Exclusive: We drive the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon in Australia
We can’t get out hands on a press vehicle yet but anyone can head to a dealer and sample the new Jeep Gladiator Rubicon in Australia… so we did.
That’s right folks, we driven the all-new Jeep Gladiator Rubicon in Australia… and for those after a well-appointed and off-road capable dual-cab ute there’s no doubt this one fits the bill.
It’s not often that dealers get their hands on demo vehicles before journos have a crack behind the wheel but hey, Covid-19 seems to have turned the world on its head, right? We have a Jeep Gladiator Rubicon press vehicle booked for late July, at which point we’ll give it a thorough on- and off-road test and bring you our verdict, but in the meantime we headed to our local Jeep dealer and sampled a demonstrator model. And after our brief drive, we’re hooked!
Unlike the Wrangler on which it’s based, the Gladiator is only available with Jeep’s 3.6L petrol V6 engine (the Wrangler is also available with a 2.2L four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine), which makes a claimed 209kW of power and 347Nm of torque. While this petrol-only power-plant might put off some potential buyers, there’s no doubt the engine is a pearler – it’s silky smooth, has plenty of grunt and works particularly well with the eight-speed automatic transmission. Sure, the Gladiator Rubicon is no lightweight at 2215kg but during our brief time behind the wheel it certainly exhibited strong acceleration. And at 100km/h on the highway, the tacho needle sat on a low 1750rpm, which would no doubt help the Gladiator Rubicon achieve its claimed 12.4L/100km combined cycle fuel figure.
As we expected, the Gladiator Rubicon appears to exhibit less bump steer than the Wrangler Rubicon, despite running the same live-axle front and rear coil spring suspension setup and the same 255/75R17 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tyres. This is no doubt due to the Gladiator’s substantially longer wheelbase (3488mm compared with Wrangler four-door’s 3008mm). The biggest difference between Gladiator Rubicon and Wrangler Rubicon on the road, however, is the dual-cab ute’s sublime ride quality. Those FOX aluminium-bodied 2-inch diameter front and rear shocks fitted to the Gladiator Rubicon really take it to the next-level in terms of ride plushness… and really show that Jeep Australia is pitching the Gladiator Rubicon squarely at Ford Ranger Raptor buyers.
On our short freeway run the Gladiator cruised along effortlessly and while there was the expected tyre rumble from the BFG muddies, overall road noise suppression seems good. There was a bit of wind noise around the upright windscreen and external mirrors but it was nothing excessive.
While we’ll have to wait a few weeks to test the Gladiator Rubicon off-road, we’ve no doubt it will be impressive after having previously driven the Wrangler Rubicon in some extreme off-road conditions.
On the inside, the Gladiator Rubicon looks just like a Wrangler, with a busy dash covered in buttons and other controls and a red panel contrasting the dark leather trim throughout the rest of the cabin. Visibility is good to the front and sides and the reverse camera is one of the best in the business. There’s plenty of room up front although like Wrangler the driver’s side footwell is quite narrow. Rear-seat occupants get plenty of legroom and while the Gladiator isn’t as wide as some other dual-cab utes there’s enough space to fit three kids across the back pew in reasonable comfort.
The tub offers generous dimensions and has a decent bed-liner although it should be noted the payload is a rather modest 620kg… and maximum braked towing capacity is 2721kg. But remember, the Gladiator Rubicon is a rock-crawling ute, not a commercial-based load hauler.
And the sticker price on the Gladiator Rubicon we took for a spin? $85k drive-away… which is the same money you’ll pay for a new Ford Ranger Raptor.
While our demo drive was short, it left us hanging for more. If you want more details on the Gladiator see this Unsealed 4X4 launch review from across the ditch or to find out what it’s like for yourself just call your nearest Jeep dealer and organise a test drive.
In the meantime, here’s a few Gladiator Rubicon features:
- Engine: 3.6 Pentastar V6
- Power/torque: 209kW 347Nm
- Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
- 4×4 System: Rock-Trac Active On-Demand 4×4
- Tru-Lok Front & Rear Locking Differentials
- Front Sway-Bar Disconnect
- FOX Aluminum-Bodied 2” Diameter Front & Rear Shocks
- Forward-Facing TrailCam Off-Road Camera
- 255/75R17 32” BFGoodrich Off-Road Tyres
- 17” Alloy Wheels
- Steel Rear Bumper
- Selectable Tyre-Fill Alert
For more details on the range hit this link for a full Jeep Gladiator spec-sheet.
For drive impressions check out the video below: