2023 Jeep Gladiator 3,6 Rubicon

2023 Jeep Gladiator 3,6 Rubicon

A legendary name returns as a true lifestyle vehicle providing theuncompromising off-road capability sought by outdoor adventurers

Return of the Gladiator

Some three years after its US debut, the eagerly awaited Jeep Gladiator has finally arrived in SA. The rumour mill suggested the vehicle was not going to be available in our market, but it seems Stellantis South Africa managed to convince Jeep’s decision-makers it would be the ideal tool to spearhead the launches of several new Jeep models scheduled for the near future.

2023 Jeep Gladiator 3,6 Rubicon

Although it could technically be described as a 4x4 double-cab bakkie, the Gladiator occupies its own niche in the market as a true lifestyle vehicle possessed of uncompromising off-road prowess. The removable doors, interchangeable hard- and soft tops and a fold-flat windscreen – along with five-link solid axles front and rear – all contribute to its unique positioning.

The front end of the vehicle is Pure Wrangler, but that’s where the similarities end. At 5 539 mm, it is 200–300 mm longer than other double-cabs. Its turning circle of 13,6 m means that manoeuvrability in tight urban parking areas is going to be a challenge. The upside of the additional length over the Wrangler is that 493 mm is in its wheelbase. This helps with an increase in rear legroom and it’s a little less snug for taller passengers. The load box is protected by a fitted liner; it features adjustable tie-down points and in-box lighting and a covered auxiliary power point, while the fitted tonneau cover folds up in sections and the aluminium tailgate can be secured in three positions.

2023 Jeep Gladiator 3,6 Rubicon

The Gladiator is available only as a Rubicon model, which means ruggedness and off-road expertise won’t necessarily equate to any compromises in comfort, convenience or safety. The leather front seats and steering wheel are heated and remote starting allows interior cooling or heating before entry. The Uconnect information system features a 7-inch instrument display and a centre mounted 8,4-inch infotainment display; the latter includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and navigation. Screen options have off-road pages that provide pitch and roll angles along with engine oil, coolant and transmission temperatures. An excellent nine speaker Alpine sound system features a removable Bluetooth speaker – a great party trick when picnicking out on the trail – while connectivity is taken care of by multiple USB ports front and rear. Front and side airbags, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection, a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, and ESC with electronic roll mitigation are all standard.

2023 Jeep Gladiator 3,6 Rubicon

The familiar 3,6-litre V6 Pentastar is the only engine on offer. It produces 209 kW and 347 N.m, coupled with an 8-speed auto ’box. A diesel option is off the table until the availability of 10 ppm diesel improves. Off-road underpinnings are impressive. Both front and rear heavy-duty Dana 44 axles are fitted with diff-locks, while 4 Lo provides a 4:1 reduction for enhanced low speed rock-crawling capability.

High-capacity Fox shock absorbers are fitted all around and the front stabiliser bar can be electronically disconnected to improve wheel articulation. Key underbody components are protected by skid plates or bars and tubular steel rock sliders protect the sills and rear loadbed corners.

Solid front axles generally mean compromised on-road handling, but a mix of potholed tar and badly rutted gravel roads revealed that steering accuracy and response have seen a vast improvement over previous model Wranglers. The way the vehicle tackled potholes and ruts was particularly impressive.

It’s obvious those standard-fit 255/17 BF Goodrich off-road tyres combined with the Fox shocks make a significant contribution. Venturing off-road and into the Gladiator’s comfort zone, 4WD was selected via the traditional second gear lever. The impressive 249 mm ground clearance, 43,6° approach, 20,3° breakover and 26° departure angles, along with excellent suspension travel and articulation, made light work of a series of obstacles. Faced with a 30° climb on a loose, rocky surface and a series of sharp steps, it seemed prudent to engage low range and both diff locks. The combination of the overall reduction ratio of 77,2:1 and the petrol V6’s smooth and progressive torque delivery – courtesy of some well-measured throttle modulation – enabled the vehicle to crawl up the slope with no drama and certainly flattered my off-road driving skills.

A short run down the highway revealed the characteristic hum of the off-road tyres, but wind noise – even with the soft top fitted – was acceptable for this vehicle type.

Its suspension permits a 693 kg payload, some way short of most one-tonne pick-ups, but should still be adequate for most users. The positive trade-off here is the excellent off-road ride quality and 4x4 capability. At R1 259 900, the Gladiator is comfortably SA’s most expensive pick-up and it competes against some competent SUVs. But if we factor in its high spec levels and that it is sold “offroad ready” – a number of pricey and popular off-road options are included as standard – the price gets more palatable.

TECHNICAL DATA 2023 Jeep Gladiator 3,6 Rubicon

  • Price: R1 259 900
  • Engine: 3,6-litre, V6, petrol
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Max Power: 209 kW@6 400 r/min
  • Max Torque: 347 N.m@4 100 r/min
  • 0–100 km/h: N/A
  • Top speed: N/A
  • Fuel consumption: 12,4 L/100 km*
  • CO2 emissions: 288 g/km*
  • Warranty: 5 year/100 000km
  • Maintenance plan: 3 year/100 000km
  • + superb off-road capability out of the box, removable doors and roof
  • - large 209 kW petrol V6 will be thirsty
  • Window switches are included in the centre stack owing to the removable doors.
  • Off-road pages on the infotainment screen include temperatures of critical components among other functions.
  • Storage compartments are lockable and featuremovable dividers.
  • Trail-ready mode engaged, with windscreen folded and doors and roof removed.
  • Underseat storage bins are matched to the 60:40 rear seat split for greater practicality.
  • High-pressure gas aluminiumFox shocks are excellent over rough terrain and provide a supple ride on-road, too.
  • Standard mud and snow tyres are fitted to maximise off-road grip.
  • The large load baymakes the Gladiator the perfect tool to support an active outdoor lifestyle.
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