What's the news?
We've seen the teaser photos and the disguised prototypes for years now, but Jeep has finally admitted what we've known all along, and shown us the pickup version of the new Wrangler - the Gladiator. Designed to compete with the likes of the Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger, it should come to Ireland late next year, for those looking to haul one-tonne around with a bit more style than usual.
"Unquestionably a truck and instantly recognisable as a Jeep, the all-new Gladiator is the ultimate vehicle for any outdoor adventure," said Tim Kuniskis, Head of Jeep Brand - North America. "There is tremendous demand for this unique vehicle from our loyal Jeep customers and pickup truck buyers everywhere. Born from a rich and proud heritage of tough, dependable Jeep trucks, Gladiator combines rugged utility, versatility and functionality resulting in the most capable mid-size truck ever."
Jeep claims that the Gladiator delivers "unmatched capability with best-in-class towing and 4x4 payload capacity" although its 725kg load weight is actually a good bit less than that of a 4MOTION Amarok. It can tow more than most, though, with a 4,300kg maximum towing weight. Anyone got a naval vessel they need pulling?
It should be hugely capable in the rough stuff too, with high-torque V6 petrol or diesel engines, mated to rugged Dana axles with electric front and rear locking diffs, a limited-slip diff, disconnecting anti-roll bars, and 33-inch diameter off-road tyres.
Style wise, it's a Wrangler with a pickup bed - no surprise there - but the rear end has been cleverly designed for maximum practicality. The tailgate is damped (a rarity in the segment) and can be opened to three distinct positions. There's also load-bed lighting, a spare tyre mounted under the load area, a covered power point for electrical supply, and there's a whole slew of optional protective covers and tonneaus available.
As with the standard Wrangler, the windscreen can be unbolted and folded flat onto the bonnet, just in case we ever again get a day sunny enough for you to do that. You can also take the doors off, and Jeep helpfully stamps the correct tool sizes needed for that job onto the inside of the door panels.
It's also as far as we can tell the only pickup that's a convertible too, with a black three-piece hardtop available on all models, which has two panels and quick-release latches enable a fast removal and installation of the hardtop. All hardtops feature a manual rear-sliding window.
The interior - with its body-colour panels, weatherproof switches, and uConnect infotainment screen - is pretty much carried over from the standard Wrangler, but Jeep claims best-in-class cabin space, especially for rear-seat passengers, while those rear seats fold flat for extra storage space.
The rear seat bases can also fold up vertically, like those of a Honda Jazz, to give you more storage options in the cabin.
The Gladiator's launching with two V6 engines. There's a 3.7-litre petrol V6 with 285hp and 352Nm of torque which comes with a standard six-speed manual, or an optional eight-speed automatic gearbox.
European buyers will doubtless be more interested in the 3.0-litre 'EcoDiesel' V6 engine, which launches next year, and which has 260hp and 600Nm of torque. It's been designed around strict US (Californian, effectively) diesel emissions standards, and can also be had with the eight-speed auto gearbox.
Standard models will be badged as Sport or Overland, and there's a range-topping Rubicon model with more extreme off-road capability thanks to such items as the Rock-Trac 4x4 system, and heavy-duty third-generation Dana 44 front and rear axles with special off-roading ratios. All Gladiators will be able to cope with up to 762mm of standing water. For serious off-roading, the Gladiator has an approach angle of 43.6 degrees, breakover angle of 20.3 degrees, departure angle of 26 degrees and a ground clearance of 281mm.
Overall, the Gladiator is some 787mm longer than a standard four-door Wrangler, all of which is in the load bed. It's not the first Wrangler or Jeep pickup, but it is the first since the Comanche version went out of production in 1992.