I attended the launch event for the Jeep Gladiator in Johannesburg on 22 June. It was my first encounter with Jeep, having not driven their vehicles before. The new Jeep Gladiator is the ‘world’s first’ convertible bakkie, plus features a fold-down windshield for off-roaders, as well as the ability to remove the doors completely.
The company says it’s a personal choice to remove the doors, though the vehicle isn’t capable of storing the doors, i.e., you’d have to leave it at home or if you’re on a holiday, perhaps your beach home, assuming you want to drive it doorless to the beach. Also, I’m not sure if this is a good idea in South Africa, at all. I wouldn’t have the guts to go anywhere without doors.
- 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine
- Output of 209kW and 347Nm of torque
- 8-speed automatic transmission
- 800mm of water fording
- Up to 2721kg towing and 693kg 4×4 payload capacity
The Jeep Gladiator claims a currency of capability with traction, articulation, manoeuvrability, ground clearance and water fording. Its signature keystone shaped front grille with round headlamps is instantly recognisable, even as a bakkie.
As per the release, the Gladiator features: Command-Trac and Rock-Trac 4×4 systems, third-gen Dana 44 axles, Tru-Lock electronic front- and rear-axle lockers, Trac-Lock limited slip differential, a segment-exclusive electronic sway-bar disconnect and off-road tyres.
ONE MODEL DERIVATIVE
The Gladiator comes in one derivative in South Africa, the Rubicon. It is priced at R1 259 900 and claims to be unmatched in its segment – there is no other convertible bakkie available with these off-road capabilities. It can be accessorised with performance parts, winch, wheels, interior, lighting, exterior and decals.
Jeep says safety and security were paramount in the development of the Gladiator. It was built with more than 80 active and passive safety and security features. These include blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, standard ParkView, rear back-up camera with dynamic grid lines, adaptive cruise control, and electronic stability control with electronic roll mitigation.
While the Gladiator is rugged and can go on any terrain, you won’t typically associate modern tech inside the vehicle. However, it features Uconnect 8.4NAV, for communication, navigation and entertainment; and a full colour LED instrument cluster.
I found the user interface to look a bit dated though I quite like the dashboard design, but I’m guessing folks driving the car don’t actually care. It does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which I used but you need a cable as it’s not wireless. The USB slots are covered by a flap that says ‘media’.
I’m not into 4x4ing myself but I was excited to drive a Jeep for the first time. It’s a huge vehicle, has quite a presence. It took a while once I got in to figure out where the buttons where for everything. The window controls are not on the door, they are in the centre console. It does have that dated look inside with all the buttons, but as I mentioned earlier, I do look the dashboard layout, and the red in our vehicle gave it a pop of colour.
It’s a powerful vehicle but it can be noisy inside the cabin if you’re not used to it. This will be the case with a vehicle with a soft top that opens up. I liked the levels of comfort available to me, especially during winter in South Africa. A heated seat and heated steering wheel makes all the difference – and makes one feel less miserable in the cold.
There are buttons for everything, meaning with one flick or touch, you can do what you need to do, which is less complicated than trying to find something hidden in a menu. But, this is expected for a 4×4 type of vehicle; you want to do things immediately. What I did find odd was the placement of the handbrake. Some things just felt not very ergonomic, while others did.
There was a 4×4 aspect to the launch which my driving partner completed while I was in the passenger seat. I didn’t cover the technical terrain myself but went through it all to know its capabilities. From the outside it looks worse than when you’re on the inside and the vehicle is titling upwards. Not once did I feel like the vehicle wasn’t capable though there were some funny moments when I didn’t know how high up it would go.
The Jeep Gladiator just comes with all the confidence you’d need from a 4×4 vehicle, with at least one unique aspect about it – being the only convertible bakkie in the world. There is no reason to doubt its capabilities. You can pick up one for R1 259 900.
Recharged is an independent site that focuses on technology, electric vehicles, and the digital life by Nafisa Akabor. Drawing from her 16-year tech journalism career, expect news, reviews, how-tos, comparisons, and practical uses of tech that are easy to digest. firstname.lastname@example.org