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The Top Gear USA car review:Jeep Gladiator
For:Jeep ability and pick-up load carrying combine to help a whole new range of adventures
Against:Careful with that configurator - extras add up fast
What is it?
The new Jeep Gladiator might look like just a Wrangler with a pick-up bed attached. But it’s quite a bit more than that – it’s the beginning of your adventures. It’s been over 27 years since the last true Jeep pick-up featured in the range – the Jeep Cherokee-based trucklet called the Comanche – and 33 years since the stretched CJ-8-based half-cab Scrambler saw the light of day. So the company hasn’t taken lightly the launch of this truck.
Jeep has given it all the take-the-doors-off, open-air, go-anywhere freedom and ruggedness of the Wrangler. Then it’s added a platform to carry up to 1,600lb or tow up to 7,650lb of toys or cargo. Jeep reckons it is the very best in the midsize class – that includes the new Ford Ranger, Chevy Colorado and Toyota Tacoma.
And, once you’ve had a walk around it, driven it on and off road, it’s not hard to see why. It’s very much a lifestyle truck, with a focus on facilitating adventures, rather than being purely functional. It’s not cheap, the base model costing a full $10k more than the base model of other mid-size trucks, but then they don’t have half of the emotional draw.
The range is relatively simple to navigate. There are four variants to choose from: the base Sport, Sport S, mid-priced Overland and the full-house rock-crawling Rubicon. All models are Trail Rated – the Sport and Overland models get Command-Trac 4x4 systems, the Rubicon getting the pro-level Rock-Trac set-up which includes heavy duty axles, electronic sway bar disconnect and a crawl ratio – in the six-speed manual version – of a scarcely believable 84.2:1.
Why did the company go with the Gladiator name rather than the Scrambler moniker? Simple, says Jeep. Because Gladiator has always been the name of the full-size Jeep trucks since they started making them in 1962. So, as much as everyone loves the Scrambler name, it wasn’t right for this application. Jeep could add a half-cab version at a later date and bring it back.
What caused the decades-long wait for a new Gladiator? The brand people say they have been so busy trying to keep up with global insatiable appetite for Wranglers – annual demand has tripled for the model since 1997 – there hasn’t been time or space. But then a couple of years ago they found $700m down the back of the corporate couch to retool the Toledo factory and make space for the new Jeep pick-up. And here it is.