Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

Jeep bakkie left-field alternative to Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger

The Gladiator offers attractive Wrangler-like styling and is no slouch either.

The bakkie is a South African favourite. So is the Jeep Wrangler. It was, therefore, inevitable for Mzansi to eventually get a Jeep bakkie.

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This curious creation, known as the Jeep Gladiator, is not the American carmaker’s first venture into the bakkie segment.

Jeep’s presence in the bakkie game dates back all of six decades, although none of their first forays ever made it to South Africa. Not including Frikkie’s angle grinder treatment to his standard Wrangler Unlimited of course.

Kudos to Stellantis for finally bringing the Gladiator to South Africa a few months ago. It became the first Jeep bakkie in 26 years when it debuted at the Los Angeles motor show in 2018.

South Africa’s most expensive bakkie

Many potential buyers are likely to make a U-turn in the dealership’s doorway at first sight of the single Rubicon derivative’s R1 299 900 sticker, which makes it the most expensive double cab in South Africa. But the Jeep bakkie is likely to carve a nice little niche for itself.

For starters, it’s essentially a four-door Wrangler Unlimited with a loadbin. You get the legendary larger-than-life Jeep looks with the added incentive of carrying goods.

We doubt the Gladiator will be saddled up as a workhorse, especially with a payload of only 693 kg compared to other one-ton plus double cab alternatives, but it is most certainly capable of carrying the odd load of bricks. Through the jungle of course.

Jeep bakkie loadbin
The Jeep Gladiator comes standard with hard tonneau cover, rubberised loadbin and towbar.

In typical Wrangler mould, the Gladiator is available with soft or removable hard top, making it the only convertible bakkie in South Africa. Add to this the customary removable doors and a windscreen that can fold flat onto the bonnet and Jeep bakkie definitely finds itself in a space to other double cab can rival.

On the inside anyone familiar with a Wrangler will feel right at home with the typical layout that includes window operating buttons on the centre console and a fair share of retro touches. Though the dashboard inserts, only available in red, might not be anyone’s cup of tea.

Creature comforts

Jeep has at least kept up with the times and the Gladiator has a seven-inch information display in the instrument cluster, 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation and smartphone connectivity along with nine-speaker Alpine sound system.

There is also a removable Bluetooth speaker behind the rear seats if the party extends to the loadbox.

Safety comes in the form of adaptive cruise control, reverse camera, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and rollover mitigation.

But good looks and practical styling configurations are not where it ends, The Jeep bakkie has the bite to match its bark.

Similar to the Wrangler, the Gladiator is power by the familiar naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine.

Producing 209 kW of power and 347 Nm of torque and mated to eight-speed automatic transmission, the mill is the most powerful power unit in a production bakkie money can buy in Mzansi.

It is for that very reason Road Test Editor Mark Jones took it to Gerotek for a high-performance test and the results are likely to make Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger owners weep.

Jeep bakkie cabin
Typical Wrangler styling

Jeep bakkie on the drag strip

The Jeep bakkie clocked a very impressive 0 to 100 km/h sprint time of 10.85 seconds, which is only bettered by the fastest double cab in Mzansi, the 190 kW Volkswagen Amarok V6 TDI (8.14 seconds) and the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross 3.0 TD 4×4 (10.59 seconds).

ALSO READ: WATCH: Jeep bakkie has the bite to match the bark

The Hilux and Ranger lag way behind as the best times production double cab version of these two have produced are all over 12.3 seconds. And its not only from a standstill that the Jeep bakkie packs a punch.

Real world acceleration times of 60 to 100 km/h (6.15 seconds) and 60 to 140 km/h (17.95 seconds) are very impressive for something with the aerodynamics of a block of flats.

While on the subject of wind resistance, the Gladiator does trail its bakkie rivals in terms of top speed, with Jeep claiming a top whack of 153km/h.

To be honest, we didn’t really put that to the test as the wind noise was already kind of deafening by the time the needle reached 130 km/h. At those kind of speeds, a removable roof doesn’t seem like such a great idea.

And pulling around an unladen weight of 2.2 tons with poor aerodynamics with a big American muscle mill is a recipe for disaster in the fuel consumption stakes. We just managed to keep it under 16-litres per 100 km with a best consumption of around 14 L/100 km.


Like its R1.3-million price tag, its consumption will not deter anyone who wants a Gladiator from getting one. The Wrangler owners who it will appeal to are already used to forking out at the pumps, while anyone else who can afford it will already be blessed with deep pockets.

While the Gladiator will probably never be regarded as a proper bakkie by owners of the usual suspects, it does offer an enticing alternative to the Hiluxes and Rangers of this world. Those who want one will want one because they want one.

Jeep bakkie road test data

Model: Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic

Engine: 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V6

Power: 209 kW @ 6 400 rpm

Torque: 347 Nm @ 4 400 rpm

Licensing Mass: 2 312 kg

Power to Weight: 90 kW / Tonne

Power to Capacity: 58 kW / Litre

0-100 km/h: 10.85 Seconds

1/4 Mile (402.34 m): 17.70 Seconds @ 128.31 km/h

1/2 Mile (804.68 m): 27.91 Seconds @ 151.81 km/h

1 km (1 000 m): 32.49 Seconds @ 154.74 km/h

60-100 km/h: 6.15 Seconds (in Drive Sport)

80-120 km/h: 8.23 Seconds (in Drive Sport)

60-140 km/h: 17.95 Seconds (in Drive Sport)

Claimed Top Speed: 156 km/h

Jeep bakkie rear
The Jeep bakkie runs on 32-inch all-terrain tyres wrapped around 17-inch alloy rims.

Fuel Consumption: 13.1 L/100 km Claimed (15.8 L/100 km Test Average)

Fuel Tank Size: 83-litres

Fuel Range: 634 km Claimed (525 km on Test)

CO2 Emissions: 204g/km

Vehicle Odometer: 2 561 km

Test Temperature: 13 Degrees

Tyres Size: 255/75 R17

Tyres Make: BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain

Warranty: Five-year/100 000 km

Maintenance Plan: Three-year/100 000 km

Priced From: R1 259 900

Test Date: 20 July 2022

For more information on the Jeep bakkie, visit the manufacturer’s website.

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