Few vehicles live up to their title better than the new Gladiator. Just like the movie of the same name was a widescreen epic of Roman times, the eponymous Jeep is a larger-than-life depiction of the pickup version of the Wrangler SUV.
And while Gladiator star Russell Crowe carries off the traditions of the Hollywood heart-throb, so the titular one-of-a-kind convertible truck does likewise with the rich heritage of the popular Jeep.
Jeep pickups date back to 1947, with the Gladiator debuting Down Under in 1963, and as the only convertible truck of its kind, now comes to Australia. Ours is the first right-hand drive market in the world to receive it.
Available as the well-equipped entry-level Overland and superior-specified Rubicon the dual-cab with tub serves up good on-road manners and excellent off-road performance with the ability to offer an unmatched open-air feeling of freedom with its detachable roof panels.
Every Gladiator earns Trail Rated badging, which speaks to the vehicle’s superior off-road capabilities.
Prices start at $75,450, plus on-road costs, for the Overland and nudge up to $75,450 for the Rubicon. The Overland can be fitted with a Lifestyle Adventure Package, at $3835, consisting of cargo versatility with trail rail system, lockable rear under-seat storage bin, roll-up material tonneau cover, spray-on bedliner, aux switch bank (four programable), 240A alternator, 700A maintenance-free battery and Bluetooth wireless speaker.
One-hundred examples of a Gladiator Launch Edition are also on offer at $86,450. Each includes all Rubicon advantages and Lifestyle Adventure package, plus unique badging, wheels and interior highlights.
The Gladiator is covered by Jeep’s five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, capped price servicing and 24-hour roadside assistance.
Based on an extended JL Wrangler, the Gladiator is a dual-cab with a 5-foot tub behind. Maintaining the Jeep design DNA with a removable body-colour matched Freedom roof panels and fender flares.
Never-the-less, features are fit for purpose. For example, the traditional seven-slot radiator grille openings have been widened to allow added air intake to cope with up to 2721 kg braked trailer towing capacity.
Wrangler’s removable body-colour Freedom roof panels are retained and four bolts at the top of the windscreen allow it to be folded, while the header bar between the A-pillars remains in place keeping the rear-view mirror in operation.
Lightweight aluminium doors can also be taken off using one of the special tools supplied for the operations above.
LED headlamps and tail-lights, together with foglights and daytime running lights, present a modern look all round, while under-rail lighting in the tub highlights the optional Rail Trail system designed to keep varying loads safe and secure.
The Gladiator Overland gets around on 18-inch alloy wheels housed under body-colour fender flares and comes in a choice of seven standard Jeep colours, or Gobi and Gator, which are exclusive to Gladiator.
Inside are McKinley leather seats with Overland logo. Front seats are heated, as is the sports-style steering wheel. Rear seat backs can be folded to make available an illuminated storage spot, which includes a net to secure items to the cab back wall.
The seat cushions fold up to reveal space for an optional lockable storage bin for use when the roof and doors are removed.
The centre console features metal highlights and is home to gearshift and transfer case levers and handbrake. Bolts on the shift, grab handles and infotainment screen surrounds emphasise Gladiator’s solid construction character.
The 8.4-inch dash-mounted touchscreen announces Jeep’s fourth-generation Uconnect 4 system and is located on top of the centre stack. Improvements include quicker start-up times and better screen resolution.
Satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and a nine-speaker Alpine premium audio, plus a separate 7-inch multi-view driver information display, make up an extensive equipment list.
A portable Bluetooth wireless speaker behind the rear seat is also available. Waterproof in up to 3ft of water for up to 30 minutes offers the ability to charge up to three additional devices, a boon in remote locations.
A further confidence booster out bush, standard on Rubicon, is a forward-facing camera, which can clearly pick out obstacles ahead. Fixed behind the centre of Gladiator’s seven-slot grille it can be kept operative using an integrated washing system.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The Gladiator makes use of Jeep’s proven 3.6-litre Pentastar engine putting out 209 kW of power and 347 Nm across a wide torque band, the latter necessary for work in extreme situations off road.
It has an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
The Gladiator boasts more than 70 active and passive safety features including Forward Collision Warning Plus, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear camera with dynamic guidelines, forward view off-road camera, adaptive cruise control, and electronic stability control with electronic roll mitigation.
As far as driving is concerned the Gladiator belies its bulk, which is highlighted by its 13.6-metre turning circle. On the road it behaves like a much smaller vehicle, keeping up with traffic even in stop-start going in town.
On the highway, the long wheelbase (3488 mm) ensures the pickup irons out any blemishes in road surfaces, the well-tuned suspension and cabin comfort providing little occupants can complain about.
As for fuel consumption, the story is not so comfortable, though not unexpected for the powertrain in use. Jeep claims a combined urban / highway petrol consumption of 11.2 litres per 100 kilometres for the Gladiator.
On test, the Overland chalked up 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres cruising on motorways, while it reached 15 litres per 100 around town.
Off-road help comes in the shape of Selec-Speed Control, standard with the eight-speed tranny. This manages vehicle speed in ‘4LO’ during heavy going without the driver having to use the accelerator or brake. Selec-Speed is activated via a button on the dash and can be varied between one and 8 km/h using the AutoStick shift.
The ingenious roll-up tonneau cover, which incorporates metal crossmembers, works a treat to cover loads taking up varying amounts of tub space. Well done, Jeep.
While the Overland is capable of taking on a variety of extreme off-road conditions, for those keen to press on to the ultimate test, the added investment in the Rubicon, with its rock-hopping ability, would appear worthwhile.
AT A GLANCE
Jeep Gladiator Overland 3.6L V6 $75,450
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 3.6L V6 $76,450
Jeep Gladiator Launch Edition 3.6L V6 $86,450
Premium paint $1035
Lifestyle Adventure package $3835
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Jeep dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Jeep Gladiator Overland 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol, 8sp automatic, 4×4, 4dr Pickup)
Capacity: 3.604 litres
Configuration: Six cylinders V configuration
Maximum Power: 209 kW @ 6400 rpm
Maximum Torque: 347 Nm @ 4100 rpm
Fuel Type: Unleaded petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 11.2 L/100km
DRIVELINE: 8-speed automatic, Selec-Trac 4×4 Active On-Demand 4×4
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 5591 mm
Wheelbase: 3488 mm
Width: 1894 mm
Height: 1905 mm
Turning Circle: 13.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 2104 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 83 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Five years / unlimited kilometres