We wouldn’t mind being stranded in the desert with the most interesting Gladiator to date.
Words by: Adam Allen
Gladiator? Desert? Please explain.
Happy to. Jeeps are typically found plying their trade scrambling up rocky hillsides, fording rivers and picking their way down single tracks that would make a seasoned hiker second guess their path. Those who spend time in the desert will confirm they observe the occasional Jeep playing in the dunes or scampering up and down a mesa or two, but they were never made to conquer the desert. Jeep has now fixed that with the Gladiator Mojave you see here and apologies to would-be Wrangler fans salivating at this new trim level, because it is only available on the Gladiator. Which, with its newly minted Desert Rated fender badge is guaranteed to flatter its driver in- where else?- the desert. No, it does not claim insane verticals leaping off dunes and jumps; that stuff is best left to the Hellcat powered and delightfully bonkers RAM TRX pickup. Instead, it promises an insane turn of speed navigating its way across sandy, rocky, and inevitably desolate swaths of land. This comes courtesy of some very trick hardware which we will get into, but the Mojave also becomes the most interesting Jeep product currently on sale.
OK, we get it. Mojave, Desert Rated…tell us what this thing is packing.
A cursory search for Mojave trimmed Gladiators online show this brute traversing gnarly desert terrain at speeds that could best be described as scary, or to the uninitiated, irresponsible. Our Jeep truckster isn’t fazed by the abuse and happily accepts whatever inputs their drivers ask for. To allow for such performance, the Mojave gets specialized bits that may not help them ascend the Rubicon Trial any faster, but will allow them to get from A to B rather quickly in say, the Mojave Desert. The Gladiator rides on beefy Dana 44 stick axles and is shod with 33” Falken Wildpeak rubber that look very apt at finding traction on very loose surfaces. The frame has been stiffened for max abuse and the suspension has been raised slightly. Peer behind the wheels at that suspension and the piece d’resistance reveals itself: massive 2.5 Fox internal bypass shocks with front hydraulic jounce bumpers are on full display and clearly show the Mojave is not messing around. Painted in a hue appropriately dubbed Gobi and boasting a stern looking hood scoop (alas, non-functional) it also features the trim’s signature orange tow hooks. The whole thing really works and prompts plenty of rubbernecking- describing this rig as anything but badass would be inaccurate.
Serious stuff indeed.
Jeep has seen to it that potential Mojave owners will not need to turn to the aftermarket to give their Gladiator lofty capabilities in random wastelands as it is so capable right after it rolls off Toledo’s assembly line. As none of our staff live even remotely close to a desert, we did not take our tester anywhere near where it was designed to frolic. That meant we largely used the Mojave for commuting. Rather than think of a way to sugar-coat the experience, allow us to be diplomatic: this Jeep is, uh, a bit of a handful if used for that. We are going to start with some positive news, and that is that considering the hardware our Jeep was packing and what it was built to do, it did perform mundane tasks surprisingly well- despite all that kit it will run to the grocery store and pickup the dry cleaning with no issue. But, in pretty much every other situation you might find yourself in while on city streets or the highway, the Mojave can be a hot mess. Maintaining a straight path requires constant steering correction and you’ve got to really show the 3.6 lire Pentastar V6 the beans to reach cruising speed. Those Falkens would no doubt save your bacon in the middle of nowhere but constantly hum with noise and squirm around on their prodigious tread blocks. Our tester was equipped with the 6-speed manual gearbox that is good fun to row- and we do mean row, because the throws between gears are quite lengthy- and does not flop around in gear the way your old Wrangler used to. This is undoubtedly the gearbox we would spec, but it takes commitment.
Why so harsh, bro?
We concede that analysis in not a fair shake but because so many Jeep owners will do just that- use their purpose built off roaders to collect the kids from school and pickup takeout for dinner- we felt compelled to illustrate what life is like in a Gladiator Mojave outside its comfort zone. Although we did not get to see what it can do in the proper context, think of it like this- the Gladiator Mojave in the desert is analogous to a Porsche 911 GT3 on a racetrack. Both vehicles could not be farther away from one another in concept, but they share a common thread in that they are the pinnacle of excellence of being the right tool for a specific job. If you posses the geographic location and the skills needed to excel off pavement, the Gladiator Mojave is a kind of 911 GT3 for the rough stuff. Use the Jeep as it was intended and just how special this product is will reveal itself to you. But if you choose to get it dirty only a few times a year and then ask it to get you to the office and back every weekday, you’re doing it wrong. Despite the Mojave’s relative lack of civility on tarmac, it finds a way to worm itself into your subconscious. You wonder how it is possible to fall in love with something so unwieldy in everyday driving, but there you are, casting multiple glances back at it after you park.
What might go wrong?
We have already covered the dedication it takes to own a Gladiator Mojave if you spend the vast majority clicking numbers onto your odometer in the concrete jungle. Now the only stuff left to complain about are the ever-present wind, road and tire noise, the amount of time it takes to take off the doors and roof and then put back once the weather gets nice again, and how you’ll wish for a proper dead pedal instead of awkwardly splaying your right foot under the clutch pedal. You might even get a case of sticker shock, because very nearly $70,000 is a big sum of money for a narrowly focused off-roader.
Should I buy a Jeep Gladiator Mojave?
We often attempt to answer this very question at the conclusion of our road tests, and this is one of those times where that seems irrelevant. Those who are interested in the Gladiator Mojave are very much in the know and have answered the question affirmatively; this is not a Gladdy you purchase from your local dealer because they didn’t have any Sahara’s in stock in the same way the prospective Porsche buyer shopping an automatic 911 Cabriolet is not going to even look at that sweet GT3 across the showroom. This is an incredibly special truck with a very specialized set of skills, and those who know what they are doing off-pavement will no doubt gush with praise for this Gladiator and what it is capable of. Remember this folks: vehicles like the Jeep Gladiator Mojave are a disappointment if misused, but they are glorious when not.
2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave 4X4- Specifications
- Price as tested: $69,960
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger SUV/Pickup
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/four-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.6-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 285 @ 6,400 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 260 @ 4,800 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Curb weight: 2,347 kg (5,175 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 15.2/100km (15 mpg)