FULLY CAPABLE - 2021 Jeep Gladiator

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FULLY CAPABLE - 2021 Jeep Gladiator

Jeep Gladiator for tough challenges

Friday, January 01, 2021

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THERE'S no doubt that life is filled with challenges — look at the year 2020, for instance. But for all other obstables, leave it to the 2021 Jeep Gladiator.

The Jeep Gladiator has to be divided into what can be best described as normal and 'adventure' modes. In Normal mode, it's the everyday workhorse pickup, one with an amazing off-road prowess. Once freed of its extremities — doors, roof, windshield — the Gladiator becomes something else entirely, primed for unmatched off-roading exploits.

On the styling front, the Jeep hasn't strayed far from its historic and current roots. There's no denying that from the front three-quarters, the Gladiator shares the same boxy visage of the Jeep Wrangler. The remaining one-quarter bares the extra length brought on by the five-foot bed that defines the major demarcations between the Gladiator and Wrangler. The squared off edges continue throughout making the Gladiator visually distinctive amongst its pickup peers. As standard, it can handle a maximum 1,600lb payload in the bed and tow up to 7,650lb.

Then we have 'adventure' mode.

Using the supplied tools and a little extra help from a friend, owners can strip off the roof, all four doors and lower the windshield for that eye-catching military vehicle appearance. Operating the Gladiator like this pushes the attention meter to its fullest. This is also where the vehicle further differentiates itself from crowd. If its off-road ability wasn't enough, driving off the beaten track in such an exposed manner generates an experience nothing else commercially available, other than a Wrangler, can provide. If off-roading in a normal pick-up is standard definition two-dimensional, then the Gladiator isn't even high definition, but straight up 3D. Tacking nature in this configuration allows passengers direct involvement in all the elements, sights, sounds and smells.

Step into the Gladiator and it's prepared for work. The interior is more focused on durability. That doesn't mean it's uncomfortable, far from it. There's plenty of space for both occupants and their cargo. Much of the storage solutions are centred on the fact that the vehicle can be pulled apart. Those demanding more can use the bed and its host of tie downs. Modern elements such as USB ports — lit for night time access — and connectivity are present. The infotainment is smooth and quick, with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. Audio quality is nice, while interior noise levels are low for what essentially is a box being pushed through the wind.

Equipped with the 3.6 V6, this engine goes a long way to give the Gladiator its own character. The V6 is smooth and powerful. Step into the throttle and response is instant with a throaty American growl. On road, the driving feel is similar to most pick-ups in the class. However, the intrinsic abilities — wheel size, suspension tuning and travel — make the Gladiator handle rougher terrain better, smoothing out bumps. Off-road, even without its doors, there's little stopping the Jeep. Holding fast to its heritage, it clears challenging stretches easily. Those worried about the extra length, need not. The Gladiator is no less sure-footed.

It would be unfair to label the Jeep Gladiator just a Wrangler with a bed. It's not. The two have different uses cases and deliver the experiences expected by their target markets.


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