Jeep Gladiator: Help, we’re stuck!

Riley Riley

2022 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 62022 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 7

What is it?

Jeep’s Gladiator was inevitable, as sure as four doors follow two.

Launched here in 2020, it’s a tough-looking, dual cab, five-seat utility with storied off-road credentials.

Gladiator is a competitor for Toyota’s Hilux Rogue, Ford Ranger Raptor and other range-toppers, and comes with a sizeable price tag to match.

Although tradies have an affinity for flashy 4×4 dual cab utes, oddly you don’t see many driving a Gladiator. In fact,  you don’t see many of them full stop.

Maybe they are more interested in the look than taking their shiny new toys off road — perhaps Gladiator is a little hard core for the wife and family?


What’s it cost?

It’s an eye-catching thing, with a hint of monster truck, riding high with fender flares and chunky off road rubber.

Wrangler’s removable roof panels are retained, along with a windscreen that folds flat and removable lightweight aluminium doors.

Two versions of Gladiator are offered: the city focused Night Eagle, priced from $73,450 and bush-bashing Rubicon priced from $82,250 — both before on-roads.

Premium paint adds $795, with a choice of three option packs: Lifestyle ($2950), Premium ($2950) and Trail Ready ($2000).

A spray on tub liner and tonneau cover are also optional.

Our test vehicle was the hardcore Rubicon with all the bells and whistles.

So far this year Jeep has sold 1200 Gladiators. This compares with 54,000 Hiluxs and 38,000 Rangers (we don’t have separate figures for specific grades).

The big difference between Gladiator and other utes is that it is a purpose-built off-roader unlike competitors that start life as commercial vehicles.

The choice of powertrains is likely to be a deciding factor in the purchase process, because Gladiator is available only with a 3.6-litre petrol V6 that is sure to guzzle gas.

In fact, the entire Jeep range is currently available only with a petrol engine, apart from the top of the range Compass which retains a diesel.

The diesel has been gradually phased out, no doubt in preparation for a hybrid or perhaps fully electric replacement.

Rubicon features 17-inch alloys with BFGoodrich Off-Road rubber, dual zone climate air with rear vents and heated leather seats along with a heated steering wheel.

There’s also LED lighting front and back, LED daytime running lights, auto lights and wipers, auto dimming rear view mirror, plus front and rear parking sensors.

Infotainment consists of an 8.4-inch touchscreen, 7.0-inch driver info panel and 9-Speaker Alpine premium audio, with built in navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The lower dash offers USB-C, USB-A and AUX ports, along with a 12 volt outlet.

Standard safety extends to four airbags (two front and two side), with Autonomous emergency braking (City and Interurban) and a blind spot monitor.

Forward Collision Warning Plus, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Path Detection.

Lane Keep Assist (LKA) and Emergency Lane Keeping (ELK) systems are not available.

Be aware, however, Gladiator receives only three out of a possible five stars for crash performance.

Gladiator comes with a 5-year/100,000km warranty, lifetime roadside assistance if you service the vehicle through Jeep and needs to be serviced every 12 months/12,000km.

2022 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 1

What’s it go like?

In the UK the 4×4 scene is about mud and bog holes.

In the United States, it’s more about water crossings and rocky hill climbs.

In this great land of ours, going off road is likely to include a mix of both, with the Outback regarded as the pinnacle of off-road adventure.

It’s a market still dominated by Toyota in its many shapes and forms as we discovered on a recent trip to the Top End behind the wheel of a Prado wagon.

Jeeps and Land Rovers are a comparatively rare sight on the corrugated dirt Gibb River Road which stretches more than 600km between Broome and Kununurra in Western Australia.

Conspicuously absent is the darling of the western suburbs, the Ford Ranger.

Where does Gladiator fit into this scenario?

It’s very much a lifestyle choice, with the focus on play rather than work.

It’s about going bush for the weekend, with your mates and your dirt bikes, with plenty of room in the back for the rest of the gear.

When we started driving Jeeps they had two doors and a cramped, emergency rear seat.

Then the four-door Unlimited came along and opened up a whole new world.

Since then, the market for 4×4 dual cab ute market has taken off, accounting for three of the top 10 selling vehicles in Australia.

Jeep obviously wants a piece of that action and in June, 2020 the Gladiator (what a great name) was added to the mix, based on the four-door model with a proper ladder chassis.

At 5591mm in length, Gladiator is long, 71cm longer than the four-door and almost 1.3 metres longer than the original two-door Wrangler.

Parked side by side with a Hilux it looks about the same length, but it’s actually 27cm longer, which could make the difference between getting in the garage — or not.

It’s also 21cm longer than the Raptor — but still 24cm short of a so-called ‘full-size truck’ such as the RAM 1500.

That length can pose problems when it comes to parking and manoeuvring, with a 13.6 metre turning circle that will see you making plenty of three-point turns.

Convex exterior mirrors make judging distance to objects difficult. You see one thing in the mirrors and another in the rear view camera which is a trifle confusing.

Weighing in at 2242kg, aluminium is used to reduce weight and boost fuel consumption, including the doors, door hinges, hood, fender flares, windshield frame and tailgate.

Hollow track and stabiliser bars, aluminium engine mounts and steering gear also help to reduce weight.

It can carry a 693kg and it can tow a 2721kg braked load.

The inside is a mix of old and new styling with a traditional flat dash that contains a square touchscreen and old-style analogue instrument gauges that flank a central information panel, though speed can be displayed digitally.

The driver sits close to the wheel and the swap from left to right hand drive hasn’t been seamless, with a smaller driver’s side footwell that has no room for a footrest.

The back seats can be folded to reveal additional lockable storage underneath and the whole lot can be hosed out if it comes to that, with removable carpet and drain plugs.

The 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 generates 209kW of power at 6400 rpm and 347Nm of torque at 4100 rpm, with drive to the rear wheels most of the time through an eight-speed automatic transmission fitted with auto engine stop-start.

With an 83-litre tank, fuel consumption is rated at 12.4L/100km, giving it a theoretical range of 670km.

It’s a feisty thing, fun to drive with a decent turn of speed, but we would have preferred a diesel.

The steering is rubbery and it has a tendency to wander if left unchecked, but the ride is surprisingly compliant and unlikely to generate complaints.

After just over 300km of mixed driving, some off road, we were getting 14.0L/100km which is a little steep for our likes.

Rubicon features a long list of 4×4 accessories, with a high/low range Rock-Trac Active On-Demand 4×4 system with a traditional, short stubby transfer lever.

Highlights include heavy duty Dana axles, Tru-Lok front and rear electronic diff locks, electronic front sway-bar disconnect, 77.2:1 crawl ratio and Fox aluminum-bodied two-inch diameter shocks front and back.

With an approach angle of 40.7 degrees, break over angle of 18.4 degrees, departure angle of 25.1 degrees and a ground clearance of 249mm, it has a wading depth of 760mm.

An Off-Road+ Button automatically adjusts throttle, Selec-Speed Control, Traction Control, Transmission Shift Mode.

It has two modes:

  • 4HI for for higher speed sand performance
  • 4LO for very low speed rock hopping manoeuvres

Gladiator gets the “Trail Rated” stamp of approval testifying to its 4×4 capabilities, but as we have shown previously its meaning is somewhat dubious.

Despite all this, we managed to get the Rubicon bogged in a mud hole encountered on a track that we have traversed many times.

Maybe it was just bad luck, but it left the ute stranded, sitting on its belly with all four wheels spinning uselessly, water up to the top of the rims and sinking deeper.

Forward or reverse progress was impossible and we were forced to get on the blower for help.

Two tow ropes, a set of recovery tracks and a winch later the Jeep was finally mobile again, but at the cost of a bruised ego and a couple of cartons of beer.

Thanks: Bob, Brad and Taylor.

2022 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 2

What we like?

  • Looks terrific
  • Fun to drive
  • Strong performance
  • A real off-roader

2022 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 8

What we don’t like?

  • Uses too much fuel
  • Cramped driver’s seat
  • No driver footrest
  • Large turning circle
  • Hard to park
  • Bogs easily

2022 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 3

The bottom line?

Price doesn’t seem to be an object these days, because you won’t get much change out of $90K by the time you put this Gladiator on the road.

But the lack of diesel or some other more fuel efficient means of propulsion is likely to be a stumbling block in a 4×4 ute market that is dominated by diesels.

I’m sure Jeep is well aware of this, but they’re stuck with what they have, at least for the time being.

As for the Gladiator’s off-road performance. Well, it is what it is . . .

2022 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 5


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Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, priced from $82,250
  • Looks - 8.5/10
  • Performance - 7.5/10
  • Safety - 6/10
  • Thirst - 6/10
  • Practicality - 6/10
  • Comfort - 6.5/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 7/10

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