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Sunday, August 29, 2021

Review: 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon


The Jeep Gladiator might look like just a Wrangler with a pickup bed attached, but it’s more than that. It combines elements which are quintessentially American—Jeep and pickup trucks—to the point that you could almost see the Stars and Stripes painted on its side. The combination is so perfect that it comes as a surprise that the last time Jeep came up with a pickup truck was around 30 years ago. With that, this one’s got a lot of reputation and expectation to live up to.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: this isn’t a workhorse. It has a 5-foot (1,524 mm) bed enabling you to carry 770 kilograms, and it can tow more than 3.1 tons, but a walk around is enough to tell you this is more of a lifestyle truck. It’s focused on facilitating adventures rather than being purely functional vehicle. Its P 4.790-million price tag (P 3.890-million for the Sport) reflects that. It is expensive, but then again, no other pickup could match its emotional draw.



Starting with the Wrangler JL, Jeep lengthened the frame by 787 mm and grafted on a bed. It also happened to dip into the corporate parts bin, borrowing the RAM 1500’s rear suspension too. Fortunately, the end result doesn’t look or feel like a parts-bin special. In fact, Jeep’s unique sense of style remains in full display. The body work may have been cribbed straight from its SUV sibling (sans the larger grille opening for added cooling), but compared to other pickup trucks, only the Gladiator offers a removable roof, fold-down windshield, and removable doors. Again, it’s all about that adventure-ready vibe.

Jeep has managed to hide the Gladiator’s plus-sized dimensions very well, but as a warning, this thing is big boned. Its length stretches 5,539 mm and its height maxes out at 1,882 mm (without accessories)—so it’s something to consider when you have to park in a basement or in a multi-level complex. Oh, and its turning radius is a sizeable 6.8 meters.



The Gladiator Rubicon has no standard step board (to improve its breakover angle) so tackling its 282 mm of ground clearance takes pretty strong legs. Once aboard though, the interior continues to cement that adventure-ready feel. It’s playful and functional at the same time with chunky, easy-to-navigate controls. Sure, there are a lot of hard plastics, but because this pickup is meant to be driven roofless (the electronics are actually water resistant), it’s forgivable. What’s not forgivable is the lack of a driver’s foot rest.

Shame really, because the driving position is solid, if a bit upright. The seats and steering wheel—all manual adjust—offer the right amount of fine-tuning resulting in a high, commanding view of the road ahead. The big side mirrors also give good rearward vision.



With such a large footprint, there’s no surprise that the Gladiator’s extremely roomy. Jeep says it’s got best-in-class rear legroom, and after sitting there, it’s believable. Moreover, the cabin is very clever. Not only are there a handful of spots to stick a smartphone in, but the rear seats actually fold down in a 60/40 split revealing a hidden compartment. Equally appreciated is the amount of tech inside. The 8.4-inch Uconnect system is easy to use and has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Tunes are cranked out via an Alpine sound system.

Driving the Gladiator on the road isn’t as punishing as its hardcore off-road credentials might suggest. The body-on-frame’s extra wheelbase allied to the five-link coil spring rear suspension, and new shocks front and rear—Fox Shocks no less—give a surprisingly compliant and comfortable ride even when unladen. The blocky 33-inch BF Goodrich Mud Terrain T/A KM2 tires do result in some noticeable tire noise.



The steering is light and effortless, and coupled to its low gear setup means being low on feedback. All sorts of small corrections are needed just to keep the Gladiator at high speed, but still, it doesn’t feel overly big or cumbersome in everyday driving as its proportions suggest.

So far, the Philippine-spec Gladiator comes with just one engine: Jeep’s tried-and-tested 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that spins out 285 horsepower and 352 Nm of torque. Despite an aluminum-extensive construction—the hood, fenders, windshield frame, and tailgate are all made of the stuff—it still tips the scales at 2,301 kilograms; a mass that the powertrain always has to pull. Still, the package manages to pull strongly from traffic lights even if the engine has to rev a bit more, and the 8-speed automatic has to hang on to gears a bit longer. Perhaps the only penalty here is its fuel economy which registers a paltry 5.15 km/L.



Once again, the test drive agreement prevents any hardcore off-roading, but on paper, the Gladiator Rubicon’s the real deal. An approach angle of 43.4 degrees and a departure angle of 26 degrees are class-leading. Plus, it’s got heavy-duty Dana axles, an electronic sway bar disconnect for more wheel articulation, and a two-speed transfer case with a super low 77.2:1 crawl ratio. The underside even has steel rock rails that protect the lower body from dings, dents, and scratches. One thing we did manage to test was its water wading capability. Maxing out at 762 mm, it made traversing Manila’s flash floods a cinch.

All in all, this is unlike other pickup trucks in that it’s purely a lifestyle pickup truck without work pretenses. Admittedly, it can deal with a reasonable load and can tow a lot, but it’s more about fun than function, and it truly delivers on that front. In short, the Gladiator, especially in the top-of-the-line Rubicon trim, is probably not the truck that you need, but it’s the truck that you want.



2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

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Ownership 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Year Introduced 2020
Vehicle Classification Pickup
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Pickup Truck
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/4WD, Low, Locking (F&R)
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 3.6
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders V6
BHP @ rpm 285 @ 6,400
Nm @ rpm 352 @ 4,800
Fuel / Min. Octane Unleaded / 91~
Transmission 8 AT
Cruise Control Yes, w/ Limiter
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 5.15 km/L @ 16 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 5,591
Width (mm) 1,894
Height (mm) 1,882
Wheelbase (mm) 3,488
Curb Weight (kg) 2,301
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Live Axle, Coil Spring, w/ Electronic Sway-bar Disconnect (Fox Shock Absorber)
Rear Suspension Live Axle, Five-Link w/ Coil Spring (Fox Shock Absorber)
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Vented Disc
Parking Brake Manual
Tires BF Goodrich Mud Terrain T/A KM2 LT
255/75 17 111/1080 M+S (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 4
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Blind Spot Monitoring System
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front (LED) & Rear
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 6-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
Sunroof No
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Rear View Mirror Auto-dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto, Dual Zone, w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
Aux
USB
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 9, Alpine
Steering Controls Yes

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