android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test
With its rugged body-on-frame construction, the Gladiator is conspicuously long. (image: Mark Oastler)
android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test

There are no cup-holders up front but the centre console does provide two large-bottle holders. (image: Mark Oastler)

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test

Rear passengers also get nets on the doors and at the base of each front seat backrest. (image: Mark Oastler)

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test

The 60/40-split rear seat bases can swing up to access two optional under-seat storage compartments. (image: Mark Oastler)

Likes

Ride quality Off-road ability Engine-braking

Dislikes

Cramped driver’s footwell Three-star ANCAP Small payload rating

The Jeep Wrangler-derived Gladiator dual-cab ute launched here in 2020 is primarily designed with serious off-roading in mind. The premium Rubicon model grade is named in honour of the notorious Rubicon Trail in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, which all Jeep models most conquer before they can display the marque’s revered Trail-Rated badge.

The Rubicon offers the most hardcore off-road specification of the US manufacturer’s local Gladiator line-up, loaded with specialised hardware and features designed to optimise performance on the toughest terrain.

However, the Gladiator competes for buyers in the same dual-cab ute market segment as the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and numerous other rivals. So, we thought it timely to see how the top-shelf model measures up as a tradie’s weekday workhorse.

Price Guide

$82,450

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data

Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our Bright White test vehicle, with optional body-coloured wheel arch flares, is available only with a 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine and eight-speed automatic transmission for a list price of $82,450 plus ORCs. That pricing isn’t far south of the Next-Gen Ranger Raptor.

Our example is also fitted with a pair of Jeep genuine accessory roof racks plus options from the Lifestyle Adventure Group including heavy-duty electrics, lockable rear under-seat storage, spray-in bedliner and adjustable load anchorage system.

With prominent Rubicon bonnet decals, this uncompromising off-roader stands wide and tall on 17-inch alloys and chunky 255/75R17 BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres. There’s also a full-size spare tucked under the tail plus pairs of large recovery hooks front and rear, stout front bumper with integral fog lights, steel rear bumper, rock-sliders, underbody skid-plates plus specialised suspension (see Design) and drivetrain (see Engine and Transmission).

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test
This uncompromising off-roader stands wide and tall on 17-inch alloys and chunky 255/75R17 BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres. (image: Mark Oastler)

However, the premium-priced Rubicon does not scrimp on creature comforts either, highlighted by remote keyless entry, McKinley leather-trimmed seats (fronts heated), leather-wrapped, heated and height/reach adjustable steering wheel plus a leather-wrapped gearshift knob and handbrake lever.

Instrumentation includes a 7.0-inch driver information display with multiple data including tyre pressure monitoring. Plus there’s quality nine-speaker Alpine audio for the infotainment system, featuring an 8.4-inch touchscreen, sat-nav, DAB+ digital radio and multiple connectivity including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Design – is there anything interesting about its design?

With its rugged body-on-frame construction, the Gladiator is conspicuously long. It rides on a 3488mm wheelbase with an overall length of 5591mm, which is more than 200mm longer than a Ford Ranger equivalent. It also has a larger 13.6-metre turning circle. Off-road credentials include a 760mm wading depth, 250mm ground clearance, steep 40.7 degrees approach angle and 25 degrees departure angle. However, because of its length, the ramp break-over angle is a comparatively small 18.4 degrees.

The Gladiator is unique in the dual-cab ute market because its roof panels and doors can be easily removed and the windscreen can fold forward and lay flat on the bonnet for a true safari-style off-road experience. As a result, the hose-me-out interior is designed to cope with all weather conditions, as evidenced by its removable carpets and floor drain plugs.

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test
With its rugged body-on-frame construction, the Gladiator is conspicuously long. (image: Mark Oastler)

The Rubicon is armed with robust Dana live axles front and rear which provide excellent off-road articulation. They’re matched with a quartet of gas-charged FOX shock absorbers that provide disciplined control of supple long-travel coil springs.

Steering has electro-hydraulic power assistance and there are four-wheel disc brakes. Bulging flared guards at each corner shroud the large knobbly tyres that stand 800mm tall and the front sway bar can be disconnected with the push of a button when optimum wheel travel is required off-road.

There are climb-aboard handles on the A and B pillars and, with its rock-sliders doubling as side-steps, it’s easy to enter and exit. Inside there’s lots of black leather with contrasting red-stitching (the Rubicon name is embroidered on the front seats) along with splashes of satin chrome and dark red dash highlights. The dashboard’s instrumentation and controls are all logically arranged and easy to use.

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test
The Gladiator rides on a 3488mm wheelbase with an overall length of 5591mm. (image: Mark Oastler)

Front seating offers sufficient room for drivers of most shapes and sizes and the rear seating is also surprisingly spacious, even for 180cm-tall adults like me. With the driver’s seat in my position, there’s about 60mm of knee clearance and about 80mm of head clearance when seated behind. Adjustable air vents in the rear of the centre console plus a slide-open rear window make it feel well ventilated.

Our only gripe is the lack of driver’s foot-room caused by the excessive width of the transmission tunnel in the footwell. The only places to rest your left foot are either partly under the brake pedal against the firewall or on the floor resting on your ankle, which are far from ideal.

Engine and transmission – What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The 3.6-litre petrol V6 engine is sturdy and powerful with a ‘revvy’ nature, as its power and torque peaks are found higher in the rpm range than a turbo-diesel equivalent. It produces 209kW at 6400rpm and 347Nm of torque which peaks at a relatively high 4100rpm. It also has a fuel-saving automatic stop-start function which can be switched off.

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test
The 3.6-litre petrol V6 engine is sturdy and powerful with a ‘revvy’ nature. (image: Mark Oastler)

The rest of the drivetrain consists of an eight-speed torque converter automatic with overdrive on the top two ratios and the option of sequential manual-shifting. The 4×4 system is part-time, dual-range with old-school mechanical control of the transfer case via a stubby floor-mounted lever. Low-range reduction results in a super-low crawl ratio of 77.2:1.

There are four drive modes comprising 2WD High, 4WD High Auto (active on-demand that only feeds drive to the front axle when loss of traction is detected), plus conventional 4WD High and 4WD Low. It also has diff locks front and rear.

Fuel consumption – How much fuel does it consume?

Jeep’s official combined figure of 12.4L/100km was close to the 13.2 showing on the dash display at the end of our week-long test. We covered just over 300km of city, suburban and highway driving of which about one third was hauling a near-maximum payload. We also had the auto stop-start switched off. Our own figure, calculated from fuel bowser and tripmeter readings, was higher again at 15L/100km. So, based on our figure and the Jeep’s 83-litre fuel tank, you could expect a less-than-class-leading driving range of around 550km.

Practicality – How practical is the space inside?

The Rubicon’s 2242kg kerb weight and 2935kg GVM results in a 693kg payload rating which is relatively small in this segment. It’s also rated to tow up to 2721kg of braked trailer and with its 5656kg GCM (or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time) it can haul its maximum payload while towing that weight, based on a maximum tow-ball download of 272kg.

The load tub’s internal dimensions include a 1531mm-long floor that extends to 2076mm with the tailgate open. It’s also 1443mm wide and with 1137mm between the wheel housings, it won’t take an Aussie pallet but will accommodate a Euro. The tonneau cover is fixed at the front for weatherproofing, so it’s designed to be rolled up and held firmly in place by Velcro strips when using the load tub.

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test

There are no cup-holders up front but the centre console does provide two large-bottle holders. (image: Mark Oastler)

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test

Rear passengers also get nets on the doors and at the base of each front seat backrest. (image: Mark Oastler)

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test

The 60/40-split rear seat bases can swing up to access two optional under-seat storage compartments. (image: Mark Oastler)

In terms of cabin storage, the removable front doors have elastic nets and the dash offers a small glovebox and recessed tray in the centre of the dash-pad for small items. There are no cup-holders but the centre console does provide two large-bottle holders, plus a small box at the rear with a padded lid that doubles as an elbow rest.

Rear passengers also get nets on the doors and at the base of each front seat backrest. The rear of the centre console offers two large-bottle holders and there’s two cup/small-bottle holders in the fold-down centre armrest. The 60/40-split rear seat bases can swing up to access (on our example) two optional under-seat storage compartments.

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test
The load tub’s internal dimensions include a 1531mm-long floor that extends to 2076mm with the tailgate open. (image: Mark Oastler)

What’s it like as a daily driver?

The lack of foot-room takes the shine off an otherwise comfortable driving position, thanks to the combination of supportive seats with adjustable lumbar support and the two-way adjustable leather steering wheel which feels great in your hands.

Although thirsty, the 3.6-litre V6 is reasonably refined and provides good acceleration from standing starts. It’s surprisingly easy to drive in city and suburban settings and is not as ponderous and cumbersome as you might expect. The four-coil ride quality is impressively supple yet controlled, providing a ‘cushion of air’ feel over large bumps and dips similar to the Ranger Raptor, particularly in the rear.

The aggressive tread patterns start to howl on bitumen roads from around 60km/h. The volume increases and borders on intolerable when you reach highway speeds, particularly from the rear tyres up through the rear of the cabin.

Combined with its noticeable wind noise, long periods of highway use could be tiresome but at least the V6 is not working hard, needing only 1750rpm to maintain 100km/h and 2000rpm to hold 110km/h using the adaptive cruise control.

What’s it like for tradie use?

We loaded 565kg into the load tub which with driver resulted in a payload that just snuck in under the Rubicon’s 693kg limit. The nose rose 20mm and the rear suspension compressed 55mm under this weight, leaving 25mm of static bump-stop clearance.

Given the relatively small payload, this weight hardly touched the sides in city and suburban driving with the Jeep maintaining good all-round performance. The suspension supported this load well, maintaining its supple ride quality and floating over big bumps and dips without a hint of bottoming out, thanks largely to big cone-shaped bump (aka jounce) rubbers that provide a cushioning effect when the suspension nears the end of its travel.

android, jeep gladiator 2023 review: rubicon - gvm test
We loaded 565kg into the load tub which with driver resulted in a payload that just snuck in under the Rubicon’s 693kg limit. (image: Mark Oastler)

It also displayed plenty of pulling power on our 13 per cent gradient, 2.0km-long set climb at 60km/h, self-shifting down to 3000rpm in third to easily haul this load to the summit. Engine-braking on the way down was equally competent, spinning up to 5000rpm on overrun (6500rpm redline) in a manually-selected second gear and maintaining the posted 60km/h limit all the way to the bottom with only one light brush of the brake pedal required on the steepest pinch. That’s solid engine-braking.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Only three out of five ANCAP stars when tested in 2019. Has two front and two side-seat airbags for driver and front passenger but there’s no airbag protection for rear passengers. Active safety includes AEB, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, adaptive cruise control and more. There’s also ISOFIX and top-tether child seat anchorages on the two outer rear seating positions.

Ownership – What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Gladiator is covered by Jeep’s five years/100,000km warranty, plus lifetime roadside assist if serviced at Jeep dealers. Scheduled servicing every 12 months/12,000km whichever occurs first. Capped price of $399 for each of the first five scheduled services.

Keyword: Jeep Gladiator 2023 review: Rubicon - GVM test

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