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Gladiator in Jeep’s Clothing

By Alvin Uy Philippine Daily Inquirer January 22,2020

The JEEP Gladiator in picturesque Queenstown in New Zealand

The all-new Jeep Gladiator bagged earlier this month the prestigious North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards as best truck of the year. It comes as no surprise as it is one of the most anticipated nameplates since it went on sale last year in the United States and has been receiving good reviews.

Now, here’s an even better news: the Gladiator will be introduced in the local market around middle of the year.

Off-roading enthusiasts are already eagerly waiting for the Philippine unveil by Jeep Philippines. Building on Jeep’s rich heritage of dependable, tough utility trucks with very capable off-road abilities, rugged utility, open-air freedom and practical functionality, what’s not to like about the Gladiator?

Built with similar architecture as the Jeep Wrangler, the Gladiator also comes with a removable roof and doors, but its longer wheelbase and large cargo space makes it an ideal work and play vehicle, and its off-roading prowess makes it one of the most capable midsized truck without compromise. “As the demand for pickup trucks grows around the world, Jeep is expanding its portfolio and re-entering a segment that is a significant part of the brand’s heritage,” said Christian Meunier, Global Head of the Jeep brand. “The new Jeep Gladiator is the only convertible pick-up truck in the marketplace. It’s also among the most popular off-road, midsize pickup trucks, delivering a unique open-air driving experience, making it the perfect active lifestyle pickup truck.”

Last December, Inquirer Motoring participated in an exclusive regional on and off-road media drive in picturesque Queenstown in New Zealand to try out the various Jeep Gladiator variants, including some very challenging off-road trails including rock crawling, river fording, and dirt roads of Mt. Aspiring National Park, including spending the night camping on “Avalanche Camp” with glacier-cap mountains and crystal clear streams as backdrops.

The Jeep Gladiator uses two advanced 4×4 systems, the Selec-Trac Full-Time 4×4 system which is standard on the Sport and Overland variants that features a two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio, and heavy-duty third-generation Dana 44 front and rear axles with a 3.73 rear axle ratio. For the more serious Gladiator Rubicon variant, it uses the Rock-Trac 4×4 system thats features heavy-duty third-generation Dana 44 front and rear axles with a “4LO” ratio of 4:1. A 4.10 front and rear axle ratio is standard as are Tru-Lok locking differentials. This means that the Gladiator Rubicon models offer improved articulation and total suspension travel with help from a segment-exclusive electronic sway-bar disconnect. With the standard eight-speed automatic transmission, Gladiator Rubicon has an impressive crawl ratio that makes scaling any obstacle on the trail easy. Both Selec-Trac and Rock-Trac systems offer full-time torque management, enabling optimal grip in low-traction conditions. These systems proved to be very useful specially in the rock crawling part of the drive.

With a rugged and yet lightweight body-on-frame design, the Gladiator is patterned after the Wrangler that is known for durability, and is designed to optimize ride quality, handling, as well as towing and hauling cargo. With a five-link suspension system, it offers better on-road driving dynamics, best-in-class towing, and its legendary 4×4 payload capacity. Comparing it with the all-new Wrangler (4-door), the Gladiator’s frame is longer by 78cm and wheelbase is 49cm longer. This allows a better weight distribution and better ride even while carrying cargo. The more robust Rubicon models uses heavy gauge tubular steel rock rails to protect the body from damage inflicted when used for heavy off-road trailing.

Ably handling the rock crawling, river fording and dirt roads of Mt. Aspiring National Park

The Rubicon and Sport variants we used had the already proven 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. Jeep says it also has the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine which for now is only available in the US and European markets only. The Pentastar V-6 engine delivers 285 horsepower and 353 Nm of torque, and is designed to provide a broad torque band but focuses on low-end torque, which is very useful for off-roading. An eight-speed automatic transmission is mated on all Gladiator models equipped with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine.

Inside, the Gladiator’s interior is similar to the Wrangler when it comes to styling, versatility, comfort, and intuitive feature use. Its rear seats are exclusively designed for the Gladiator, which utilizes a unique design that can be locked in place, to provide secure storage behind the seat back. The rear seats can also be folded flat to access cab-back storage and provide a load floor for larger items. Other clever storage solutions are found throughout the Gladiator, including durable mesh pockets and numerous storage areas for gadgets and accessories.

Also exclusive to Gladiator Rubicon models, it features a forward-facing off-road camera showing obstructions ahead while driving on and off-road. This feature is particularly useful doing extreme off-roading that involves serious rock crawling.

Aside from the Rubicon, Overland and Sport models, Jeep also showcased the Gladiator Mopar variant and a special Wayout Concept Gladiator during the media drive. The Mopar variant features a skeletal tubular frame door adding to the open-air freedom experience. The Wayout Concept Gladiator features a retractable roof deck tent, custom bed rack with ladder, a very cool custom fit auxiliary fuel tank, and classic 17-inch steel rims.

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