Wait almost over: Jeep Gladiator debuting on 21 June
Bakkie sibling of the Wrangler expected to feature the same model dependent specification sheet and petrol-only engine option.
Spun-off of the Wrangler, the Gladiator will only be offered as a double cab.
Almost four years of waiting will officially come to an end on 21 June when Jeep officially takes the covers off of the eagerly awaited Gladiator in South Africa.
Confirmed for the local market back in April, the Stellantis’ owned marque’s first bakkie since the XJ Cherokee-based Comanche of 30 years ago shares much of its overall design and look with the Wrangler, but with a 492 mm gain in wheelbase in response to the replacing of the boot with a loadbed that can carry up to 725 kg depending on the model.
As with the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, the Jeep Gladiator is only offered as a double cab, but retains the ability to have its doors completely removed and the windscreen folded onto the bonnet.
While South African specification remains unknown at present, US models offer a choice of two removable roof options; a three-piece black or colour coded hard-top, or what Jeep calls the Sunrider comprising of a soft-top roof no Jeep bakkie has ever offered before.
The choices continue with the availability of two four-wheel-drive systems; the Command-Trac and the Rock-Trac that includes not only the low range transfer case, but heavy-duty front and rear Dana axles, steel bumpers, thicker front and rear skidplates, the Tru-Lok differential and in the case of Rubicon models, 33-inch all-terrain tyres wrapped around model specific 17-inch alloy wheels.
Riding on the same body-on-frame platform as the Wrangler, the Gladiator has a claimed ground clearance of 282 mm, wading depth of 762mm and respective approach, departure and breakover angles of 43.6 degrees, 26 degrees and 20.3 degrees.
In terms of specification, the Gladiator is likely to mirror the Wrangler and omit the mid-range Sport S and Overland trim levels offered in the United States.
It therefore leaves the entry-level Sport and top-spec Rubicon, the former fitted as standard with a five-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system and the latter with an 8.4-inch display. Both incorporate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with integrated satellite navigation included on the latter.
On the Sport, a 3.5-inch TFT instrument cluster display comes standard with a seven-inch digital instrument cluster starring on the Rubicon. Other features include a heated steering wheel, keyless entry, heated leather or cloth front seats, push-button start and up to three USB ports.
Safety comes in the form of Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitoring, Stability Control with Rollover Mitigation and a forward facing camera designed specifically for off-road use.
Up front, the US-market Gladiator offers a choice of two engines; the stalwart 3.6 Pentastar V6 petrol rated at 213kW/353Nm and the 3.0 EcoDiesel V6 that pushes out 190kW/600Nm.
For South Africa though, only the petrol is expected following the quiet phasing out of the oil-burner some time ago in the Grand Cherokee, and in response to Jeep’s focus on electrification rather than diesel.
It therefore means that as with the Wrangler, the South African Gladiator will likely produce the same 209kW/347Nm, delivered to all four wheels through the eight-speed automatic gearbox as the six-speed manual available in the States is a definite no-no.
Build alongside the Wrangler at the Toledo Plant in Ohio, pricing for the Gladiator remains to be confirmed, but expect a likely increase over the former, which retails from R899 900 to R999 900.
Our thoughts on the Wrangler can be viewed here.