- A genuinely unique option in the ute segment
- Heaps of Jeep heritage
- Extremely capable off-road
- A V6 diesel would be ideal
- Not cheap to buy or run
- No driver's footrest is annoying
Along with SUVs, the modern-day ute has become something of a status symbol. Straddling the line between work tool during the week and lifestyle vehicle on the weekends, utes have become insanely popular in Australia – just look at the monthly sales charts each month and you’ll see that they’re dominated by models such as the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger. With that in mind, how does a ute that’s skewed more towards the latter work? Enter the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Overland.
Clearly related to the Jeep Wrangler – but much longer – the Gladiator fits between the typical utes we’ve become so used to and massive trucks like the Ram 1500 in both size and price. Priced from $65,450 plus on-road costs, the Gladiator is certainly not a cheap entrant into the ute segment, but it is well equipped and offers a lot of metal for the money. So is it worth consideration for those wanting a lifestyle ute? Let’s find out.
Price & Equipment: 6/10
Jeep offers the Gladiator in three specs in Australia: the base Sport S, the mid-spec Overland that we tested and the top-spec off-road focused Rubicon. Pricing kicks off at $65,450 plus on-road costs (around $71,500 drive away depending on your location), which makes it expensive. But as is the case with the Gladiator’s sizing, it sits in between the $59,920 Toyota HiLux SR5 4×4 double cab auto and the $114,950 Ram 1500 5.7-litre V8.
Standard kit on the Sport S includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting, auto lights (that are also activated by rain), a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, a 7.0-inch driver’s information display, a nine-speaker Alpine sound system, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, a leather steering wheel, heated mirrors, an auto-dimming rear mirror and a three-piece removable hard top – that’s right, the Gladiator is a convertible!
Standard safety kit includes four airbags, auto emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop (but not go), a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors and tyre pressure monitoring.
We tested the mid-spec $74,450 plus on-road costs Gladiator Overland adds larger 8.4-inch touchscreen with inbuilt navigation, a hard top headliner, remote start, an alarm, privacy glass for the windows, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a leather gear knob, 18-inch alloy wheels and body colouring for the fender flares and hard top.
The top-spec and off-road focused $76,450 Rubicon trades the 18-inch wheels for 17s, and the leather seats for cloth, and adds a forward-facing off-road camera, a 4:1 case, 4.1:1 differential gears, front and rear locking differentials, a disconnecting front sway bar, Fox-branded suspension shocks with aluminium housings, a steel rear bumper, a black hard top and fender flares and Rubicon stickers. This is the ultimate Gladiator for off-roading action.
The $2,950 Lifestyle Adventure Group Pack (available across the range) adds more off-road equipment, including four AUX switches, a 240 amp alternator, a 700 amp battery, a trail rail system in the tray with a spray in bed liner, a lockable rear seat storage system, a roll-up tonneau cover and a removable Bluetooth wireless speaker that sits under the rear seat. If you’re looking for a Gladiator, definitely tick this box.
Other options include a Rubicon steel front bumper ($1,650), a removable soft-top roof ($3,575) and premium paint ($1,035) – these include ‘Billet Silver’, ‘Granite Crystal’, ‘Sting Grey’, ‘Firecracker Red’, ‘Hydro Blue’, ‘Snazzberry’ and ‘Sarge Green’. No-cost colour options are limited to ‘Bright White’ and simply, ‘Black’.
While the 2021 Jeep Gladiator is somewhat well priced for its size, there are equipment omissions that we’d expect for an $80,000 drive away vehicle. These including wireless phone charging, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 360-degree parking camera, auto high beam, rain-sensing wipers, lane keep assist, driver attention monitoring and lane trace assist. While removable panels restricts with which safety features can be fitted, more than four airbags (such as knee airbags or centre airbags) should be fitted – especially in a vehicle reigning from WHS-crazy North America. Locally, ANCAP has given the Gladiator a three-star safety rating.
Performance & Economy: 7/10
In Australia, just one drivetrain is available: a 209kW/347Nm 3.6-litre petrol V6 mated to an eight-speed auto and four-wheel drive. It’s also used in the Wrangler, which weighs less – up to 500kg less, to be precise – and in that it’s more spritely thanks to the lesser weight. The Gladiator doesn’t weigh much more than something like a Toyota HiLux though, and instead of a weedy four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, the Gladiator’s petrol V6 feels fast in comparison.
The ‘Pentastar’ V6 is used in a plethora of other Jeep products and while it’s not the newest engine around, it’s still not bad with reasonable grunt, a lot of smoothness and a nice growl as well. The Gladiator’s towing capacity is rated at 2,721kg, which is slightly less than the general 3,000-3,500kg rating of most other utes (or, strangely, the US-spec Gladiator), but still more than enough for most buyers. The Gladiator’s 5,284kg GCM (gross combination mass) means that it’s definitely more lifestyle-orientated than work.
The eight-speed automatic transmission – the only available transmission in Australia – is great. It’s quick to shift, intuitive and does a good job of hiding the V6’s lack of low down torque as well.
But things could be better behind the wheel of the 2021 Jeep Gladiator. The ideal engine choice for the car – a 195kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel – is unavailable in other right-hand drive markets, so the petrol V6 is the sole choice for Gladiator buyers for now. Although it produces 14kW less than the petrol V6, its 600Nm of torque is 253Nm stronger, and it’s this abundance of torque that we think would appeal even more to ute buyers when considering the Gladiator’s kerb weight. Its fuel consumption is rated at 9.8L/100km combined in the US, which would likely be even better in Australia’s more realistic fuel testing regime.
While the grunt is stronger in the Gladiator compared to the four-cylinder diesel ute brigade, so is the fuel consumption. Jeep claims 12.4L/100km on a combined cycle, and we saw 16L/100km in purely urban driving, which is pretty high – like the 288g/km Co2 emissions rating. The Gladiator runs on regular 91RON fuel and features an 83-litre fuel tank.
Ride & Handling: 8/10
While the 2021 Jeep Gladiator may appear to be simply a stretched ute Wrangler, the redesigned rear suspension set up shows how much serious the Gladiator is about being a ute. It actually features parts from the Ram 1500 truck, including beefier control arms and bushings, and that, plus the long 3,488mm wheelbase means that the Gladiator is actually quite comfortable – certainly more so than the usual ute suspects.
We particularly like how much more stable the Gladiator is in comparison with the Wrangler, thanks largely to the extra length. This makes the Gladiator more comfortable and easier to drive on motorways. The steering does have less of a woolly feeling than the Wrangler as well, which gives more confidence behind the wheel. Despite huge off-road tyres, the Gladiator’s road noise levels are relatively low and visibility isn’t bad for a ute either, though the small windows and huge front end don’t help and in tighter streets, there’s no escaping the Gladiator’s huge 5,591mm overall length.
The words ‘sporty’ and ‘handling’ don’t go well with the Gladiator, and nor were they designed to. Hustling the Gladiator isn’t a particularly enjoyable experience thanks to the slow steering, but it does handle bumps a lot better than some competitors. The Gladiator feels safe however, with body roll kept largely in check and an effective ESC system to reel things in should you push on a little too hard. Bypassing the dynamic shortfalls, overall comfort in the Gladiator is excellent and it is a great ute to use on-road.
Although we didn’t test it off-road, the Gladiator is reportedly excellent when it comes to travelling off the beaten track. This is helped by Jeep’s ‘Selec-Trac’ four-wheel drive system, which doesn’t feature locking differentials – buyers must upgrade to the Gladiator Rubicon for those. A low-range gearbox also features on the Rubicon to help get the best traction of steep terrain or when towing on slippery surfaces. There are various off-road modes such as ‘mud’, ‘rock’ etc to further aide off-road ability, as well as tech such as hill descent control. We know that Jeep are experts when it comes to making capable off-roaders, and the Rubicon has been designed from its inception to be the perfect mix of Wrangler off-road ability, coupled with ute usability.
Interior & Practicality: 8/10
The interior of the 2021 Jeep Gladiator is largely identical to the Wrangler on which it’s based, which is a good thing in our opinion. In quality alone, the Gladiator’s cabin is superior to the four-cylinder ute competition with some soft touch surfaces, sumptuous leather upholstery and quality switchgear. The seats themselves are very comfortable having been designed for American road trips, though they don’t feature electric adjustment.
What we like about the Gladiator’s cabin most though is that it features something most utes don’t have: heritage. Jeep is a brand that is immensely proud of its history, and there are ‘easter eggs’ celebrating this dotted all over the car, including a Willys Jeep on the windscreen, topographical maps on the floor mats and ‘since 1941’ branding in places. Combine this with the removable body panels and the Gladiator is not only full of character, but seriously cool as well.
Centre of the Gladiator’s cabin is an 8.4-inch touchscreen that uses the brand’s ‘UConnect‘ software. Aside from Ford’s Sync3 system, UConnect is the best in the ute segment with a colourful screen, lots of functionality and a general ease of use. It also comes with wired Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite navigation and digital radio, as well as off-road menus. It comes with a punchy nine-speaker Alpine stereo, which is supplemented by speakers mounted on the roof (so that you can still have a punchy soundtrack while the roof panels are removed) and even a removable Bluetooth speaker that’s located under the rear seat.
In terms of practicality, the Gladiator’s cabin is both good and bad. The door pockets are small, and there’s a a lack of trinket storage in the front cabin, but there is a big centre box with huge cupholders, as well as a folding rear seat. The rear seat folds up, and underneath it are storage solutions including lockable boxes, a spot for the tools to take the roof, doors and windscreen off and the aforementioned removable Bluetooth box.
Once you’re in there, the rear seat itself is roomy for even six-footers, though headroom is not amazing thanks to the roll bar, the windows are a touch small and the door opening is a touch tight. There are rear vents, rear cup holders and rear USB charging ports and a centre arm rest though, which helps rear seat comfort significantly. But remove the hard top and the somewhat claustrophobic cabin is transformed into an airy and fun open-top experience – and that’s something that no other ute can offer. A word of warning with the driving position however, all of the space for your left leg has been lost due to the engineers seemingly forgetting to leave room in the footwell for RHD cars.
The tray of the 2021 Jeep Gladiator is large, though not quite as large as some other utes. Measuring 1.53m long, 1.44m wide (113cm at the wheel arches) and 86cm high, the tray offers more than enough space for most buyers, as well as LED lighting and a three-position tailgate. It’s available with a plethora of accessories, including a spray-in liner, a cargo bed system, various mounting points and various tonneau covers.
Service & Warranty: 8/10
Like other Jeep products in Australia, the 2021 Jeep Gladiator is covered by a five-year/100,000 km warranty with five years of roadside assistance – but if you continue to service it through Jeep dealers after the warranty period, your roadside assist is topped up by 12 months.
Capped price servicing lasts for five years, and service intervals are once every 12 months, or every 12,000km – whichever comes first. Each service for the first five years costs a reasonable $399 for a total of $1,995, a very reasonable cost for a car designed to be abused with off-road work.
The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Overland DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.4/10
The 2021 Jeep Gladiator is far from perfect, but in our opinion, it’s a loveable ute that deserves more attention than it’s currently getting in the Australian market. It’s just so much cooler than other utes on the market, and the interior is far more well thought-out as well. That you can remove the doors, windscreen and roof makes it even better, and unlike a lot of cars on the market today, it offers something we look for: character. Like the Suzuki Jimny, the Gladiator is brimming full of emotion and life.
Of course, it’s more lifestyle orientated than work focused – the towing rating is less than four-cylinder rivals, its tray isn’t massive and while its petrol V6 engine is smooth, it’s thirsty and the V6 diesel available in the US would be a much better drivetrain option. It’s also not cheap to buy at over $80,000 drive away for the mid-spec Overland, it should have more standard equipment and fuel bills wouldn’t be cheap either. But while it isn’t perfect, we think the Gladiator is a very worthy buy marrying the best of a Jeep Wrangler with the utility of the ute world.