We’ve waited far too long for this.
American automaker Jeep has finally, finally pulled the wraps off its Wrangler-based ute, and given it perhaps one of the most bold, out-there names one can think of for such a vehicle. It’s dubbed the Gladiator, and while it’s mostly exactly what we’d expect from a Wrangler-with-a-bed, there are some things we didn’t quite expect.
For starters is the size. The Gladiator was always assumed to be a big machine, but the numbers here are truly surprising. The wheelbase of 3500mm represents a near-500mm increase over the standard car, while the frame itself is 787mm longer. The big contributor to this is the bed out back, which measures in at 1500mm in length. It’s a pretty smart tray at that, with space under the floor to hold wheels up to 35-inches in diameter, as well as conveniences like a tonneau cover, cargo-management accessories, a covered power outlet, under-rail lighting, a bed divider, and a spray-in tub liner. Payload is rated at 725kg, and towing capacity at as much as 3,470kg (with the Max Towing Package optioned on).
Power comes, at launch, from the tried-and-trusted 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 that has been around so long, it was used as an outboard motor on Noah’s Ark (we jest – they went with a more reliable Honda mill). Output is rated at a familiar 213kW and 353Nm, with a choice of either a 6-speed self-shifter to an 8-speed auto. A 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel will be made available in 2020 (194kW/600Nm), while there’s zero mention of the mild-hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrains that have been confirmed for the Wrangler already.
Two all-wheel drive systems will be employed for the Gladiator, with the CommandTrac system fitted to Sport & Overland models enough for 90% of potential Gladiator buyers. CommandTrac comes with heavy-duty Dana 44 axles with a two-speed transfer case, replete with a 2.72:1 low-range and 3.73 rear axle ratio, though the rear diff will be an optional extra.
The full-fat Rubicon gets a more advanced RockTrac system from the Wrangler. While the Dana 44 axles remain the same, the Gladiator Rubicon benefits from a 4LO ratio of 4:1. There are also crawl ratios for the Rubicon, which differ based on transmission: Auto cars get a 77.2:1 ratio, while the manual models get an 84.2:1 ratio instead.
There’s also the usual electronic sway-bar disconnect, upgraded articulation & suspension travel, lockable diffs front and rear (both standard), and a heavy-duty rear bumper made out of steel. The front bumper can be optioned up to a steel unit with removable end caps too, and it’ll be winch-ready at that.
The Gladiator is a pretty smart cookie too, featuring the latest-and-greatest advanced driver assistance systems from the Jeep brand. Available kit includes things like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, AEB, roll-mitigating electronic stability control, and a reversing camera. The Gladiator will also offer various roof and door options, though the fold-down windscreen will be standard. So will the Uconnect infotainment screen, which will come in 5.0-, 7.0-, and 8.4-inch sizes, with smartphone mirroring offered only on the two larger units.
Fiat-Chrysler Australia has confirmed (several times, at this point) that the Jeep Gladiator will most certainly be making a showroom debut here, though a timeline for that debut has yet to be tied down. It will most likely be either at the end of 2019 or early in 2020, given that US-market availability has been pegged for mid-2019, and that the Gladiator may best be offered here with that V6 turbodiesel.
Prices are also up for speculation, though given that the Gladiator comes in the same spread of trims & options as the Wrangler, there should be a comfortable overlap between the two allowing for customers to choose precisely what form they want their tough, retro-inspired Jeep to come in.