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14th of December 2018

Automotive



The All-New Gladiator Is Jeep’s Old-School Nod to Pickups

If we know anything about the American auto industry, it's that drivers in the US so thirst for pickup trucks, automakers are giving up on boring, little cars. So it's no surprise that Jeep, perhaps the most starred and striped automaker out there, is getting in on the fun. Today at the Los Angeles Auto Show, it unveiled the Gladiator, an all-new model that puts everything Jeep lovers love in a ride with a bed.

If you like the Wrangler’s throwback, utilitarian styling, you’ll like the Gladiator. From the front they could be the same vehicle. The round headlights and seven-slot grille are present and correct, but Jeep’s designers widened the intakes for maximum cooling while towing. There’s a tiny nod towards aerodynamics on the blocky vehicle, where engineers very subtly swept the top of the grille back to smooth airflow. Those headlights are LEDs now, with halo daytime running lights inset. The turn signals are bars on top of the giant wheel arches.

At the back, the Gladiator has a wide door into a large cargo bed. The spare wheel, usually mounted on the back door, resides under the bed, behind the rear axle. Spray-in liners and bed covers are available, as well as lighting, power outlet, and tie-downs, for all your off-road adventure needs.

Jeep introduced its first pickup, the Willys, way back in 1947, but it hasn't made once since ending production of the Cherokee-based Comanche in 1992. Now that it's back with a bed, it hasn't forgotten the features that its customers most desire. The doors come off (the hex bolt size you’ll need is stamped right on the hinge). A soft top is available. The windshield folds down. Jeep offers 4x4 systems, crazy crawl ratios for hill climbs, and up to 30 inches of water fording. Tow capacity is 7,650 pounds, which Jeep says is best-in-class. The eight-speed automatic transmission will work for most people, but you can get a stick shift if you want to control the 3.6-liter V6 engine yourself. And for those who crave extra torque, a diesel engine will come in 2020.

If you care about creature comforts, you’re probably not looking at Jeeps, but the Gladiator does offer a few modern features, including an optional 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment unit and a couple of USB ports. But the interior is more about being rugged and waterproof, with good old-fashioned knobs and buttons, and better for it.

Jeep will build the Gladiator at its Toledo, Ohio, plant, where it's been bolting its vehicles together since 1941. The brand has plenty of heritage and nostalgia to draw on, but the LA show highlights the fresh competition. Startup Rivian wowed with an all-electric pickup and SUV, promising off-roading abilities to rival any Jeep. And traditional manufacturers like Ford are eyeing midsize trucks as they pull out of sedans. For now, Jeep is happy reviving the past. Maybe for its next act, it can add a battery and push an electric Gladiator into the future.

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