Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

Does the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 2021 live up to its tough guy name?

The brand's latest brute has theatrical inclinations — which is well worth a round of applause

Any manufacturer who calls a car a Gladiator is not marketing a vehicle to those who only want a runaround to pick up a few bits from the supermarket or take Colin the cat to the vet for his injections.

A name like that, with all its classical, pugilistic overtones, is designed to appeal to those after a rock-hard ride that will instill confidence in driver and passengers alike when travelling on surfaces rougher than a manicured tarmac.

And so it is with this Jeep creation that has been given this Russell Crowe-esque moniker. From the sturdy exterior to the very real sense inside the cabin that you’re as close to the elements as you can be (without actually being shoved headfirst into the dirt), the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, to give it its official title, is all about the drama.

Pick-up trucks were synonymous with comfort-free travel once upon a time, but this is no longer the case. Most, in fact, have been sanitised to within an inch of their lives (no issues with that – it’s called progress and we should all embrace it).

Jeep, though, is aiming to pair a sense of old-school rough and tumble with up-to-date technology in the new Gladiator.

Yes, it is comfortable, and, yes, it comes with an array of the most modern kit, but this is a genuinely exciting vehicle to zip around in, particularly on more testing surfaces. The manufacturer is keen to emphasise its new creation as a “fun-to-drive, multi-purpose vehicle delivering legendary off-road ability”.

Looks-wise, you won’t be mistaking the Gladiator for a Renault Twizy either. Sturdy and angular, it looks the part of a classic off-roader. The design is recognisable as a Jeep, though, with styling cues that include a keystone-shaped grille, round headlamps and distinctly angled wheel arches.

The Gladiator is powered by a 3.6-litre V6 engine, which will pump out 285 horsepower. It has Jeep’s Rock Trac 4x4 system and cameras placed all around to keep you in control uphill and down dale. And, should you wish to do so, you can, of course, remove a significant quantity of the Gladiator’s outer skin to get as close to the great outdoors as you want to be.

Back to that kit again. The obligatory touchscreen sitting amid the leather seating and clearly laid out dashboard is a Uconnect 8.4-inch affair, and driver aids include blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warnings and active braking, should the need arise.

The launch edition tested here will cost you Dh265,000, but buyers can select any one or more of 150 customisation options. Gladiators are US built, coming as they do from Toledo, Ohio, and, aside from the Rubicon, you could also go for Sport and Overland trim levels in Middle East showrooms.

Buy one and you’ll be opting for plenty of that drama we were talking about earlier on, maybe as much as a whole season of productions at Dubai Opera, in fact.

You could go dressed as you would for such an occasion in this subtly suave beast too, because rough and tumble in this instance doesn’t mean an upsetting experience for those inside.

Updated: September 2, 2020 03:28 PM

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