What’s big, red and eats rocks?

by Petrol Mum
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Firecracker Red

According to the Dr Seuss ‘Book of Riddles’ the answer to this question is a ‘Big Red Rock Eater’, but this Firecracker Red Jeep Gladiator Rubicon fits the bill as well. For my week with the Gladiator I slayed rocky bush tracks, hills and the highway to test out what this Jeep had to offer.

You can strip the Gladiator almost bare thanks to its removable full metal doors, a fold down windscreen and the three-piece freedom hard top removable roof. The front portion of the roof comes off in two parts by unlocking it at four points inside the cabin and then lifting it off. Another fun feature of the Jeep Gladiator is the Willys Jeep images that you will find in various locations to reflect the off-roading heritage of Jeep and where the vision for the Gladiator has evolved from.

Powered by a 3.6 litre, V6 petrol engine with 209kW at 6,400rpm and 347Nm of torque at 4,100rpm, the Gladiator will cut a swathe through whatever the terrain you throw at it. The official combined fuel economy is 12.4L/100km and for my week I used 14.1L/100km. This off-road ability also has a lot to do with what is under the Gladiator, Front/Rear FOX Shocks Tru-Lok and chunky 32” BF Goodrich Off-Road tyres 255/75R1.

An 8-speed automatic transmission is paired to the 4×4 system, which operates either in full or part time mode with the choice of 2H, 4H Auto, 4H part time, 4L for Low Range crawling. Jeep claim that the Gladiator’s Approach Angle is 40.7ᵒ and the Departure Angle is 25.1ᵒ. You can also disconnect the Electronic Front Sway-Bar and select to lock the front and rear diffs or rear diff only for tackling even more heavy-duty terrain than that which I attempted.  

Despite the off-road tyres fitted to the Gladiator Rubicon I only really noticed the noise from them at low speeds. At highway speeds the noise level was not unpleasant in the cabin and you could easily still hold a conversation. The other thing I found on the highway was the Gladiator is not a speed machine and when coming to a stop the brake pedal felt a bit squidgy when I pressed hard. I also missed having a foot rest on the left hand side of the driver’s foot well to put my foot on while driving.

When I switched from asphalt to aggregate the Gladiator easily clawed its way up the steep rocky track, I took it on and I only had to use 4H to do this. There were plenty of handles for passengers to hold on to as we lurched up and down the bit ruts in the track that we traversed. And you will be thankful for the grippy sides on the cup/drink holders in the Gladiator to hold your drink tight and the storage nets in the doors to keep things from bouncing around in the cabin.

The Gladiator Rubicon is rugged beast that can still keep you comfortable regardless of the terrain you are tackling. The seats and steering wheel are covered with leather, with the front seats and the steering wheel being heated as well. The front passenger seat has manual adjustment for recline and forward back only and the driver’s seat gets this adjustment plus manual height adjustment and lumbar support. Even the vanity mirrors have lights, something many more popular utes miss out on still.

Technology isn’t lacking either with an 8.4″ infotainment screen and a 7″ central digital dash for the driver with two analogue dials on each side. Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard for easy-to-use phone projection. Media sources available include AM/FM radio, DAB+, Bluetooth, AUX, and USB and there is one USB-A port under the arm rest and one AUX, one USB-C, one USB-A and a 12V outlet on the dash. Voice control can be used to access some of the infotainment functions by pressing the button on the steering wheel with the masculine looking silhouette on it. The voice control worked well for me to make a phone call, change the radio station and setting a destination on the sat nav. An issue I noticed was that the climate control temperature was a bit erratic blowing either hot or cold air and nothing really in between.

In the back seats there is ample head and leg room for two adults or three children to be comfortable here. As there is no cover over the tub you will also need to carry the groceries home on the rear seat, so keep that in mind if you also have small children. For them there are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points with metal latching spots behind the 60:40 split folding rear seats. The centre seat can be folded down as an arm rest with two cup holders at the front with grippy sides. There are another two large drink bottle holders with grippy sides on the transmission tunnel below the two central rear air vents. The mats on the floor also only cover the foot wells and not the transmission tunnel so the carpet here may be very dirty after those muddy adventures you will be sure to have in the Gladiator.  

My Gladiator was fitted with the Lifestyle Adventure Group ($2950) that includes a lockable rear under seat storage, that has compartments that can be removed to make it one long box. The storage box is easy to access thanks to the rear seats staying up without being tethered while you place your items in the box. This option also includes a wireless Bluetooth speaker that is stored behind the driver’s side rear seat where it is on charge so ready to go whenever the mode takes you for an impromptu dance party in the bush.

For transporting all your gear, the Gladiator tub has four substantial tie down points one in each corner and two lights that illuminate well at night, but no 12V outlet.  The Lifestyle Adventure Group option also includes the Spray In Bedliner and the Trail Rail tracks on either side of the tub for moveable tie down points. The tub is 112cm wide at its narrowest point between the wheel arches and approximately 150cm deep. A full-size spare tyre is located under the rear of the Gladiator. My favourite feature of the tub was the soft-open tailgate that slowly comes down when you unlatch it.

All models in the Jeep Gladiator range have a 3-star ANCAP (2019) safety rating with an Adult Occupant Protection score of 60% (23.0 out of 38) and a Child Occupant Protection score of 80% (39.4 out of 49). Passive safety includes 4 airbags and for convenience you get a standard reversing camera with rear parking sensors and auto headlamps.

Standard active driver safety includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus, Lane Departure Warning Plus, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross Path Detection. ANCAP tests of the autonomous emergency braking system in highway speed scenarios showed some GOOD performance with collisions avoided or mitigated in most scenarios. Overall, effectiveness of the AEB system performance in highway speed scenarios was rated ADEQUATE. The overall ANCAP Safety Assist score is 51%.

The Jeep Gladiator has a 5 Year/100,000km warranty and Lifetime Roadside Assist (when your vehicle is serviced through Jeep). Scheduled servicing for the Gladiator is due every 12 months or 12,000 km, whichever comes first. With capped price servicing for the first five services priced at $399 each.

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon starts at $87,250 plus on-road costs and this big red rock eater is priced at $93,095 excluding on-road costs thanks to the Premium Paint ($895), Lifestyle Adventure Group ($2,950) and Trail Ready Package ($2,000). Check out the special offer currently available until 30 June 2023 on the entire Jeep Gladiator range or visit your preferred Jeep dealer for more information.

Off-road capabilitiesNo resting point for the driver’s left hand foot
Lockable storage the under rear seatClimate control temperature is erratic
Soft-open tailgate  Needs a mat that completely covers the rear floor

 Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.

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