The 2.3-tonne, 5-seat truck for civilian life, or simply to carry really big stuff anywhere you want to
Photos: Lionel Kong
The days of one-car brands are long past however, and these days the Jeep brand is more representative of an outdoor lifestyle than the flat-packed army utility vehicle born during the Second World War. The Gladiator is the newest addition to the Jeep range, and it’s essentially a long wheelbase, Wrangler flatbed truck with room for five in the cabin.
Underneath the hood is a 3.6-litre, naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine. It punches out a pretty respectable 289 horsepower, which is about what three and a half little Mitsubishi Attrages can muster together, but in true Jeep tradition the Gladiator isn’t all about speed and more about torque, towing and carrying capability.
The eight-speed automatic is pretty refined, though the real party trick with the Gladiator and its Wrangler cousin is the separate transmission transfer case, which in this case swaps between 2-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive, various automatic torque splitting modes and a low-range 4-wheel drive gear for serious off road control at the expense of speed.
The recommended standard tarmac setting is 2-wheel drive for economy, though the automatic 4-wheel drive can be useful in slippery conditions and heavy rain. Peek under the car and you’ll find the traditional Jeep solid axles, famed for their strength and durability. The Overland trim of the car driven here has a higher axle drive ratio of 3.73:1 to the Rubicon trim version’s lower 4.10:1, which is designed to be more suited for precision off road use.
There’s plenty of character in the cabin, which shares the basic architecture with the Wrangler. It feels nicely outdoorsy and tough, but is also paradoxically quite comfortable. If you’ve registered the vehicle for use beyond Singapore, you could cruise all day on the Malaysian North South Highway and not feel fatigued in here.
But then, you’ll need to remember that this is a truck and not a car or even an SUV. The car’s official top speed is pegged at 156km/h, so attempting to push the Gladiator beyond 120km/h or so for long periods is going to feel strained as the engine revs rise.
But that’s of little concern in Singapore. As it’s officially a truck and not an SUV, the Gladiator needs to be registered with a ‘G’ license plate, which well, classes it as a goods transport vehicle. This also places a speed limit of 70km/h to it in Singapore, so if you need to be going places in a hurry all the time, this isn’t the vehicle to do it in.
It’s a pretty good drive at urban speeds though, and you’ll never notice that there’s 1.5 metres worth of flatbed behind the cabin. The extra wheelbase over its other Jeep siblings actually makes the car feel more stable on the highway.
A removable tonneau cover made of similar material to what you’ll find on convertible roofs covers the flatbed, and the lockable tailgate is nicely damped so it won’t come slamming down unexpectedly when you unlatch it. Unroll the cover completely and you have the means to carry plenty more stuff, as long as you can secure them to the deck before driving off.
The car is also a targa top, meaning that the two roof sections above the front seats can be unlatched and stashed away for a bit of open top motoring. The large section over the back seat is removable too, but it involves a bunch of screws, at least two people to lift it, and a place to stow the massive roof at home.
A few things stand out about Jeep vehicles, and probably top on the list is that they are nearly infinitely customisable. The official options catalog is a pretty thick book itself, and what you can’t find in there, there’s probably another aftermarket brand manufacturing something to fit. From extra fog lamps to an actual soft top for the cabin, they are all there to pick and choose from. You can also do away with the tonneau cover entirely and fit rails to the sides of the flat bed if you wish, and then strap whatever large objects you want to carry to the rails.
It may be pricey at more than S$160k without COE and have a hefty 3.6-litre engine, but direct competitors to the Gladiator here are few. A Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is a close kindred spirit, especially in G 350d form. There’s also the Ford Ranger which is a lot cheaper, but also much less powerful and more car-like than the Jeep offers.
While Americans have the truck culture firmly ingrained in their way for of life, in Singapore the Jeep Gladiator is an oxymoronic combination that works for a certain group of well-heeled drivers that know what they want. Buyers shopping in the more mainstream luxury segment would simply have gone with a medium SUV instead.
There’s also the issue of it being a ‘G’ plate car, as the flatbed qualifies the Gladiator as a commercial vehicle according to Singapore laws. This means that the car cannot be legally driven into Malaysia unless you have a permit to do so. To get one, the car’s owner needs to have a company registered in Malaysia, then you’ve got to ump through a bunch of paperwork too.
In other words, if you’ve got no business interests in Malaysia the car can’t be driven across the border at all.
Chrysler Jeep Singapore let on that many of the Gladiator’s initial customers were big Jeep fans that already booked the allocation from the first shipment even without a test drive. It’s undoubtedly unique and quite an experience to own, but only if it suits your budget and lifestyle.
Jeep Gladiator Overland
|Power||289hp at 6400rpm|
|Torque||347Nm at 4100rpm|
|VES Band / CO2||B / 204g/km|
|Agent||Chrysler Jeep Automotive of Singapore|
|Price||S$165,999 without COE|
|Verdict||Jeep fans and converts will have no problem getting familiar in it, but its high price and large engine will limit it to a niche customer base|