Just a year ago, Jeep had dispatched over its then all-new, gas-powered Gladiator Rubicon to us. Recently, we had the opportunity to test the diesel version of what is the only four-door 4×4 convertible in the market. Like to climb, trail and crawl, or haul tons of cargo, or go water fording? In an open-air vehicle? Then this should be your ride!
Under the hood of the body-on-frame 2021 Gladiator sits the optional 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6 engine ($4,000), putting out 260 horsepower at 3,600 rpm and 442 pounds-feet of torque at 2,800 rpm. The go-anywhere capable vehicle, with high and low transfer case gears, is mated to a typical eight-speed auto gearbox.
Our test drive, the Overland, was a standout dual three-piece hardtop and a soft-top with removable doors, exposed hinges, fold-down windshield, front/rear hooks and tubular side steps. That this is a Jeep is even more apparent from the traditional seven-slot, keystone-shaped grille, flanked by rounded halogen headlights, square tail lamps, and a flat, clamshell hood reaching down to trapezoidal fender flares.
The 4×4 is designed for off-road conditions such as traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation and water fording. Its skid plates will protect the front, transfer case and fuel tank.
The cabin sticks to the original Jeep’s handy capability with 103 cubic feet of interior room. Storage cubicles are scattered throughout, including a bin under the rear seat floor, as are several 120-volt outlets. The instrument cluster is simply laid out with a rounded speedometer, tachometer and temperature, fuel, oil and volt gauges.
Also included are the dual AC, manual tilt/telescopic steering column, cloth seats, six-way manual driver and four-way front passenger seats, push-button start, 7-inch Uconnect touchscreen, leather steering wheel, lockable console/door armrest and a 5-foot cargo bed. A roll-up tonneau cover is available for $595.
Standard safety features are the dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, electronic stability, traction and trailer-sway control, anti-roll system, rearview camera, hill-start assist, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.
Except for its slightly loud road noise and engine, diehard Jeep aficionados will love the amazing talents of the rugged Gladiator. Simultaneously, the quintessential SUV with over seven decades of tradition is adept on neighborhood streets. Its off-road and on-road prowess makes the diesel version a remarkable and much-needed addition to the Jeep roster.