And why we can't wait to see more Mojave models.
Jeep's Rubicon models have always been at the pinnacle of performance off-roaders. But in recent years, exciting new models like the Ford F-150 Raptor have stolen a bit of Jeep's spotlight. The Rubicon models, while capable in the form of slow-speed rock crawling and mudding done by most enthusiasts, just aren't as spectacular to watch in action as the Raptor, which was designed for high-speed desert runs. That's why Jeep has fired back with a new trim level of its Gladiator pickup truck called the Mojave.
Named after the Mojave Desert, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave is designed for high-speed, Baja-style off-roading. While not as powerful as the Raptor, the Gladiator offers its own unique charms that make it a standout in the mid-size truck segment. Here are seven reasons why we think the Mojave is the ultimate Gladiator trim and why Jeep should introduce more Mojave models.
Pickup trucks have become a major form of personal expression in the United States and we think the Gladiator is the most attention-grabbing model this side of a Raptor. The Gladiator, especially in Mojave trim, draws so much attention to itself from other Jeep drivers and random motorists who wonder what modifications you've done to the truck. Jeep Wranglers and Gladiators are often used as a blank canvas for customization but the Mojave trim already comes pre-modified from the factory.
The Mojave's signature color is orange, which is seen on the accents, decals, and interior details. When finished in the bright shade of Punk'n Metallic like our tester, it becomes hard to miss. If you love being the center of attention, this is the right truck for you.
All Gladiator models are powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 producing 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. While not class-leading in the mid-size segment, the Gladiator's eight-speed automatic is our favorite transmission of the pack with its smooth shifts and well-positioned ratios. For the manual aficionados out there, the Mojave trim can still be optioned with a row-it-yourself six-speed box. Even though this is not the mild-hybrid eTorque version of FCA's Pentastar engine, it still has a very smooth, unobtrusive stop/start.
Jeep's Rubicon and Trailhawk models all come with a 'Trail Rated' badge but this new Mojave trim comes with a new 'Desert Rated' designation. The distinction signifies the Mojave's capability to perform at high-speeds in grueling desert and sand environments rather than only slow speeds over rocky and muddy terrain. Jeep's Command-Trac 4x4 system is still capable of 4LO (low range) driving but in the Mojave, it has been reconfigured to operate at higher speeds for climbing up sand dunes. So if you live in an area with more sandy deserts than rocky mountains, the Mojave should prove more useful than the Rubicon.
In order to battle the harsh desert terrain, Jeep has given the Gladiator the ultimate off-road weapon: FOX 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks. Front and rear external shock reservoirs with military-grade suspension fluid help keep the suspension cool even in extreme temperatures. These upgrades help the Gladiator make short work of high-speed off-road trails but the Mojave's party piece is tremendous, dare we say Rolls-Royce-level, ride comfort.
The Mojave features industry-first FOX hydraulic jounce bumpers upfront, which as a secondary pair of shocks to provide additional dampening force to soften harsh impacts and prevent the suspension from bottoming out. In simple terms, when you jump the Gladiator, it falls back to Earth with the grace of a 5,000-pound ballerina landing on a pillow. Out on the road, the Mojave even exhibits less road noise than the Rubicon because its all-terrain tires aren't as knobby.
Mid-size trucks are often used as utilitarian work vehicles and are therefore not always equipped with the latest and greatest technology. While the Gladiator is missing some key safety features as standard equipment, all of the important options like blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are at least available optionally.
The Gladiator also features the most intuitive infotainment in its segment with FCA's Uconnect system. The 8.4-inch touchscreen is responsive and features excellent voice command. We tested the optional Alpine audio system, which has plenty of power and sounded fantastic even when we had the roof removed and the windows down.
While mostly built for off-road action, the Gladiator is more than capable of typical truck duties. All Gladiator models feature a five-foot bed with up to 1,200 pounds of payload capacity. If you need to tow, the Gladiator is capable of pulling up to 6,000 pounds. While not class-leading in either respect, some buyers will be willing to trade some capability for off-road readiness and the Gladiator's unique styling. For those who do plan on taking the Gladiator off-road, its credentials include a best-in-class approach angle of 44.7 degrees, breakover angle of 20.9 degrees, departure angle of 25.5 degrees, and best-in-class ground clearance of 11.6 inches.
Jeep has stressed that the Gladiator is not just a Wrangler with a truck bed attached to it. The Gladiator actually rides on its own platform, which shares more in common with the Ram 1500 (partially explaining the comfortable ride). But in many crucial ways, the Gladiator offers the same benefits that you'd get in a Wrangler. The roof, as well as all four doors, comes off, and the windshield can be lowered for a truly authentic Jeep driving experience. No other mid-size pickup offers this level of fun, which is why we believe the Gladiator exists in a class of its own.