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As good as it is off-road, the Gladiator Rubicon is pretty hard to live with on a daily basis

23 Aug 2022

EXCUSING a mild upgrade to its payload capacity – which at 693kg still trails every other four-wheel drive dual-cab utility on the market – Jeep’s Gladiator range is largely as it was when it landed here a couple of years ago.


For many, that’s a good thing. Afterall, the Gladiator is a good-looking machine with a long list of equipment, a long load bed and an enviable off-road ability. It also offers removeable roof panels and is immensely customisable – something most off-roaders truly appreciate.


But there is still no diesel option locally, cabin space remains tight, and build quality questionable. Our test example had rattles galore, a misaligned rear door, an exhaust manifold leak, ill-fitting carpets and a broken sun visor mount... Hardly an ideal example of a vehicle that exceeds $80k on the road.


For the money, however, the Gladiator actually offers a lot of kit. Standard inclusions such as leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, body-colour fender flares, a removable hard-top roof and 18-inch alloy wheels are standard on the base grade.


The off-road focused Rubicon tested here gains Jeep’s Rock-Trac four-wheel drive system (which includes full- and part-time 4WD and 4.1:1 gear ratios in the low-range transfer case and rear axle), front and rear differential locks, electronic front sway bar disconnect, Fox dampers and 225/75 series (32-inch) BF Goodrich KM3 muddies on 17-inch alloys, as well as a forward-facing camera and adjustable tyre pressure monitoring.


The Rubicon’s fender flares and removable hard-top roof are black and its upholstery is cloth, while a ‘Redical Red’ splash of colour is applied to the dashboard.


Both variants feature an 8.4-inch touchscreen multimedia unit with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, a nine-speaker Alpine premium audio system, keyless entry with push-button start and LED exterior lighting.


Driver assistance and safety technologies include adaptive cruise control with stop function, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking.


All Gladiators are powered by Jeep’s 209kW/347Nm naturally aspirated Pentastar 3.6-litre petrol engine, distributing outputs through an eight-speed automatic transmission built under licence from ZF.

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