the removeable Bluetooth speaker and the audio system’s quality
What we don’t like?
- Price and fuel economy
- Price, fuel economy, and real world, non-off-road practicality
The bottom line?
The value here lies in what the Jeep family can do in the environment the name is synonymous with.
Getting dirty is Gladiator’s strength and even with our experience, both on and off the track, the car clearly signals it has more to give.
As a tarmac traveller it’s fine, quite fine in fact — but those superb off-road tyres sure do generate plenty of noise.
It’s a confounding vehicle, yet one that, in the right hands, will deliver and potentially exceed expectations.
It is a Jeep, after all.
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Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, priced from $76,450
Looks - 8/10
Performance - 8/10
Safety - 6/10
Thirst - 4/10
Practicality - 6.5/10
Comfort - 8/10
Tech - 7/10
Value - 6/10