WHY THE JEEP GLADIATOR IS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT NEW 4X4 OF THE DECADE

MATT RAUDONIKIS

YES, I KNOW itís still a Jeep, and love them or hate them it seems everyone has their opinion of the brand behind the seven-slot grille. To give credit, though, Jeep is the only brand to come out with a new 4x4 vehicle with live axles front and rear, as well as off-road-focused variants and options, in recent memory. Before you say the new Jimny is a new 4x4 with live axles, itís pretty much a re-body of the old one with added safety tech and functionality. Thereís nothing else like the Gladiator currently on the market.

The last one was the dual-cab Land Cruiser 79 Series, and while some might draw comparisons between it and the new Gladiator, theyíre different vehicles. Even though the 79 has proven a success with recreational tourers and four-wheel drivers, it was designed as a workhorse with industry and fleet sales in mind.

The Jeep Gladiator is aimed squarely at recreational four-wheel drivers, and with the availability of a Rubicon model and the ability to remove the roof and doors for open air adventures it is truly in a class of its own. As a mid-sized truck many will mark the Gladiator against the likes of the Ranger, Hilux and other popular one-tonne 4x4 utes, but the Jeep is bigger and only has a 725kg payload. Plus, its locked, live axles will take it farther up the gnarliest off-road track than any Hilux or similar IFS ute. And thatís before you delve into the wormhole of aftermarket off-road accessories that will be available for the Jeep.

Modern 4x4s are universally becoming softer, more complicated and less capable, and the Gladiator bucks that trend. It probably wonít be as capable as a Wrangler Rubicon due to its longer wheelbase and greater rear overhang creating clearance issues, but being a ute (or truck, if you like) its versatility will appeal to a wider audience and not just Jeep enthusiasts.

Love or hate Jeeps, we should welcome the Gladiator as itís a rare occasion that we get a new off-road vehicle to join the showrooms full of soft-roaders. For that reason Iím calling it the most significant new 4x4 of the decade. Is there a more significant one? Tell us your thoughts.

Matt Raudonikis