Technically, the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave was created to jump over sand dunes. But there are no dunes where I live, so what was I supposed to do? I threw it in the mud. And in typical Jeep fashion, it did rather well. I know, the Gladiator is a big expensive toy. And to be fair, you probably don’t need one. But you have to admit, it’s one hell of a badass rig.
Carving Its Own Niche
But the Mojave is a bit more than a badge job to give consumers the illusion they’re getting something different. It is something different. You’re getting a pretty gnarly machine, one that comes without the necessarily of heading straight into a Rubicon. The Mojave is also the first special edition model since the Gladiator was introduced.See the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave as a direct rival to a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro or a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, but not as extreme as a Ford Raptor. While a Gladiator Rubicon was designed to climb rocks and steep inclines in 4×4 Low, the Mojave’s main mission was to take on sand dunes and jumps at full throttle. That’s if you’re lucky enough to have some of those lying around in your area.The list of modifications is extensive. You get the same 33-inch off-road tires as a Rubicon, but without the front locker. There’s a one inch lift with 2.5-inch diameter Fox dampers equipped with external reservoirs to better dissipate heat buildup.The chassis was then reinforced at the suspension’s mounting points. The truck gets model-specific cast-iron steering knuckles, a stiffer rear axle made of thicker tubing, a larger-diameter rear track bar with larger bushings, and a 12.7-mm wider track to improve high-speed stability over uneven terrain. The rations, however, on the 4×4 Low gear were changed to allow the truck to drive a little faster.Nothing changes from the powerplant department. Like a conventional Gladiator, the only available engine is FCA’s tried and proven 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. It’s good here for 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It can either be mated to a six-speed manual gearbox like my tester, which is rare, because I never get manual-equipped cars. Or you can opt for the well-known and frankly excellent 8-speed automatic unit.Pricing is, as expected, not cheap, and ironically similar to a Rubicon. You need to pay $52,383 to unlock the Mojave, and an extra $1,795 for the automatic transmission. The rest is mostly accessories and wheels. The truck you see here still stickered for a ridiculous $72,055.
Every time Jeep lends me one of its rigs, I make it a mission to get it dirty. I mean, what’s the point of reviewing a “trail-rated” vehicle if you’re not going to bring it in the trails? While the location I brought the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave didn’t allow me to perform any jumping or speeding, the new suspension did reveal a much more comfortable ride.That being said, don’t expect this Gladiator to drive like a unibody Honda Ridgeline or even a full-size truck like a Ram 1500, but it is a considerably more grown-up ride than the Wrangler on which it’s based. That’s of course thanks to the stretched wheelbase, but also because of the compliance of those new Fox dampers. Even on trash Quebec roads, the Gladiator proved remarkably stable. But those knobby tires do require some concentration, because yes, you’ll often need to overcorrect that steering.My biggest complaint, isn’t the Mojave’s roughneck driving manners, but ironically, its manual transmission. The problem with it is that it’s not particularly exciting to row, nor does it help you find the proper gear. The ratios are annoyingly long meaning you’ll probably never need to use sixth gear. The engine also doesn’t seem to respond well to it. This is one of the rare cases where that I’d recommend getting the automatic.I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the excellent Pentastar engine, except perhaps the fact that it feels a little slow in here. The Gladiator is a heavy truck at 5,300 lb (2,404 kg), especially with these tires. It could use a V8. The V6 does remain smooth the entire time though, and it loves to rev while sounding fantastic. It is however quite thirsty. In this manual unit, I couldn’t get it under 14L/100 km.Like a Wrangler, the Gladiator’s interior doesn’t disappoint. The Mojave’s theme continues with orange stitching, accents and lettering. Yet, the rest of the dashboard inherits the Gladiator and Wrangler’s functional design, with dash-mounted off-road toggle switches, like in a Rubicon.Material quality remains above average, while build quality is fair. It is a pleasant and roomy place to ride in, one loaded with neat design cues and clever ergonomics. A removable hard top model, like the one you see here, is obviously the quieter choice. Expect significantly more wind and road noise with the rag top.Meanwhile, FCA’s UConnect infotainment interface is still highly effective, albeit starting to show age. A newer, updated software is starting to roll out in more recent FCA products. While touch-intensive, this one still reacts quickly to your commands while remaining easy to understand. The witty Off Road Pages app is always a peach to fiddle with, allowing even the most novice of drivers tailor their Jeep to their liking.Rear seat room in a Gladiator remains class-competitive, proving both more comfortable and roomy than a competing Tacoma or Colorado. The Gladiator is also up there with big towing numbers, capable of hauling up to 7,600 lb (3,447 kg). This makes it the second best in its class after a Colorado/Canyon diesel. Max payload however dominates the segment at 1,600 lb (725 kg).The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave really is a case of choose your own adventure. Perhaps the most impressive quality of this execution is that it doesn’t try to tread on the Rubicon’s territory. The Mojave simply opens up the Gladiator lineup to more diversity, proving once more how flexible this platform is. Weather you’re a sand or a rock person, the good news is that we can all play in the mud.
Review of the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave by William Clavey
Midsize Pickup Trucks
- Unique and convincing package
- Standard Jeep adventure-seeking DNA
- Will jump dunes
- High fuel consumption
- Notchy manual shifter
- Roughneck handling
8 / 10
Clavey’s Corner is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prices and trim levels discussed in this article reflect the Canadian car market.
Special thanks: Jeep Canada
Photography: Guillaume Fournier
Contact the author: [email protected]