JEEP will introduce a new ‘Desert Rated’ badge to its range of off-road vehicles when it releases the JT Gladiator Mojave to the US market in March.
Jeep fans are no doubt familiar with the ‘Trail Rated’ badge affixed to the brand’s best off-road models, indicating that they have passed the company’s gruelling testing regime on California’s iconic Rubicon Trail. ‘Desert Rated’ symbolises a new discipline for Jeeps, where high-speed sand running takes precedence over low-speed rock crawling. Think Ford Raptor and Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and you see where Jeep is heading.
The Gladiator uses Jeep’s Command-Trac 4x4 system, with the standard 2.7:1 low range ratio and lockable rear differential. This is opposed to the Jeep Rubicon’s Rock-Trac system, which has lower 4.1:1 gearing and locking diffs front and rear for ultimate traction and low-speed control.
The Gladiator Mojave, named after the desert that spans the borders of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah, gets its off-road prowess from a bespoke suspension system featuring Mojave-exclusive Fox Racing 2.5 shock absorbers and hydraulic bump stops.
Fox Racing shocks are also available on Jeeps as a Mopar accessory and are fitted as factory on Ford’s F150 and Ranger Raptor utes. The ones fitted to the JT Mojave use internal bypass valving and external oil reservoir, to keep the dampening fluid cool during extended and punishing off-road use.
4x4 comparison: Ranger Raptor v Wrangler Rubicon
Hydraulic bump stops replace the hard rubber bumps stops fitted to most cars. Bump stops are there to act as a stopper when the suspension is fully compressed over a large bump or jump. They prevent the suspension components or axle from coming into contact with the vehicle’s chassis or underbody.
Hydraulic bump stops still do this but act like small, secondary shock absorbers to cushion the jounce rather that provide a hard stop. This is the sort of hardware you find under Baja, Dakar or Finke desert racing vehicles, and it’s now under the front of the Jeep Gladiator Mojave.
The Gladiator Mojave gets model-specific hood decals, ‘Desert Rated’ badges, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, 33-inch Falken all-terrain tyres (with Falken muddies as an option), a 25mm ride height increase, side rails/rock sliders, and new seats that offer more support for occupants thanks to increased side bolsters.
The powertrain remains the Gladiator’s proven 3.6-litre petrol V6 engine backed by either an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. This is the only powertrain available in the Gladiator to date. An Off-Road Plus button allows the driver to adjust throttle control, transmission shift points and traction control for the best performance on sandy tracks, as well as during low-speed crawling. The Off-Road Plus drive mode on Mojave will also allow the driver to lock the rear axle at high speeds while the transfer case is in 4H.
Jeep’s JT Gladiator is on course to arrive in Australia in the second quarter of 2020, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the Mojave edition. Jeep will only be bringing the Overland and Rubicon models to Australia, with no plans for the Mojave.
While the Mojave isn’t the Hellcat V8-powered Hercules model that has been rumoured to be coming to take on the F150 Raptor in the USA, it does show that Jeep is looking to new niche segments to explore and conquer.