I’ve always liked Jeeps. Not only does the Wrangler specifically look cool, but that ruggedness isn’t merely cosmetic. Throw the worst of what nature can bring to the table at it, and it can usually tackle it with relative ease.
The thing is, as much as I respect the Wrangler, I know I will never own one. SUV’s, even in their purest form, don’t tickle my fancy. There’s plenty to criticize about them from safety issues, to gas consumption, ride quality etc.
Perhaps the thing I hate most is the ride height. I’m a performance car guy. I love being able to have the utmost amount of confidence in a vehicle when the roads get twisty. Having a vehicle on stilts means lots of body roll and weight shifting that takes all the fun out of plowing through the bends. That’s half the reason why I bought a then new BMW 128i with the sport package and a six-speed manual over a decade ago. And having bought brand new tires for it just recently along with new brakes, it feels like a brand new car. There’s really no need to get rid of it.
Then the keys to the all-new Jeep Gladiator came into my possession.
The Gladiator not only has the coolest car name in the industry, but it’s what Jeep enthusiasts have been begging for for over 40 decades now. And it’s finally here. And it’s awesome.
I didn’t expect it to have as much refinement as it has. The ride quality could be described as comfortable and relatively stable. The interior is styled nicely and FCA’s U-Connect system continues to be the best in the business. The back-up camera is crisp and clear. There’s plenty of room inside and my tester came with a removable hard top, which essentially transforms this thing into a pick-up truck cabriolet. Convertible pick-ups are fantastic, as it turns out, though getting the top off is a two-person job and does take a bit of time.
On top of it all, the Gladiator doesn’t give up anything that makes a Jeep a Jeep. In fact, you can get an even more trail-ready version in the form of the Rubicon trim.
Best of all for a guy like me? You can get it with a six-speed manual, though my tester was equipped with the eight-speed.
My wife is a farmer and I do a fair amount of driving back and fourth from the city to rural Nova Scotia. If you’ve ever driven rural Nova Scotia roads, you know they are infamous for potholes, eroded shoulders, massive bumps and other imperfections. When I drive up in my BMW, I need to swerve so frequently to avoid these annoyances that I’m surprised I haven’t been pulled over under the suspicion of driving while distracted by my phone yet. In the Gladiator, I found myself not caring one wit. I knew the Gladiator would not only tackle it all with ease, but it would do it without jostling me about in the process. On top of it all, the Gladiator has a relatively useful bed in the back which means I could use it to help out with farm duties, something my BMW could never do.
With the increasing likeliness that my wife and I will move to the country full-time in the coming years, the idea of owning such a vehicle is starting to sound less far fetched.
But as most guys know, wife-approval is essential before buying any new vehicle.
After a short drive in it, my wife declared her love for the Gladiator. In fact, she gave me her pre-approval to buy one if I wanted it. Wow! Could I actually be a Jeep guy after being a performance guy for so many years?
The short answer is no. Not only does performance still trump anything else for me, my BMW not only feels like a brand new car these days, but it’s only got 44,000 kms on it and I have zero car payments on it. Financially, it just wouldn’t make sense.
But there will come a time when it does make sense and while I have plenty of performance laden cars on my short list for when that day comes, I’m forced to admit that I should probably put the Jeep Gladiator on the same list.
Now I understand why people cross-shop such vastly different vehicles.
But the bottom line is, the new Gladiator impresses in many ways. And hey, if you buy one, you get to participate in that famous ‘Jeep waive’ with fellow owners!
Gladiator Base Price: $43,876
Price As Tested: $64,085