The long-awaited Jeep Gladiator has finally arrived in South Africa, priced at R1 259 900, making it the country’s most expensive bakkie. This has of course ignited many “is it worth it?” debates all over social media and everywhere I stopped and crowds formed around the monstrous Jeep.
We spent most of the week with the new Jeep. We drove it on dirt roads, highways and through city traffic, and it never felt out of place, its Big but adapts to all situations. The Gladiator is only sold in top-spec Rubicon form here in SA, which gives you some impressive off-roading capability and a feature-packed cabin.
Jeep’s only engine option is the 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar, mated with an eight-speed autobox and producing 209kW and 347Nm. Sadly the 3.0-litre V6 diesel that will be available in some markets won’t come to South Africa until our country’s diesel quality improves. Jeep claims a braked towing capacity of 2712kg for its Gladiator while the payload is listed at 693kg.
The Jeep Gladiator offers a level of flexibility that you won’t find in any other bakkies or SUVs. For starters, its windscreen can be folded forward and door panels removed. Three removable roof panels (including a soft top) also make it the only convertible bakkie on the market, perfect for those game drives or a spin on the beach.
If you’re not planning to do some proper off-roading, then the Jeep Gladiator is not for you. But if bundu bashing is on your immediate bucket list, then what you’re buying yourself is an immensely capable 4×4.
The Gladiator Rubicon stands out in this segment with its 249mm ground clearance, 35-inch BF Goodrich off-road tyres Standard for SA, Fox aluminium shocks, Dana 44 front and rear axles with Tru-Lok locking differentials, which can be operated at the push of a button. The vehicle has an approach angle of 43.6 degrees and departure angle of 26 degrees, while the breakover angle is listed at 20.3 degrees.
Inside the Gladiator Rubicon, you’ll find a comfortable and functional cabin that is designed for off-road adventures. It has supportive seats, a durable dashboard, and plenty of storage options. The Rubicon also comes with a range of technology features, including an 8.4-inch touchscreen display, smartphone integration, and a nine-speaker Alpine premium sound system, dual-zone climate control, heated leather seats, keyless-start, Adaptive Cruise Control and Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking. To keep you connected and charged up there are USB and USB-C ports in the front and rear of the cabin.
This Jeep is a beast. You wouldn’t expect it to be economical, but we managed to get 13L/100km out of it. And the ride quality was top-notch. We drove on the highway, through dirt roads and even through bushland. It didn’t let us down once. Not only that, but it was comfortable to drive long distances. The seats were plush and supportive, the touch screen display was easy to use and there were plenty of storage areas. It was also great fun to drive with its 8-speed automatic transmission and 4×4 capability.
The switches and dials on the dashboard are pretty basic, but you can get information about off-roading on a 8.4-inch driver information screen. You might get annoyed that the electric window controls are on the centre console, but to accommodate the removable doors so I think it’s worth it.
A lot of practical thought has went into the design of the gladiator for example, a slot to store the key in between the front console cup holders and removable doors that have a recess that allows you to carry them under your arm if the window glass is down. There’s also a portable bluetooth speaker for those spontaneous shindigs in the middle of nowhere as well as a tool box with plastics moulded inserts for each bolt that’s removed from the roof and one for the door so that are all accounted for when not holding the doors and roof on.
Jeep has paid particular attention to the load bin area of its new Wrangler. For starters, the surface is lined with a scratch-resistant layer, and other nifty features include a rigid roll-up tonneau cover and an external power source that’s covered by a rigid sheet of plastic. A cargo management system is available too and lockable bins beneath the rear seat benches in the cabin allow easy access to your gear or bulkier items.
The Jeep Gladiator is a high-end truck that comes with top-notch features. The Jeep Gladiator retail price speaks volumes to how confident Stellanis is in this product offering a three-year or 100 000km maintenance plan and five-year or 100 000km warranty, we can expect to see a fair amount of them on the roads in the not so distant future!
On the road, however, it does have a few compromises due to its off-road capabilities.
But if you’re prepared to compromise on some aspects of conventional motoring, the Gladiator is one tough-looking vehicle that lives up to its promise. With removable roof panels that allow fresh air to flow through the cabin, and BF Goodrich off-road tyres that hum at speed, it’s ready for any adventure.