You may know that, in addition to functioning as a bona fide pick up with top-shelf utility, the off-road-ready Jeep Gladiator is equally at home romping in dirt and mud. Jeep enthusiasts, especially those who know Wranglers, wouldn’t expect anything less.
That’s all good, but can the vehicle handle what many consider the most demanding trail in the world? Well, let’s look. Here’s Jeep Gladiator versus Rubicon Trail.
The Jeep Gladiator
Not long after Jeep stopped making the Comanche pickup – some three decades ago — did a protracted cry go up for a truck iteration of the beloved Wrangler. The manufactured finally heard and introduced the Gladiator just a few years ago. As with the Wrangler, you can lose the doors and top here, too. It’s a truck that loves to tow, haul, and ramble around off road.
The ride is propelled by a 3.6-liter V8 powerplant that makes 285 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but you can always get an eight-speed automatic.
Ride and handling are improved, owing to the 19.4 more inches there are between the front and rear wheels, as compared with the Jeep Wrangler. Gladiator is certainly ready for rough and tumble, as it can clear a lot of ground and ford streams of up to 30 inches.
If you like the Wrangler’s interior, you’ll be right at home with the Gladiator’s. It has the same basic dash and intuitive controls, and optional heated front seats and steering. Gladiator’s elongated wheelbase gives backseat passengers more legroom than does the Wrangler. Oh, and there’s also a cool waterproof push-start button.
Connectivity-wise, you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the 7.0-inch and 8.4-inch screens. A subwoofer is available to better kick out sounds, as is a portable wireless speaker that fits behind the rear seat. Up front are two USBs and a USB-C port. A 115-volt outlet is optional. Then you’ve got adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring.
You know about the cargo bed, but the Gladiator also offers several swell places to store your stuff, including a cool compartment under the back seat and multiple spots for your mobile phone. Speaking of utility, Jeep Gladiator has several ways to stow the seats, which you can lock down, if need be. Practical and well-considered, this vehicle.
The Rubicon Trail
Generally considered a challenging route, even for experienced off-roaders, the 22-mile part road, part 4×4 trail is known throughout the world, and is particularly popular among Jeep enthusiasts.
Located in the California High Sierra, the famous four-wheel drive trail is west of Lake Tahoe and about 80 miles east of Sacramento. Portions of the route pass through the Eldorado National Forest in addition to parts of private lands. Elevation ranges from roughly 5,400 to more than 7,000 feet. Awe-inspiring rock formations dot the route that travels from Wentworth Springs to Rubicon Springs.
Often called “the crown jewel of all off-highway trails,” the route is indeed among the most difficult, what with its rocky climbs, narrow passages, and even a few mud holes. Each portion of the trail contains challenges such as obstacles and rough terrain over decomposing rock.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the trail is called the Little Sluice, which is just 100 feet long — but rife with boulders. Then there’s the Big Sluice, which is a long downhill section where rocks are imminently clamber ready.
Can the Gladiator Handle the Rubicon Trail?
It can — and does. While the trail is best suited for vehicles with short wheelbases, the Gladiator does, after all, have an eponymous trim – the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, which has a bunch of off-road equipment including rock-crawling axle ratios and multiple skid plates. Gladiator owners can always be found on the trail.
There’s also driver-assistance technology such as a front-facing camera, which is a great help when negotiating trails or climbing rocks. And what with all the ground clearance and traction, the Rubicon can overcome just about any obstacle, including those on the Rubicon Trail. While the longer wheelbase can make things less manageable on tight trains, the Rubicon isn’t far off from a Wrangler in that department.
So, who is the winner in the battle of the Jeep Gladiator versus the Rubican Trail? With all due respect to the world-renowned trail, there isn’t an obstacle there that the Gladiator can’t surmount. It may not be as nimble as the Wrangler, due to its longer wheelbase, but the Gladiator can still do the trick, and then some