Nowadays most cars are starting to look alike. More often than not manufacturers are following the same designs and just add small tweaks to “set themselves apart”.
Enter the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, a pickup truck that’s unapologetic about what it is. It doesn’t give a damn about what people think and can certainly scare any normal vehicle into “wetting itself” just based on the way it looks.
For all the machismo and bravado it exudes though, does the Jeep Gladiator live up to the legendary “Trail Rated” badge?
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Design
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The Jeep Gladiator in essence is a pickup version of the iconic Jeep Wrangler which in itself is a vehicle that makes a statement. The Gladiator I had the privilege of driving was the “Rubicon” variant (top-of-the-line). It has bigger rims, mud-terrain tires, and more aesthetic bits to make it look meaner and tougher (as if the Gladiator wasn’t mean-looking enough).
It also must be pointed out that the Gladiator is a huge vehicle. When I say huge it is in all aspects, length, width, and height. Also, the Gladiator has a modular design, meaning most (if not all) of the panels are removable. That includes the roof, doors, and even the windshield, allowing you to live the true outdoor lifestyle should you really want to. Just take note that removing the panels isn’t easy, special tools are required, and some of the panels feel like they weigh as much as the mountain you want to climb.
From a design standpoint, the Jeep Gladiator looks like nothing else on the road, it’s intimidating and certainly draws all the attention.
The ruggedness of the exterior would fool you into thinking that the interior is about as well equipped and comfortable as a camping tent. You’d be wrong because Jeep actually did a bang-up job in making the interior as comfortable as any normal vehicle.
The dashboard, steering wheel, and gear lever are wrapped in soft supple leather, while the seats are bolstered with just the right amount of support without the stiffness of a monoblock chair.
The Gladiator also has a digital instrument display and an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That infotainment system is backed up by a special Alpine sound system that upon testing was a delight to the ears.
Its interior is a pleasant place to be in, it has all the creature comforts any driver would want. I mean, who said you couldn’t enjoy the trail of the great outdoors in comfort right?
Powering this beast of a pickup is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that churns out 285 PS and 352 Nm of torque. It is then paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission. This is where things get a little tricky for me, while 285 PS is a far better power output than most pickups in the market, the torque is considerably lower. This presents itself as a problem because on the trail what you need is the “grunt” not speed.
Low torque figure aside, make no mistake the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon can certainly hustle on the road. Our shooting location was somewhere in the peak of Tanay Rizal, which of course means steep inclines and sharp corners.
Despite that, the Gladiator surprisingly shrugs off its massive size, at no point did I ever feel like it was a slow lumbering beast. Overtaking slow vehicles was a breeze, and very few things in the world can match the sweet sound of a proper V6 engine.
For all its heft and size, the Gladiator pounces when needed, which I attribute to the 8-Speed automatic. It’s tuned so well, there was no lag in downshifting and it never holds gears too long. It was just the right amount of responsiveness.
I do have to say though that the ride is firm, even if the Gladiator is equipped with a Fox shocks system it can be a little bouncy, not teeth-rattling but noticeable nonetheless.
The ride on the road isn’t helped by the mud-terrain tires, but that really isn’t a complaint because on the trail it works wonders. Our shooting location was situated off the beaten path, It was nowhere near the actual Rubicon trail where the Gladiator gets its name, but it was just enough to test the Gladiator in its natural habitat.
I’m happy (but unsurprisingly) able to report that the Jeep Gladiator takes to an off-road trail as a duck takes to water. At no point did it break traction, bog down, or show any hint of being challenged. I’m pretty sure the Gladiator was laughing at me thinking “Is this the best you can do?”
The only real challenge is the size, on smaller tighter roads much care is needed while maneuvering, and if someone so happens to be headed towards you, pulling aside in the Gladiator is like changing course on an aircraft carrier. On the plus side, because it’s so high up and the seating position is commanding, you can see everything out of the cabin which is a good thing while on the trail.
Since this is the Rubicon variant, it comes with a host of off-roading goodies like disconnecting sway bars, and locking differentials; ensuring you never get stuck no matter the terrain. I personally am not an off-roader so I chose to let the Gladiator do its thing, even left to its own devices the Jeep Gladiator can “climb every mountain and ford every stream”.
The best part about the driving though is the ease of it, the Jeep Gladiator is so easy to drive, so easy in fact that I didn’t struggle driving it on a daily basis, the steering is light and it hides its heft and size really well.
Points for improvement
I really can’t complain about the ride because it’s a trail-rated pickup built to tackle the wilderness, but I do have some other points I wish Jeep can improve on.
First is the fuel economy, at best I was able to achieve 6 km/l which doesn’t sound too bad for a V6, but with fuel prices now it’s a bit concerning. Furthermore, in other countries, the Jeep Gladiator is offered with a range of different engines, that aren’t as thirsty as the V6. Actually, maybe Jeep can offer the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine from the Wrangler? Hmm
Lastly, heat insulation and smell insulation. Confused? let me explain. The modular/removable panels are the culprits because, in order to make the panels removable, they aren’t fully “sealed” onto the body of the Gladiator with insulation materials normally found in standard vehicles. So after parking the Gladiator out in the sun for a long period of time, I found myself blasting the air conditioning just to cool down the cabin more. Also, on a hot day, even while driving with the aircon you can feel a “residual” heat inside.
Regarding the smell, No don’t worry the Gladiator doesn’t emit any foul odors, instead because of the removable panels mentioned above and their lack of insulation, the smell from the outside world sometimes creeps into the cabin.
Verdict and Price
The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon retails for an apologetic price of PHP 4,990,000. That is a huge amount of money, but the Gladiator is a vehicle capable of almost anything. It’s probably one of the few vehicles on sale now that can assure you 100% that you’ll reach your destination whether it be in the city or some far-flung place.
Also, if you’re a fan of the old Land Rover Defender the Jeep Gladiator is the only off-roader that inhibits the same feel and characteristics; Simple, straightforward, and capable.
So if you’re the type of person who wants to make a statement, the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is the truck for you. It will never let you down.