By now, most enthusiasts know that the Jeep Gladiator is a lot more than just a Wrangler with a five-foot bed in the back. The Gladiator is a purpose-built lifestyle truck engineered to do everything a truck is supposed to do, including towing up to 7,650 lbs.
Gladiator shares with the Wrangler the rugged styling and go-anywhere, top-off, doors-off, fun spirit of its sibling. This review focuses on the Mojave trim Gladiator, which is identical in price to the rock-crawling Rubicon trim, but more suited to high-speed desert running than crawling.
The Gladiator Mojave is a trick piece of kit and has some cool suspension changes vs. the Gladiator Rubicon that make it better suited for desert running. Mojave loses the Rubicon’s front locking differential and disconnecting sway bar, receiving a reinforced frame, 2.5-inch FOX internal bypass shocks, and a one-inch lift up front.
Gladiator Mojave has 2.5-inch Fox internal-bypass shocks with remote reservoirs at all four corners and Fox hydraulic jounce bumpers up front. A rubber sleeve protects the bump shafts to prevent damage from rocks, sand, or anything else you’d encounter in the desert. The front end also sits a full inch higher than the Rubicon to give it more travel when thrashing through the desert. 33-inch Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires are standard.
The longer wheelbase helps the Gladiator feel well-planted and stable on the highway and far less bouncy than the Wrangler. The trade-off is the Gladiator has a worse break-over angle than the Wrangler.
Also unique to the Gladiator Mojave is the Off-Road Plus mode, which allows the rear diff to be locked in 4High instead of just 4Low. Cosmetically the hood is unique with a single air scoop in the center, and wearing a Desert Rated badge rather than the familiar Trail Rated badge. Accents are orange rather than Rubicon red.
The Gladiator Mojave is powered by the ubiquitous Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine, which makes 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. Buyers have their choice of six-speed manual, or an eight-speed automatic. Personally, the manual transmission in the Gladiator and Wrangler adds no additional enjoyment to the driving experience, and I would urge buyers to opt for the fantastic eight-speed. We owned a JL Wrangler Rubicon for five years and loved the eight-speed in it. Fuel economy is not great, and the average buyer will likely see mid-15 miles per gallon in regular driving.
Gladiator offers best-in-class towing of up to 7,650 pounds or up to 1,700 pounds of payload.
The Gladiator Mojave interior is straight out of the JL Wrangler, and that’s a good thing. All the controls are buttons and switches located logically in the center stack. Some HVAC/Radio functions also have redundant touch functions on the 8.4-inch screen, but everything can be controlled with a physical button. The UConnect system is excellent and has standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Gladiator is genuinely one of a kind. If you need a truck that gives you all the freedom of a Wrangler, the Gladiator is it. As mentioned previously, we loved our JL Wrangler Rubicon that we just sold after five years. It’s the most fun we’ve ever had in any vehicle we’ve owned, and the Gladiator feels much the same.
The cost of entry is the only drawback to the Gladiator Mojave. My tester had a base price of $50,995 and a price-as-tested of $67,000. That’s a lot of money, any way you slice it. The good news is there are always deals to be had with the Gladiator, and they hold their value well. While the upfront costs are high, the overall total cost of ownership is low. If high-speed desert running is on your weekend agenda, the Jeep Gladiator is the one to check out.