The Jeep brand is no stranger to the offroad market around the world, is well regarded among the most capable off-road vehicles available. However, the ute market in New Zealand is not a familiar playground for them. However, they have entered in with both arms swinging, as they launch the all-new Jeep Gladiator.

Jeep advertised the new Gladiator as the most capable mid-size truck ever. That’s a bold claim for a new product entering the saturated mid-size market New Zealand already has. DriveLife jumped at the opportunity to review the mighty Jeep Gladiator and see how it stacks up.

The Range

The Jeep Gladiator is available in two variants; the Overland and the Rubicon. Similar to the Wrangler variants, the Overland is the entry level which starts at $89,990. The Rubicon is the flagship off-road variant starting at $92,990. There is an obvious visual difference between the two variants – the Overland comes with body coloured wheel arches and body coloured roof top, while the Rubicon has hard black plastic arches and rooftop. It also sports a very loud and proud Rubicon badge across the bonnet.

Both variants come with the 3.6 Pentastar V6 with ESS (engine stop-start) which produces 209kw and 347Nm of torque. Both have the same 8-Speed Automatic with selectable two and four-wheel drive modes. 

The two different variants come with their own 4×4 system, the Overland has Jeep Selec-Trac Active on-demand 4×4 system, while the Rubicon has the Jeep Rock-Trac Active on-demand 4×4 system. 

You can select a wide range of different colours for your Gladiator, white, black, billet silver metallic, granite crystal, sting grey, gobi, gator, hydro blue and firecracker red the colour of our review vehicle.

The Overland come standard with the following: McKinley leather seats with Overland

logo, heated front seats & steering wheel, removable body colour freedom hard

top roof, body colour fender flares, LED headlights/taillights/day-time running lights/fog lights, full speed forward collision warning plus, adaptive cruise control with stop, blind spot monitor with rear cross path detection, 8.4” Uconnect with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, 18” alloy wheels, remote proximity keyless entry and a 9-Speaker Alpine premium Audio

system.

Unlike many other brand variants the Rubicon does not come with the same as the Overland and more. It is similar, but there are differences. The Rubicon comes as standard with the following: Tru-Lok® front & rear locking differentials, trailer sway damping, FOX aluminum-bodied 2” diameter front & rear shocks, forward-facing trailcam off-road camera, 32” BFGoodrich off-road tyres [255/75R17], 17” alloy wheels, steel rear bumper, selectable tyre-fill alert, removable black freedom hard top roof, black fender flares, optional Rubicon leather seats, optional heated front seats & heated steering wheel with leather option only.

Both models have some additional options. For the Overland and Rubicon you can add: heavy duty electrical group $1,000, cargo management group with trail rail system $2,000, roll-up tonneau cover $1,000, spray-in bedliner $1,000, wireless–bluetooth speaker $1,000.

The following options are only available for the Rubicon: leather trimmed bucket seats $2,500, heated front seats (on leather only) $500 , steel front bumper $1,500, 17×7.5 polished black aluminium wheels $1,000.

For a full range of the specs and options available for the Jeep Gladiator, check out Jeep New Zealand’s website – WEBSITE LINK

First Impressions

It’s a beast, and I saw it from down the street, sticking its bonnet out of the front of the dealership doorway. I was not however ready for how much of the vehicle was still inside the building. Sitting there on 32” off-road tyres, it was clear that this vehicle had a specific purpose. 

The Gladiator is rather long, 5.5m long in fact. Which brought me back to when I test drove the Ram Laramie 2500 around Wellington. Remembering all too well how hard it was to park or even navigate at times around the tight city streets. Well there was no point in worrying about it, it was time to climb in and take this beast out on the town. 

The Inside

The inside of the new Gladiator is true to the look and feel of Jeep. It’s tough and well built, every surface and material have been selected to be able to take a bit more of an adventurous lifestyle. Nothing feels flimsy or cheap, from the controls on the dash, to the door handles and the gear stick. Big, chunky and solid. 

Compared to the overall size of the vehicle the cabin itself feels a bit cramped. This is partly due to the modular frame of the body. If you want you can remove all the doors and the roof and even fold down the windscreen. This would give you an unparalleled experience while offroading. We didn’t get any opportunity to remove the doors due to the weather, however I did remove the roof for a couple of drives, I can see the value of it while in the bush, however on the open roads the air rushing into the cabin is a bit much for everyday use. 

Our Rubicon comes spec’d with leather seats and heated front seats. The seats are very comfy, for someone of my height I was able to slide right in. The controls on the seats have a typical manual pull-bar for seat position, a lever for seat height, a pull cord nylon strap to adjust the tilt angle of the seat and manual dial for lumbar controls. I found it pretty easy to find a nice seating position. 

The only thing that I did find uncomfortable was that there was no dead pedal space for your left foot. I found I had to have my foot at an angle most of the time, trying to avoid putting it in under the brake pedal. It never presented an issue, but it never felt natural or comfy to have my foot like that. It could however become an uncomfortable issue on long drives.

The central console has a lot going on, there are a ton of buttons. At the top you have the 8.4” Uconnect touch screen system with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto. I will come back to this shortly. Under this screen where the standard array of controls, for the radio, heating, vents and screen demisters. Under that you have a cigarette lighter/12v socket, several usb slots covered with a plastic flap and the buttons to open and close all of the windows. The reason the window switches are in the centre console is because you can remove the doors easily. Below that again you have the offroad options, with selectable rear only or front and rear differential locks, off road+, sway bar and 4 Aux buttons. 

Past the buttons you have two gear levers, the normal automatic drive selection level and the offroad level. The offroad options start in 2H, then 4H Auto, 4H Part Time, N and 4L. I was really impressed with how this Jeep moved from 2H to 4H Auto or 4H part time. Normally there can be a bit of a lag, while things engage, or you have to lift off the throttle, or slow down. Not with this Jeep, I flick it from 2H to 4H Auto, and within a second or two, it was fully engaged. I didn’t even notice the change, it was so smooth. Once you then applied the throttle, you could just about hear the additional wheels’ differential pushing it along.

The back seat space was ok, depending on who sat in the front, the rear can get a bit tight. The seats were just as comfy as the front seats and they came with additional storage underneath. By lifting the base of the rear seats, you got access to a large segmented and lockable storage box. I guess if the doors and roof are removed or you have something you want secured while you go off on an on-foot adventure, this would be a handy place to lock stuff away.

The Uconnect system offered a lot of functionality, access to media, climate control, seat controls, Apps, navigation, phone and offroad systems. The offroad systems allowed you to monitor many aspects of the vehicle and how it was set up. From the steering angle, pitch and roll angle of the vehicle, what differentials are locked and transfer case settings. You can also monitor the accessory gauges, which display the coolant temp, oil temp, battery voltage, trans temp and oil pressure. The last option was the trial cams, which displayed a wide angled view from the front or rear mounted cameras as you drove. This would be very handy when offroading to see what’s just in front you, right below the bonnet line.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator has not yet been tested under the ANCAP safety star rating system. However I hope it fares better then the 2019 Jeep Wrangler, which only scored 1 star with a 50% adult occupant protection rating.

The rear deck space available in the Gladiator is huge. It’s a 5-foot bed, or 1.52m square. Apparently it’s wide enough to be able to carry an ATV. The wheel arches do not intrude much into the usable space, and there are 4 metal anchor loops at each corner for tie downs. Our review vehicle had the optional spray-in bedliner ($1,000), which looks great and really finishes off the tray. It also came with the roll-up tonneau cover ($1,000). It works really well, looks great when rolled up or out. The only thing I had noticed is that the tray is never fully secured when the cover is on, you can still with a little bit of force get access under it once the vehicle is locked.

There were a lot of nice little features inside the Gladiator; easter eggs, flourishes or just fun design queues. I especially liked the side silhouette of the vehicle on top of the gear stick, that was a nice touch.

The Drive

Driving the Gladiator is not like your typical ute, mainly due to the 32-inch offroad tyres that come as standard on the Rubicon. There is a notable amount of play in the steering, which means you have to continuously correct your position on the road. It’s not difficult to drive, you just have to keep aware of where you are in your lane, especially as you can’t see the front fenders from the driver’s position which can leave you with a misleading view on the overall width of the vehicle. 

The ride was surprisingly good for such a big ute, it had some roll and bounce to it, but not like many other utes I have tested. I would say among one of the smoother riding utes, very similar to the VW Amarok, for feeling more like a passenger vehicle than a work truck.

This big red beast was powered by the 3.6-litre Chrysler Pentastar engine. This is the same engine that can be found in the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler. This engine was tuned to produce 209 kW of power and 347 Nm of torque. Overall the engine did the job well, you never felt like it was underpowered and it got the big Gladiator moving well. I did feel like the engine didn’t suit the overall characteristics of the Gladiator. I felt like a V8 or a big power diesel would have been more suitably over the top. The fuel economy for the period of our test was around 14.5-litres per 100km. Not great, but I was not expecting big numbers. This is a trade off with size of engine and weight, another reason a bigger engine may be better suited for it. 

The weather during our review was mixed, some sunny days and some really wet ones. On the wet days I really noticed a bit of slip when in 2H from the rear wheels. It didn’t take much to have the rear end slide when you’re going around tight corners. This is partly due to the long wheel base and the 32” off-road tyres. I would suggest that if you want a vehicle like the Rubicon for your daily driver, then having another set of road tyres for all weather conditions would be the way to go.

During my review, I took the opportunity to collect some bags of drainage metal for our garden. We got twenty small bags in the back, maybe 200kg all up. Once they were in, I noticed like many other utes, that the overall ride improves with a bit of weight in the back. This extra weight really helped to level out the bounce from the rear suspension when the tray was completely empty. Looking at the specs I did notice that the advertised payload capacity is 620kg, lower then almost every other ute on the market.

I never got the Gladiator in any extreme offroad situation, I did however take it down to Makara beach where I went for a drive up and down the coast line. From wet sand to shifting pebble stones the Jeep handled it all like a champ. Not once did I ever feel that we were going to be left in a sticky situation, moving from 2H through 4H to 4L when required. I could see this Gladiator giving any driver a lot of confidence on some off road trails.

The Competition

When it comes down to what that Jeep Gladiator is stacked up against in our ute-heavy market, we quickly find that the Jeep is not the be all and end all for day to day usability. It’s no doubt that the Gladiator would run rings around most of these vehicles in the bush, as utes are not only bought for looks in New Zealand, some see a hard working life.

Brand / ModelEnginePower kW/NmNumber of SeatsFuel L/100kmPayload Capacity, KgTowing Capacity, KgPrice Highest to Lowest
Ram 1500 Express5.7-litre Hemi V8291/556512.28304,500$94,990
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon3.6-litre V6209/347512.46202,721$92,990
VW Amarok V6 Aventura3.0L V6 twin turbo diesel190/5807.8510103,500$89,990
Ford Ranger Raptor2.0L inline 4 Bi-turbo diesel157/ 5008.257582,500$84,990
Ford Ranger Wildtrak3.2L V6 TDCi147/ 4708.959503,500$75,990
Mercedes-Benz X 250d Power 4WD2.2L i4 Twin Turbo140/ 4507.9510003,500$69,000
Holden Colorado 4X4 Z712.8L i4 TD147/ 44011.958253,500$66,990
Mitsubishi Triton 4WD VRX Diesel2.4L MIVEC TD135/ 4377.659553,500$62,990

Pros

  • Head-turning design
  • Tough and ready for anything
  • Out of the box offroading
  • Packed with toys
  • Comfy ride considering
  • Great build quality
  • High quality interior
  • Road and wind noise
  • It’s a convertible

Cons

  • A long vehicle for New Zealand
  • Rear departure angle
  • Small cabin for a big vehicle
  • Sun strike off bonnet
  • Not very economical
  • Off-road tyres not ideal for daily driving
  • No dead pedal for left foot

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

Vehicle TypeUte
Starting Price$92,900
Price as Tested$94,900
Engine3.6-litre Pentastar V6 with ESS
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
209/347
Transmission8-Speed Automatic
Spare WheelFull size under tray
Kerb Weight, Kg2,215
Length x Width x Height, mm5591 x 1894 x 1909
Payload Capacity, kg620
Fuel tank capacity, litres83 
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – 12.4Real World Test – Combined – 14.5Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked750 /2721
Turning circle, metres13.5Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty3 years or 100,000km warranty
ANCAP Safety RatingsN/A
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
5
Interior
9
Performance
6
Safety
6
Styling
7
Value
7
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It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.

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