In case you hadn't noticed, Los Angeles is a strange motor show. On one stand there's VW talking about the future of urban electric mobility, on another Mazda showing a 3 with a compression ignition petrol engine - and then a Jeep Gladiator. A truck launched with a huge V6 petrol engine, a diesel on the way and an unabashed focus on being rough, ready and providing "freedom to the faithful". It is - for want of a better phrase and having witnessed a highly charged press conference - absolutely brilliant.
A Jeep truck existed from 1947 until 1992 under various different guises. Then it was canned, and Jeep aficionados - the "most vocal fan base" around, according to the company - had nearly 30 years without one. Now, with the mid-size truck segment growing and growing in the US, Jeep has seen it fit to bring it back in Gladiator format. Indeed they say this is not bringing the segment to Jeep, but rather announcing Jeep to the segment...
It's based on the recently launched Wrangler, as you can probably tell, a car that has just been awarded Motor Trend's SUV of the Year award. But it's 31 inches longer, and now you can throw motocross bikes in the back (with a 1,600lb carrying capacity), tow whatever you want out back (with a 7,650lb towing capacity), fold down the windscreen, take off the doors and live your best live wherever that may be. That's no joke, either, Jeep aiming the car at "mundane fearing millenials", those with "an appreciation of capability" and who like to get out there. Being outdoorsy never looked so appealing.
This isn't some lifestyle SUV in the modern sense either, Jeep keen to be seen as a "brand that backs it up" in terms of ability. So the Gladiator comes with two 4x4 systems (Command-Trac and Rock-Trac), Dana 44 axles, a Track Lok limited-slip diff (plus front and rear axle lockers), 33-inch off-road tyres and the ability to disconnect the roll bars. There's the Gladiator Rubicon for those who need more off-road cred, but all cars have a 43.6-degree departure angle, 20.3 breakover and 26-degree departure, with 30 inches of water fording ability too. Rock rails and skid plates keep the vital bits protected, while its maker also maintains that the additional suspension refinement and composure ushered in for this Wrangler generation hasn't compromised off-road ability.
Getting Gladiator buyers to wherever they want to go is a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, with 285hp, 260lb ft and a standard six-speed manual (an eight-speed auto is optional). The 3.0-litre V6 diesel will follow in 2020.
Jeep has described this Gladiator as its most anticipated model in decades, a remarkable truck that "puts the trails on notice" - it really was a presentation to see. US buyers will see the Gladiator in their showrooms from Q2 next year, presumably while UK off-roadists peer wistfully across the Atlantic thinking what might have been. Nice work Jeep.
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