By Malusi Msomi
We recently got to sample the new Jeep Gladiator Rubicon at Forum Homini & roots restaurant in Krugersdorp. The Jeep Gladiator might seem like it’s Jeep’s first go at a bakkie but you’d be surprised. Their first pick-up dates back to 1945 and their last (before the Gladiator) was the Jeep Comanche (MJ) which was built from 1986-1992.
Jeep’s new Gladiator is based on the Jeep Wrangler but is 787mm longer. The Gladiator comes with the classic fold-down windscreen and removable soft-top and hard-top roof options. To top off the look you get 17-inch wheels and massive 32-inch BFGoodrich tyres. The Jeep Gladiator has some bragging rights as it’s the only convertible bakkie in the world, and now the most expensive production bakkie in South Africa.
Inside you’ll find premium materials, satellite navigation, an amazing Alpine sound system, and an 8.4-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay. You also get heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. It sports nifty Aux switches for easier installation of external accessories. In terms of roominess, there’s plenty of head and legroom for 5 passengers. You also get lockable under-seat storage and bolt storage bin when you decide to be adventurous and remove the doors and windshield. Heads up, there is a lot of road noise given the way you can remove certain parts of the car.
Power and driving
Powering the capable behemoth is a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine that produces 209kW/347Nm. Power is sent to its Rock-Trac four-wheel drive system via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Plant your right foot to the floor and the Gladiator will progressively gain speed and it’s accompanied by an amazing soundtrack. One thing I noticed whilst driving it is that the steering tends to get a bit light at highway speeds, so one has to be careful piloting it especially during overtaking maneuvers. The soundtrack does come at a cost, Jeep claims 12.7 l/100km but realistically you’re looking at around 17l/100km. With that being said, you probably wouldn’t daily a Gladiator but that entirely depends on how deep your pockets are.
Being based on a Jeep Wrangler, the Gladiator has supreme off-road capabilities. With the engine having a torque figure of 347Nm is not enough, but it’s more than enough for the Gladiator to tackle some tricky obstacles at Hennops off-road 4×4 Trail. To aid you in conquering the beaten track you get a Rock-Trac 4×4 system with a “4LO” ratio of 4:1 and Tru-Lok locking differentials standard on Rubicon models, skid plates and front and rear tow hooks, rear steel heavy-duty off-road rear bumper and available front steel winch-ready bumper with removable end caps, approach angle of 43.6 degrees, breakover angle of 20.3 degrees, departure angle of 26 degrees and ground clearance of 249mm (to the rear Diff), up to 800 mm of water fording, and up to 2 721kg towing and 693kg 4×4 payload capacity.
Driver assistance systems
In terms of assistance systems, you get safety forward collision warning, park sensors, rear camera, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring. For convenience, you get keyless entry and remote start.
The Jeep Gladiator is probably not going to be your only car. This is the type of vehicle that you take out on the weekend to rock climb or cruise the beach with the doors and roof detached. You also get bragging rights of driving the most expensive bakkie in Mzansi and the only convertible bakkie in the world. Along with this, Jeep offers an array of accessories for your Gladiator from a cold air intake for the 3.6-litre V6 to decals from Jeep performance parts. Pricing for the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon starts from R1,259,900.
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