The Jeep bakkie is back! And it’s called the Gladiator. Yes, the Gladiator. Along with the FCA group’s other awesome nomenclature (Demon, Hellcat and Trackhawk), we approve of this name big time.
Based off the same body-on-frame chassis as the latest Wrangler, the Gladiator is nothing short of an absolute beast. Being nearly a metre longer than an equivalent crew-cab Wrangler – and featuring a 1.5m bed – it’s a load-lugger’s dream. Not convinced? Well, it’s capable of carrying loads of up to 725kg and has a huge 4,370kg of towing capacity. That’s good enough to tug boats, ATVs and – as you can see in the gallery above – an old Jeep Wagoneer.
Built by America’s foremost off-road enthusiasts, it ought to monster all the terrain when you go off the beaten track, just like baby brother Wrangler. The Glad will be offered with either a 3.6-litre V6 petrol or a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, connected to either an eight-speed auto or six-speed manual. Unfortunately, performance figures are yet to be announced, presumably because we’re still waiting for John Anderson’s second whistle.
Depending on what spec you opt for, two different all-wheel-drive systems are available. Both will offer full-time torque management and the Gladiator will be equipped with electric front- and rear axle locks, a slippy diff, electronic sway-bar disconnect, 17in wheels, 33in off-road tyres and 11.1in ground clearance. News that’ll no doubt make any mud-plugger froth with excitement.
Better than that, you can also peel it like an orange and skin the roof, doors and windscreen if you really want to see and feel the elements. Then you can utilise all that room and fill it with outdoor-y things like kayaks, bikes or a tray full of climbing gear to scale El Capitan. Or, if you’re not outdoorsy, shopping.
Although approach angles are the same as the current Wrangler, all that extra length out back means the breakover angle (20.3 degrees) and departure angle (11.1 degrees) have had to suffer. But, given the wading depth is 762mm, if you’re too lazy to get the kayaks off the rack, you can just send the car down the river.
The Gladiator is the by-product of an overwhelming consumer demand for a load-lugging model for the first time since it binned the old Comanche in the early nineties. And we reckon Jeep’s smashed the request out of the park. Being a Gladiator, it’ll no doubt have its vengeance, in this life or the next. All we know is, given our appetite for bakkies, SA has made it on to the list of potential markets for 2020