By Asian Journal Auto Editor

The new Jeep Gladiator pickup is based on the iconic Wrangler, It’s unmistakably a Jeep, with the company’s trademark seven-slot grille, and retro, straight – edged, military styling. With the addition of a 5 – feet pickup bed, with a three position tailgate that is damped for controlled lowering, the Gladiator offers more versatility. The bed also features, multiple tie downs, for cargo lashing as well as lighting, and an optional 115-volt power port. There are the four fully removable doors, fold down the windscreen, and Freedom three removable roof option, which makes the Gladiator the only open-air mid-size pickup truck available today. There are cargo carrying options such as bicycle and kayaks racks. The suspension has is beefed up and a track bar is taken from the Ram 1500 pickup truck. The axles are also stronger to handle the extra weight of the Gladiator along with other reinforcements. Engine wise, there is a tried and trusted 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 carried over from Wrangler, producing a respectable 285 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque, with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission. 4:1 Rock–Trac heavy–duty part–time 4×4 system, 4.10 rear axle ratio, Tru–Lok front and rear axles, Dana 44 M210 wide front axle, Dana 44 M220 wide rear axle, electronic sway–bar disconnect system, Fuel tank skid plate, Transfer case skid plate and Heavy gauge rock protection sill rails. Gladiators come standard with a two-speed four-wheel drive system like the Wrangler.

In Canada, the Gladiator is available in three trims: Sport S, ($46495), Overland, ($50,995), and Rubicon ($52,495). The Gladiator in the top Rubicon trim, as tested provides excellent, legendary off-road performance – the Rubicon spec also includes: a forward view camera, UConnect with Off Road Pages data displays, a sway bar disconnect which allows more suspension travel, lower crawl ratio capability, Tru Lock front and rear axles with locking differentials, front skid plates, tow hooks, Fox performance shocks, and a unique vented hood.

Full customization and upgrading is available, Our stunning looking Firecracker Red tester Rubicon came with a massive $15,000 worth of options too numerous to list, but including leather seats, Uconnect  8.4 inch touchscreen, tow package, cold weather group, tonneau cover, bedliner, secure in-bed storage system, 17 – inch black  polished aluminum wheels, and Falken Mud Terrain tires

Cargo and Towing capability are excellent with the Gladiator’s maximum 725-kilogram (1,600 pounds) payload capacity and a maximum tow rating of 3,400 kilograms (7,650 pounds). Cool fact- the Gladiators transmission automatically detects the presence of a trailer, and so you don’t need to fiddle with configuration.

Inside, the Gladiator’s front cabin is identical to Wrangler with the unique Jeep styling and endearing details. But it is not all looks, with good ergonomics, and comfortable seats. Jeep’s corporate FCA’s Uconnect infotainment interface is excellent as usual- intuitive, easy and quick to respond. Premium automakers take note here please! Back seat passengers will also be comfy thanks to the extra eight cm of legroom. The second row seats fold up and out of the way, creating extra load carrying ability. There is optional, secure under seat along with a cool wireless Bluetooth speaker for the Gladiator’s sound system.

On the road, the V6 engine offers impressive torque, and handles the Gladiators weight with ease. The longer wheelbase means bumps and rough roads are evened out, and the Jeep Gladiator offers a smoother ride and more comfort with good composure. It is very much like driving a Wrangler, but feels more stable, probably due to the wider track and beefed up suspension hardware. Road noise levels are similar, along with the steering feel, but with less play and more direct feel. The brakes are also better in the Gladiator compared to the Wrangler.

As usual Jeep’s always outperform anything off-road, and the Gladiator is no exception. It just thrives in the boonies with its big, grippy tires and jacked suspension. The superior Rubicon trim upgrade with its pro-grade off-road hardware means the Gladiator is untouchable when it comes to tacking rough trials, rocks bashing, mud bathing, water fording, crawl speed ascending and descending. It is the ultimate factory off-roader! Not much to complain about, the Jeep does not have a hushed cabin, or a glass smooth ride and is not particularly fuel frugal, (City 13.7 L/100km 10.7 Highway), but that’s not what buyers will want from a Gladiator.

To sum up, the Rubicon version of the Gladiator is expensive, but you do gain serious off-road bragging rights, with a unique looking pickup that will have everyone drooling with envy! A wonderful, fun to own off-roader that is superb in so many ways. Highly recommended!

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 4×4 priced from $52,495. Price as tested with options, and destination charge – $69,040.