Australia is the first right hand drive market to receive the Jeep Gladiator, a multi-purpose vehicle which brings with it the iconic imagery of the original go-anywhere military Jeeps of World War 2.
There is no mistaking this latest model’s heritage thanks to its vertically slotted grille, round headlights (which are actually modern hi-tech units) and very few compound body curves. It might not be the 4WD on steroids that the road-going Humvees (Hummers) were a decade or so ago but drive one down the street and you’ll definitely get noticed, even if you’re not Russell Crowe.
The Gladiator sits on its own unique frame and is much more than a longer wheelbase four door Jeep Wrangler with a ute body added at the rear. The Gladiator is set to do battle in an arena already well-populated with dual cab utes from Asia and if size matters then it’s bigger than all of them and is almost as long as a RAM 1500 truck.
The Gladiator will appeal to the macho operator whose preference is for a ute-style personal conveyance that can easily accommodate a load of 600-plus kilos in the tray, rather than a wagon-style SUV. If off-roading is part of the application then the Gladiator suits that perfectly as well.
Limited to just 100 units for the local market, in the Gladiator Launch Edition, Jeep have optioned up the already impressive top-spec Gladiator Rubicon model with some unique badging, wheels and interiors and included the ‘Lifestyle Adventure Pack’ as standard.
This package includes the Jeep Trail Rail System of cargo anchors, a lockable rear under-seat storage bin, a roll-up Tonneau cover, a spray-in protective bed liner, an auxiliary switch bank with four programmable switches suitable for driving lights and on-board compressors, plus a removable wireless Bluetooth speaker. The electrical system is boosted with a 240-amp alternator and a 700 amp-hour maintenance-free battery.
The Launch Edition is available in three colours of Diamond Black, Bright White and Firecracker Red. The unique fold-down windshield and readily removable doors and colour coded roof panels can transform the Launch Edition Gladiator into a true open-air 4×4.
Coil springs are used at each corner and the five-link rear suspension has been sourced from the RAM 1500 truck and provides a smooth ride on-road. For off-road excursions improved articulation and increased total suspension travel are available at the flick of a switch on the dash for the electronic disconnection of the front sway bar.
The transmission is an eight speed automatic with a transfer case and boasts an impressive crawl ratio of 77.2:1. The Gladiator’s ‘Rock-Trac’ 4×4 system includes heavy duty third-generation Dana 44 axles.
Standard axle ratios are 4.10 and incorporate ‘Tru-Lock’ locking differentials. The Launch Edition includes unique 17-inch Mid-Gloss Black Aluminium Wheels. Maximum payload is 620kg and the maximum braked towing capacity is 2,722kg. Both of these stats are significantly less than what similar spec’d Gladiators come with in the US but are, nonetheless, adequate for local applications.
The engine is a petrol 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine rated at 209 kW and 347Nm and is equipped with an engine Stop-Start system to assist with the fuel economy. No indication yet if Australian Gladiators will ultimately have the choice of the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 available in the USA which produces 195kW and a healthy 660Nm of torque.
The 43 degree approach angle will enthuse and encourage the four wheel drivers and the forward-facing off-road camera, which comes as standard with the Gladiator Launch Edition, allows obstructions on the track ahead such as boulders or stumps to be easily seen on the touchscreen even if obscured by the bonnet.
The interior has leather trim seats (the front ones are heated, as is the leather steering wheel) and the dash features Jeep’s fourth-generation Uconnect system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Bluetooth connectivity, playing through a nine-speaker Alpine premium sound system.
The touchscreen can also be easily configured to display the pitch and roll positions of the vehicle, as well as numerous ‘virtual’ gauges to monitor engine fluid temperatures and pressures. Additional enhanced technology and safety features include keyless entry, Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection, ParkSense rear park assist system, Advanced Brake Assist, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus, and Adaptive Cruise Control.
There is plenty of space across the rear seating for three burly adults and their comfort is enhanced by the inclusion of rear ventilation outlets which will be redundant once the doors and roof are removed.
The Jeep Gladiator Launch Edition combines significant off road capability with composed on-road driving dynamics and sophisticated passenger comfort. It also makes an impressive visual statement.