With the enemy gathering at the gates, Fort Jeep townsfolk have sent out a Gladiator to challenge would-be intruders.
And this warrior turns out to be one of the toughest, smartest, most accomplished members of the Rubicon cohort.
While the opposition, which includes the Toyota Hilux Rogue, Ford Ranger Raptor X, Nissan PRO-4X Warrior and Isuzu D-Max have all put on airs and graces, the Wrangler-based Gladiator Rubicon comes fit for any dirty arena fight.
Standing alone among this mob, the Jeep dual cab utility can be stripped down to bare bones by the removal of roof sections, doors and even the windscreen.
Not that it’s short on the finer things of off-roading such as a handy 249mm of ground clearance.
What’s it cost?
The Gladiator is a pick-up or cab chassis 4×4 built in United States, with prices starting at $78,250, plus on-road costs, for the entry-level Night Eagle and jumping to $87,250 for the Rubicon.
At first glance there is no doubting the Gladiator Rubicon’s pedigree. From the seven-slot radiator grille to the exposed bonnet latches and twin air vents it’s a Jeep through and through.
The squared off cabin takes up a typical Wrangler story, with the addition of a factory-fitted lined steel tub, with damped opening tail gate, Trail Rail tie-down load loops and a range of tonneau covers, including a powered automatic version.
The tail gate is linked to the central locking system of the dual cab and the cargo area is well lit for easy access in the dark.
A steel off-road rear bumper, rock rails under both the cab and bed and more are designed to protect the underbody in rough going.
A set of 17-inch Granite Crystal alloy wheels is standard on Rubicon, adding to the pick-up’s assertive street and off-road stance.
The 8.4-inch Jeep Uconnect touchscreen, small by today’s standards, is rescued by the clarity of its display of info, including satnav maps, access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an Alpine nine-speaker sound system, digital radio, and steering-wheel-mounted audio buttons.
Two speakers are situated in a beam arching over the cab between front and rear seats, so they are still operational with the roof panels removed.
Bush dance partakers note, in a compartment behind the driver’s seat is a self-charging removable Bluetooth speaker.
The three-star (out of five) safety rating is below par due to the lack of lane keeping and departure warning, and the absence of pedestrian and cyclist emergency braking.
Gladiator does have forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking and electronic stability control.
Warranty is five years or 100,000km at intervals of 12 months or 12,000km, whichever comes first. Capped price servicing is on offer too.
What’s it go like?
The spacious cabin is kitted out in quality materials, including, in the case of the test vehicle, black leather upholstery with Rubicon Red Stitching, embroidered seatback, platinum chrome bezels and a fair share of red metallic highlights.
As for dancing in the dust (or mud), things are brought down to earth with the addition of rubber mats.
Comfort is enhanced by heated front seats and steering wheel, together with dual zone climate control air-con.
The cabin does have its ‘Jeepish’ quirks, such as the lack of curved surfaces (squares and rectangles dominate) and a crowded centre stack with a mix of knobs and switches topped off by a high-set 8.4-inch touchscreen.
Gear is kept safe and secure with lockable storage in the rear seating area.
Lifting up the rear seat reveals a removable bin.
The seatback folds down for access to more secure space illuminated with LED lights.
Power is provided by Jeep’s ubiquitous Pentastar 3-litre 209kW/347Nm V6 petrol engine and sent to ground via an eight-speed automatic transmission and part-time four-wheel drive, with low range on call in tough going.
With 249mm ground clearance getting into and out of the Gladiator is quite a tall order for anybody of average height or below.
Grab handles back and front come into welcome play with each manoeuvre.
Single-stage opening doors are not at their best in tight shopping centre car parks.
On moving off, from the word go, the pick-up responded instantly to accelerator action, resulting in a firm push in the back.
The transmission delivered smooth transport of power to the road, accompanied by the hum of standard 255/75 R17 off-road tyres.
Jeep claims a combined fuel consumption of 12.4L/100km. Best on test was 8.4L under low load at motorway cruising speed.
Town trips accounted for up to 14.0L/100km.
A skinny foot well and the absence of a left footrest could cause some driver instability during tough going off road.
It’s a letdown, especially with the Gladiator’s trail-rated tag with reference to its Rubicon test results.
The suspension, however, is up for almost anything.