By Dumi Xaba

After floods of tears, wailing and whining, the folks at Toledo, Ohio in the US finally gave in. Back in 2018 when the Jeep Gladiator was launched, bringing it to South African market was not on the top of the list of priorities for Stellantis.
Just when we thought it was not going to happen, they surprised us with this beast. Although South Africa is one of the biggest bakkie markets, second only to Australia, we were ignored.
Beasts like the Ford F150, Toyota Tundra, Chevrolet Silverado, Nissan Titan and Dodge Ram 1500 have been converted from left hand drive to right hand drive locally but not really manufactured for our local market. Perhaps, the sky-high fuel price might be the reason, but what about the Ford Falcon mini-Ute and the Fiat Toro which are not guzzlers?
Well, let’s forget about car politics and concentrate on the good news.
When we talk about the double-cab market we think of established brands such as the Toyota Hilux, Nissan Navara, Ford Ranger and Isuzu D max.

Is the Jeep Gladiator really a double-cab bakkie?
Most Jeep cars have been crash-tested and you can rate them high in terms of safety. While the Gladiator has no comprehensive safety record or stats, all we can rely on is its Rubicon sibling.
At 5.5m, this is not your average bakkie; it is a monster that has road presence. It is not one of those that you take to a China mall with its mini-parking bays, unless you want to park on a delivery spot.
The mere sight of the Gladiator makes you think you are looking at a war tank: a beast that can clear a battlefield, just like that! It is a typical American truck.
I am really struggling whether to classify this car as a beauty or a beast. Maybe I must settle for beauty in the beast. Approaching this beauty in the beast car, you are taken by its ground clearance. The beautiful red that I managed to lay my hands on was absolutely stunning. The front is almost similar to its sibling, the Jeep Rubicon.
It has quite an angry look that says I am not here to play…I mean business. With its one trim, I can vouch that even the most cynical critic will struggle not to praise the level of luxury in this beast. Inside and out nothing was spared – its 35 BF Goodrich Tyres can handle easily our notorious potholes.
The interior is donned with red-stitched leather and Rubicon engraved in red on the front seats. The generously sized touch screen is something to behold. There is a backseat bench that can be folded when not in use.
You can customise this beast in ways than you will never imagine on a bakkie. Press the start button and the 3.6litre V6 roars to life.

I took this beast on the road and these were my findings:
● The suspension is quite hard. This is meant for serious off-road.
● The Goodrich all-terrain tyres couldn’t even be silenced by stereo.
● The road noise is quite significant, especially from around 80km/h.
At 120km/h it is noisy.
● The 3.6litre V6 and the 8-speed auto gearbox are perfectly paired.
● It tends to be a bit thirsty as expected from such a big engine.
● You can overtake easily on the freeway but this is by any means a sport car. Don’t expect the Mercedes X350 or VW Amarok kind of gallop.
I am not an off-road enthusiast but I handled all terrains like a pro in this beast.
I won’t really say this is your daily companion. It’s more of your weekend special. As a daily runner, the Rubicon can cause a lot of headache.

What’s on offer from
With its ground clearance of 249mm, you get the sensation of riding in an army tank. This gives you the approach angle of 43 degrees and the departure angle of 26 degrees. You can tackle any urban and rural obstacles with ease. You can easily drive out of those sticky road grids with a smile.

Gladiator in Brief
Engine: 3.6lire V6 Petrol.
Service interval: 12000km (indicated).
Drive train: 8 Speed automatic.
Fuel capacity: 83 litres.
Consumption: 12,4litres (claimed).
Power: 209KW.
Torque: 347Nm.
Green house CO2: 288g/km.
Tyres: 255/70 R17 back and front (around R6000 per Tyre).
It comes with a three-year/100,000km service plan.
Retailing at R1 259 900, it is a bit pricey, but with its luxury and capability, it is worth every cent.

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