As a car guy, I always look for vehicles that have a strong sense of occasion. Staring at them, riding them, and driving them give me that special feeling or emotion that brings about the joy of freedom through motoring, of exploring and being unhampered and stifled by the drudgery of life’s repetitive routine. If a car doesn’t call out to me emotionally, it might as well be a four-wheeled dishwasher, washing machine or refrigerator. Nothing wrong with that, we need cars that can help us press on if we’re not in the mood and just need to take the path of least resistance to get things done. But as a matter of preference, cars should be an expression of one’s self, a form of release, and a reminder that life should be fun.
The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is one such vehicle. It’s got the design cues of the famous Jeep which traces its history all the way back to World War II, a real American icon, a hero that helped win the war for freedom. Only it didn’t just age gracefully, it got better, bigger, bolder, meaner, more advanced and more capable over time.
Jeep stretched the current JL Generation platform by 787mm, allowing for a 5-foot / 1,524mm long pick-up bed. Total length now stretches to a massive 5,539mm overall length, with a confident 1,882mm overall height. There’s a generous 282mm ground clearance, coupled with a 762mm flood fording depth. The bed payload is surprisingly somewhat modest at only 770kg, bested by most Asian LCV pick-ups with a 1+ ton capacity. But the Gladiator out-tows them all with a 3.1 ton towing capacity. All that brute size and strength does come with some equally brutish penalties: a porky 2,301kg curb weight and a colossal 6.8 meter turning radius, one of the widest I’ve encountered. Jeep was smart enough to rely on some trusted aftermarket names for some of its key components, such as the amazing Fox Suspension which helps give the Jeep a surprisingly smooth ride on and off the beaten path along with the long wheelbase. The heavy-duty Dana rigid axles and gnarly BF Goodrich MT KM2 tires measuring 255/75R17 or 33-inches ensure supreme off-road ability, and the front sway-bars can electronically disconnect at the touch of a button to give far better off-road axle articulation. There’s some tire noise from the BFG’s but nothing to detract from the overall experience. If this were mine, I’d lift the Gladiator further and rock 35-inch tires a really mean and angry look!
Off-road, the credentials are very impressive. How does an approach angle of 43.4 degrees and a departure angle of 26 degrees sound like? Truly, Jeep spared no expenses to make the Gladiator a very capable work horse, but without sacrificing comfort and refinement. It’s 77.2:1 crawl ratio on its low transfer case means you’re met with oodles of massive torque coupled with steady sure-footed grip at all times. As slow as possible, as fast as necessary as the off-road adage goes.
Inside, you get a U-Connect Multimedia System with an 8.4 inch touchscreen display that has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Music is played through a 9-speaker surround sound system from Alpine. Who says a serious workhorse need not be hip, relevant, up-to-date and entertaining to use? Seating position is excellent, with loads of manual seat and steering wheel adjustment. Jeep boasts of class-leading rear seat space. Even the rear bench folds 60:40 to unearth a secret compartment.
Inside, there are loads of hard plastics, typical of any American car. It’s cool that the roof and even the doors are detachable for serious off-roading and river crossing. Even the electronics inside are highly water resistant.
On the open road, the Gladiator rides supreme, confident and composed. It is a bit jiggly, and requires a bit of a long leash but it settles onto a decent groove. The power from the 3.6 Pentastar V6 gasoline engine, all 285hp and 352 Newton-Meters of torque seems far more than what’s listed on paper, thanks to the 8-speed automatic transmission helping to keep the engine right smack in the middle of the power band, thereby delivering surprisingly responsive road manners. Not that most traffic will want to cut ahead of the Gladiator: the size and shape are awe-inspiring.
In terms of safety, no responsible 21st Century vehicle, capable of a Zombie apocalypse or not would be seen without the latest in safety gear. Thus, the Gladiator was ABS-EBD brakes, traction / stability control, Hill-Start Assist / Hill-Descent Control, a plethora of cameras to help you ease maneuvering the bulbous Jeep as well as parking sensors to make sure you don’t scratch that shiny red paint. As with any Jeep, there is massive aftermarket support, from tires, wheels, engine upgrades, suspension lift kits, steel bumpers, roof racks and more, both from Jeep and also from the aftermarket tuning community thus ensuring a healthy, rich, and exciting ownership experience.
The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is amazing. The NVH refinement and on-road driving dynamics are a massive leap forward compared to the JK Generation Jeep platform that came before it. Loaded with tech that works, enjoyable to drive, big in an impressively imposing manner, yet not too big that it will struggle to fit our roads and off-road trails. About the only real downside I can see is its lofty price: a whopping P4.79 million. But the Jeep Gladiator isn’t something you need. Nope, it’s something that you will want, and fill your head until you find it in your garage.