The Jeep Gladiator is an exceptionally enjoyable experience but is it suitable, practical, or worth buying in Singapore?
I’ve always wanted to drive a Jeep. As a kid, I had scale models of Jeeps and spent hours pushing them around the floor and over furniture just to see the suspension compress.
Sure, Range Rovers and G-Wagens are cool and all but somehow, they just never had the same appeal as a Jeep to 6-year-old me. So when the Motorist team told me I’d be driving one, needless to say, I was stoked.
What I was presented with wasn't the plain ol’ passenger-carrying, reasonably sized Wrangler either, Jeep was kind enough to throw us the keys to the new Gladiator full-size truck in Rubicon trim.
And when I say full-size, I mean full-sized. This hulking behemoth of a vehicle is just under 5.6m long, 1.9m wide, 1.8m tall, and weighs in at over 2.2 tons.
You might think that the sheer size of the Gladiator makes it a daunting prospect to drive, and you’d be right. You’re seated really high up and while forward visibility is pretty good, rear and side visibility can be a little challenging.
You also have to be mindful of the front bash bar as that juts out further forward from the front grille.
Speaking of the front grille, the design of the Gladiator is one that is undeniably Jeep. Everything from the signature Jeep grille to the overall shape and stature of the Gladiator just shouts Jeep.
On this Rubicon model, you get 17” aluminium rims wrapped in chunky mud tyres. As the truck model of the Jeep lineup, you also get a truck bed with a folding hardcover.
It has a commanding presence no matter where it goes, especially in the striking blue our test truck came with.
Jeep has also equipped the Gladiator with these massive front and rear bash bars and wheel arches that have been specifically left unpainted. So any dinged-up panels from off-roading can be easily replaced without worrying about the paintwork.
The Gladiator doesn't have a side step to aid entering and exiting (my mother was very keen to point that out) which while a little inconvenient on a vehicle this tall.
On the upside, it does come with protective rock rails and a front skid plate which is a good thing because the Gladiator is a seriously capable off-roader.
The Gladiator is powered by a 3.6l V6 petrol engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that makes 285bhp and 347Nm of torque, plenty to go bashing through the jungle.
But what makes the Gladiator brilliant is that it has all the features you’d expect from a proper off-road vehicle, such as the brilliant aluminium Fox shocks and heavy-duty axles.
You’re also able to switch the transfer case on the fly between two-wheel drive high range, and your four-wheel drive high and low ranges.
You can also electronically disconnect the sway bars and lock the front and rear differentials both separately or at the same time.
There’s also an Off Road+ driving mode that instantly primes the Gladiator for when you want to get off the beaten track and an off-road app on the infotainment screen that shows you real-time info on temperatures, voltage, steering angle, pitch, roll, tyre pressures, and more.
In classic Jeep fashion, if it takes your fancy, you can fold down the windscreen and remove the roof and doors for the true blue Jeep experience.
Such figurability does come at the cost of interior noise levels, with quite a lot of it seeping through. However, that’s an issue easily combated by cranking up the tunes on the very decent Alpine sound system.
As a quick aside, the Gladiator also has one of the most novel features of any car ever. It comes with a removable Bluetooth speaker that you can take out when you reach your campsite or carpark so you can continue the party once you arrive.
On the interior, durable materials and a choice of function over form are obvious. The seats are all fabric, the floor mats are waterproof and come with drain plugs, and everything just has an air of ruggedness around it.
That’s not to say that it’s bad though, the gear knob and steering wheel are still wrapped in leather and you get creature comforts like cruise control, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
Media controls can be found on the steering wheel but they’re located at the back (like in a Ferrari), which leaves space on the front for even more buttons.
There’s also heaps of internal cubby storage and you also get the option of attaching up to four auxiliary power elements for things such as light bars.
Now, if you want to drive a Jeep Gladiator, you best be comfortable on the road because driving this is not for the faint of heart.
The size of it makes itself immediately apparent from the moment you set off. You sit so high up and every time you look to the sides you’re greeted by these huge wing mirrors.
And when you go to accelerate, you quickly notice the heft that the V6 powerplant is trying to lug around but the drivetrain and oomph from the motor handle that with gusto.
The entire body flexes when launched from a standstill and it’s more than capable of spinning the wheels.
The ride on the open road is rather bouncy as isn’t unexpected from a vehicle like this and the steering feel is almost non-existent.
Honestly, at speeds above 90km/h, things start to feel just a tad sketchy, especially on these mud tyres. On the few non-paved bits of road we could find in Singapore, the Gladiator never once felt like it was even bothered in any way.
To put it in gaming terms, it just feels simply too overpowered (OP) for Singapore.
Driving the Gladiator around for a few days also presented an aspect of motoring I’ve never experienced before, the public response.
People would come up to me in carparks or at petrol stations to ask me about it. Other drivers would give a thumbs up on the road, and a little girl nearly walked into a lamppost with how much she was staring.
Piloting the Gladiator turned out to be almost as much a social experience as an automotive one and what an experience it was.
For more on the driving experience, check out the video below!
However, therein lies a conundrum that plagues Gladiator ownership.
It’s a fantastic piece of engineering that the people will definitely love but it simply isn’t necessary for our little country.
Unless you live in a particularly flood-prone area of the country *cough* Bukit Timah, you’ll never need the unflappability or off-road ability the Gladiator offers.
With the borders opening up though, I can definitely see how brilliant this truck would be on trails or an overlanding expedition up North.
But right this instant, at almost S$230k, I just can’t see why anyone would buy it unless they really really wanted it.
However, after experiencing it for a couple of days, I kind of do.
Jeep is offering extended test drives now for the Gladiator, so if this is an interesting proposition for you, head on down and check it out for yourself.
S$229,999 (Inclusive of COE)
Engine: 3.6-litre Petrol V6
Power: 285bhp @6,400rpm
Torque: 347Nm at 4,100rpm
Suspension: Fox shocks
Dimensions (LxWxH): 5,591mm x 1,894mm x 1,843mm
Bed Size (LxWxH): 2,067mm [1,531mm with tailgate closed] x 1,442mm x 861mm
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
Electronically Locking Differential
Electronic Sway Bar Disconnect
Removable Bluetooth Wireless Speaker
Prices are accurate at the time of writing.
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