Take one part Jeep Wrangler and one part pickup truck bed and you end up with the Jeep Gladiator. The recipe for the Gladiator is simple. But this isn’t an ordinary Jeep Gladiator. This new Mojave trim was designed to be a Baja inspired pickup truck. It has bigger tires, more suspension travel, and it says Mojave on the hood. Ok, there’s a bit more to it than that but how does the Jeep Gladiator Mojave stack up against other off-road ready mid-size pickup trucks; the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 & Toyota Tacoma TRD?
Engine – Under the hood of the Jeep Gladiator Mojave is a 3.6L naturally aspirated V6 engine that produces 285 hp & 260 lb-ft of torque (213 kW & 353 Nm). The Colorado ZR2 & Tacoma TRD have a leg up – or wheel up – on the Jeep as their V6 engines produce more power & torque. The ZR2 is also available with an optional turbo-diesel engine. A diesel engine is also available in the Gladiator but not in this Mojave trim; at least for now. However, while the Gladiator Mojave’s V6 is less powerful than the competition, it doesn’t feel as though it’s lacking too much power. Getting up to speed from a stop or merging onto a highway doesn’t take much effort of the throttle pedal. When going up a steep incline at higher speeds though, the transmission does have a tendency to hold the gear until approximately 4,000 rpms which makes the cabin quite loud. More on that later.
Off the beaten path, the engine’s lower power and torque figures don’t hinder the truck. This is meant to be a high speed off-roader and as such, keeping the rpm needle around the 3 to 5 thousand rpm range is where the engine is most happiest.
However, this engine’s major downfall is its thirst for the explosive juice. With the 8-speed automatic, it is officially rated at 10.4 L/100km (22.6 MPG) on a highway and 14.3 L/100km (16.4 MPG) in a city. Those numbers are in the same ballpark as the Tacoma but better than the Colorado ZR2. But in reality, it’s hard to get those numbers. I averaged around 15 L/100km (15.6 MPG) and that number also included almost 100 km of highway driving out of a 350 km total trip.
Transmission – This particular Jeep Gladiator Mojave demo vehicle came equipped with an 8-speed automatic but a 6-speed manual transmission is available. This 8-speed auto is reasonably quick to change gears but the shifts are smooth and as mentioned earlier, it has a tendency to hold a gear at higher speed while going up a hilly road. You can take over shifting duties by popping the gear selector in manual mode, just don’t expect fast reaction times from your inputs.
Braking – Stopping the truck are two piston floating calipers on the front with 13-inch discs. It doesn’t take much effort of the brake pedal to bring the truck to a stop in everyday commutes but predictably, the all-terrain tires don’t provide as much grip on paved roads as the street tires do on other Gladiator trims. Off the paved roads, the knobby tires grab onto the ground whether it be sand – or in my case, snow – to provide good braking performance. Hill descent control is standard but automatic emergency braking is optional on the Gladiator Mojave.
Handling – On road performance of the Jeep Gladiator Mojave is just Ok. The Toyota Tacoma & Colorado ZR2 perform better on paved roads than the Mojave Jeep. Steering is light and lacking in feel but the worst thing about its on-road performance is highway driving. At higher speeds, the front wheels have a tendency to point wherever they feel like. As a result, you constantly have to provide steering input, even when driving in a straight line. This gets tiring on longer trips.
Off the beaten path though, the Jeep Gladiator Mojave is a joy to drive. It comes equipped with a 1-inch lift over the Rubicon trim and has FOX shocks with external reservoirs on each corner. The benefit there is better heat management & consistent damping. These shocks do a great job of absorbing bumps at higher speeds and keeping the wheels planted to the ground. But this being a Baja inspired truck, jumping is not out of the question. To ensure that the Gladiator can take the landing, the frame has been reinforced and, on the front at least, it uses hydraulic jounce bumpers for a smoother & softer cushion. The rear axle has regular rubber jounce stops.
Should you need to take it slow around an obstacle, the Gladiator Mojave has slightly better approach, departure & breakover angles than the Rubicon thanks mainly to the increased ride height. It also has taller 4LO gears than it’s Rubicon cousin. In the Rubicon they’re 4.00:1 whereas the Mojave has 2.71:1 low-range ratios. The rear differential can also lock in 4HI mode whereas in the Rubicon, it can only be locked in 4LO. Granted, the Rubicon also has a locking front differential and disconnecting anti-roll bars. The Mojave doesn’t. But what the Mojave does have is an Off-Road Plus drive mode which adjusts the engine’s throttle response and reins in the ABS, traction control, and stability control programs for a bit more “tail out” action when driving quickly in a desert… on in my case here in Vancouver, snow.
Ride Comfort – Both on and off roads, the Jeep Gladiator Mojave has a pretty good ride. It has a longer wheelbase than most of its competitors and coupled with the FOX shocks & large sidewall tires, the on-road ride is good for day-to-day driving.
When traveling on forest roads or no roads at all, the ride isn’t as comfortable. You’ll get tossed around a bit if you drive over uneven surfaces. However, the bigger shocks & large sidewall tires means that the ride is a tiny bit better than other off-road rated pickup trucks.
Interior Space – At 6’4”, I have an adequate amount of space in the front seats. Head room is good and more can be had if you remove the roof. However, I could use a bit more legroom. My knees weren’t touching the dashboard per se, but my knees were at an almost 90 degree angle when sitting in the driver’s seat. Behind my driving position, I could fit but again, more legroom would have been nice. There’s an indentation in the back of the driver’s seat so tall adults like myself won’t feel squished. Headroom is good but just be aware of the roof mounted speakers and cross bars. Overall though, the Jeep Gladiator has more legroom in the back seats than the Colorado ZR2.
Lift up the rear seats and you find a bit of storage for small items. Pull down the rear seat backs and, again, more small item storage can be found behind the seats. Jeep’s engineers utilized the interior space very well.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Starting off with the good news, there were no squeaks or rattles in the Gladiator Mojave when I was driving it. The bad news is that it’s loud on the inside. The engine can be heard every time you accelerate, there’s wind noise from its boxy shape on highways, and the worst noise culprit are the tires. They are the loudest thing inside the cabin of the Jeep Gladiator Mojave.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The Gladiator Mojave comes equipped with a standard 7-inch Uconnect infotainment system but it can be upgraded to an 8.4-inch screen with navigation. Like many other Stellantis (formerly FCA) vehicles, the infotainment system is very straightforward to use and learn quickly. The Gladiator Mojave incorporates Off-Road Pages to the infotainment screen that shows you important vehicle information such as roll, pitch, engine parameters, steering angles, and front & rear cameras. The front camera also has its own washer nozzle should it get dirty while you play in the mud.
Other gadgets on the Jeep Gladiator Mojave include heated seats, heated steering wheel, parking sensors, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot sensors.
Interior Design – The interior of the Jeep Gladiator Mojave is a blend of classic Jeep & modern design trends. The window switches are on the center of the dashboard. The transfer case shift lever is an actual lever whereas in many other trucks, it’s all electronically operated. However, the leather on the seats is soft and there’s orange contrast stitching along with Mojave written on the seats. There’s also orange highlights around the air vents. The instrument cluster is a blend of analog gauges & digital screen. Overall, the interior harks back to older Jeeps but has a lot of modern updates that customers ask for.
My favorite aspect of the interior – and exterior – are the Easter eggs. For example, when turning on the Gladiator, the instrument cluster screen displays a classic Jeep that then fades to a modern one. The floor mat on the passenger side has a T-Rex skull on it. That’s a nod to Jurassic Park. There’s a little Willys Jeep icon on the passenger side of the windshield. And when the Off-Road pages load, a little Jeep Gladiator icon crosses from left to right.
Exterior Design – Apart from the larger tires and Mojave written on the hood, it’s hard to tell that this Gladiator is different from the others. Like I said earlier, it does have a 1-inch ride height increase but with the tires taking up the wheel arch space, it’s hard to tell the increased height unless it’s right next to an ordinary Gladiator. Other than that, the Gladiator Mojave looks very unique when compared to other mid-size pickup trucks. It is instantly recognizable as a Jeep even by those that are not gearheads like you or me.
The Jeep Gladiator Mojave starts at $52,740 CAD ($44,140 USD) which is already over $4,000 CAD more than the starting price of the Colorado ZR2 but it is $4,000 CAD less than the starting price of the Tacoma TRD Pro. Of course, spec one up like this demo vehicle and the price will balloon to $74,000 CAD ($61,000 USD). That is a lot of money for a mid-size pickup truck but arguably you’re getting a bit more off-road capability than the competitor trucks and something that is much more unique. The Jeep Gladiator has character and charm that the Colorado & Tacoma just can’t match.
Thank you to Jeep Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Jeep.ca