THE JEEP JT Gladiator pick-up will hit Australian dealers in the second quarter of 2020 and it’s set to be a serious off-road contender in among the many double-cab 4x4 utes already on the market.
With its live axles front and rear and the availability of a hardcore Rubicon model sporting front and rear locking differentials, a disconnecting front sway bar, off-road tyres and suspension and super low gearing, it really is a Jeep Wrangler truck.
Jeep officials have been very coy when asked of a diesel-fueled engine for the Gladiator, and they will not confirm if we will get one. The double-cab 4x4 ute market in Australia is dominated by diesel engines and the appeal of a petrol-fuel-only pick-up will be limited.
The Gladiator will be available with a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine in the US, which was recently made available in the JL Wrangler there. The international and hence Australian version of the JL Rubicon makes do with a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, and neither the 2.2 nor the 3.0-litre V6 diesel have been confirmed for Australian Gladiators.
We can confirm the JT Gladiator will only be offered with the venerable 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 backed by the eight-speed ZF transmission at launch in Australia. This revvy combo makes the same 213kW and 353Nm as it does in the Wrangler, and it will be backed by either a Command-Trac transfer case in the lower specification or the 4.1:1-geared Rock-Trac T-case in the Rubicon model. We’re expecting Jeep Australia to offer just two models, the Rubicon and most likely an Overland specification.
Full Australian specification, pricing and the model range is yet to be announced, but what we do know is that, like the JL Wrangler, Australia will get an ‘international’ variant of the Gladiator, so it won’t necessarily be the same as the US models we drove recently in the USA and New Zealand.
That means it will have a transfer case that offers full-time 4x4 as well as 2WD, locked 4x4 high range and locked 4x4 low range; unlike the traditional part-time system found in the US-specification. It could also mean Aussie Gladiator Rubicons will only come with 32-inch tyres, as opposed to the 33s and 35s offered in the States.
The Gladiator is a true truck and its 5-link rear suspension has been adapted from the Ram 1500 pick-up to make it a better load carrier and tow vehicle. That said, the payload is rated at just 620kg and towing at 2721kg; well short of the up-to-one-tonne and 3500kg load and tow ratings of most popular 4x4 utes.
The cargo bed is deep, and at 1.5 metres long it can accommodate a decent load or a couple of dirt bikes. The tailgate is rated to support 800kg, which itself would exceed the vehicle’s payload.
With its lower load and towing capacities and lack of a diesel engine option (at least at launch) we have to wonder how many Australians will take up the Gladiator purely on its macho looks and unrivalled off-road capability. A big part of the answer to that question will come down to local pricing, but again, we’ll have to wait until closer to its launch for that to be announced.