2023 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Pickup Review
HomeHome > Blog > 2023 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Pickup Review

2023 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Pickup Review

Jul 12, 2023

Not-a-Wrangler pickup looks like a Jeep, drives like a Jeep, tows like a Jeep

You won’t find anything explicitly Wrangler in Jeep’s materials about the 2023 Gladiator, but make no mistake: this different body on such a similar frame is every bit the rough-and-tumble of its established counterpart.

Riding a lengthened adaptation of the same frame and architecture as the familiar ‘JL’-generation Jeep Wrangler, the ‘JT’ Jeep Gladiator offers all of the best and worst bits of driving a Jeep in an ute package.

1 of 4

You may use a different browser or device to view this in full screen.

MSRP $52,795 to $69,390

Built from the same bones as the venerable Wrangler, the Gladiator comes similarly equipped to tackle harsh terrain and obstacles. Solid front and rear Dana axles hang ready to shrug off the punishment, and there’s all the usual Jeep-scene leeway for easy modification.

Feeding the axles, shoppers have their choice of the standard Command-Trac part-time two-speed transfer case, or full-time 4×4 Select-Trac and super-low 4:1-ratio Rock-Trac cases, depending on their intentions. Final drive ratios can be specified to 3.73 or 4.10.

The Mojave trim tested here lands at the same price as the Rubicon, but rebalances a few of its skill points. Marketed more toward the desert-jumping fantasist than the Rubicon’s trail-crawling crowd, the Mojave bulks up for hard bangs and rooster tails

Whereas Jeep Rubicons get locking front and rear differentials, only the rear gets that trick in the Mojave. For this trade, the Gladiator Mojave gets beefier 2.5-inch Fox shocks with external reservoirs, along with hydraulic jounce bump-stops up front.

Abreast these dampers, the Mojave equips 33-inch all-terrain tires like Jeep’s XTreme Recons. Unlike those aggressive Wranglers, however, the Gladiator’s length and overhangs compromise on angles. Compared to the four-door Wrangler XTreme Recon’s approach, breakover, and departure figures of 47.4, 26.7, and 40.4 degrees, the JT Mojave measures an approach angle of 44.7 degrees, 20.9-degree breakover, and 26-degree departure.

1 of 3

You may use a different browser or device to view this in full screen.

The traits that make the Gladiator and Wrangler so capable off-road can work against their friendliness back on the tarmac.

In town, the JT Gladurbator is a touch big and silly, in the way Jeeps tend to be. Fortunately, squared-off dimensions make the vehicle easy to pilot and to park. Electric power steering is light and easy, and the old JK’s stiff, bounce-resistant offroad-focused accelerator has given way to a soft, modern digital pedal befitting the truck’s overwhelming lifestyle-commuter uptake.

At speed, the JL and JT’s steeper windscreen rakes reduce some of the previous-generation rigs’ vulnerability and unsteadiness against headwinds. These windshields can still be removed, but it’s a fair bit of work and may catch the attention of your local RCMP grump.

Canada’s long and oft-undulating highways are a different experience, however. Those heavy solid axles leave a lot of unsprung weight to bounce about beneath the truck, making for an undulating ride and a tendency to wander within a lane. Highway expansion joints will rock the truck forward and back like a trapped wave, and hitting one at any speed around a curved ramp will wiggle the tail laterally over the rear axle.

Fortunately Jeep has mitigated the worst of these behaviours with a step to five-link setups on both axles, making the JL and JT the lines’ steadiest road cruisers yet. In the case of the Gladiator especially, a longer wheelbase affords an even more stable ride than the full-length Wrangler Unlimited four-door. Still: even the classic Lada Niva 4×4, seen towed behind the Gladiator in Driving’s video review, tracks straighter at 110 km/h than the Gladiator. A Lada!

Most current Jeep products run Stellantis’ familiar 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine. Producing 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, it’s a respectable plant that proves adequate for everyday commuting and light towing duties. This configuration is rated to tow 7,700 pounds, and reports NRCan fuel consumption figures of 13.7 L/100 km city, 10.7 highway, and 12.3 combined.

2023 marks the final year of EcoDiesel availability in the Jeep and Ram lineups. This 3.0L engine offers an impressive 442 lb-ft of torque and better fuel economy than its gasoline alternatives, but is being retired after a troubled history most recently culminating in a major recall. The EcoDiesel is also a significantly more expensive engine option, and reduces total towing capacity to a Tacoma-matching 6,500 pounds. NRCan-rated fuel economy for the Rubicon EcoDiesel registers at 11.0 L/100 km city, 8.7 highway, and 10.0 L/100 km combined.

There has been no word of plans to fit the new turbocharged Hurricane engine to the JT, nor even any compelling rumours. That engine only enters the Ram lineup for 2024, so the lower-volume Gladiator is likely a low priority for that mill’s near-future applications.

Whichever engine a buyer selects, most will end up with the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. Importantly and endearingly however, Jeep still offers six-speed manual transmissions in this product line. That leaves the Jeep Gladiator and Toyota Tacoma the last manual-available utes in the class.

1 of 6

You may use a different browser or device to view this in full screen.

Towing some 4,000 pounds of Lada on a dolly, the Pentastar-powered Gladiator pulls as respectably as a peer like the Toyota Tacoma — just without the same grace or composure.

Still, JT’s longer wheelbase keeps it steadier than its Wrangler siblings — if still washy and largely unsuitable for most road-accessed work. The soft Mojave spec amplifies these latter characteristics, raising bed load-in height and sloshing about far more than an independently sprung, sensibly tired setup.

Workers looking to the JT for a crew cab should be aware that Jeep’s rear seats have long been stiff and unpleasant, and that rear passengers will be squeezing through the same narrow door openings as on the Wrangler.

Trades trying to shoehorn the Gladiator into their operations will be stretching, but so too are hot-tub movers who spec dually 2500s. If you want a big truck for the sake of a big truck, just be honest with yourself and temper expectations in anticipation of the associated costs and shortcomings.

The light pickup market is one of Canada’s most important, but the Gladiator exists somewhere to the side of the mainstream. Determinedly off-roadable and not particularly practical as a conventional work truck, the Gladiator is quite simply an expensive Jeep with a small box.

Most relevant to the Gladiator is the venerable Toyota Tacoma. Just revitalized for a new generation, the Tacoma tucks much of its driveline safely into its frame for hard-beating off-road assurance. The Tacoma is also the only other pickup still available with a manual transmission.

Leading the light-duty lifestyle category are the usual: Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra. These quarter-ton pickups have all moved from solid front axles to independent front suspension, though they retain similar multilink beam rears. All of these models exceed the Gladiator’s trailer and payload ratings, and are significantly more stable with a load in tow.

The smaller Ford Maverick’s new Tremor trim adds mild off-road capacity to what is otherwise simply an adapted crossover platform. Ford also offers the in-betweening Ranger, a parachuted world-market truck priced so near the F-150 that it merely seems cynical bait to funnel shoppers up into that key product line.

Also adapting a crossover platform is the leisure-duty Hyundai Santa Cruz. Based on the Santa Fe, the Santa Cruz still offers plenty of utility for recreation and lifestyle use, and makes no illusions about its intentions. Note that Hyundai has revealed a wholly redesigned Santa Fe which abandons the models’ distinctive face; we expect that a blocky redesign or possible discontinuation of the slow-selling Santa Cruz line is soon to follow.

The Honda Ridgeline has evolved into a slightly more grown-up pickup than the Santa Cruz, finally separating its box from what used to be a straight unibody.

Shoppers may also consider the cost-conscious Nissan Frontier, or the updated Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon — all of which can be equipped with some formidable off-road options.

Note that none of these pickups let drivers haul their load with their roof and doors removed, however.

The 2023 Jeep Gladiator comes in six trims, and is extensively configurable.

Entry into the lineup starts at $53,490 for the Gladiator Sport. Spartan standard equipment on this trim includes legislated essentials and little else; 3.6L Pentastar and six-speed manual come standard, the automatic available as an added option. A dressed-up Willy’s trim steps the ‘Jeep’ experience slightly and treats automatic-equipped trucks to remote starting, from a base MSRP of $58,930.

The Gladiator’s important street-oriented step is the $60,590 Overland, which comes standard with the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, fits bass-heavy Alpine audio and grows the standard seven-inch touchscreen to 8.4”.

Beyond this are the Mojave and Rubicon, both priced from $62,190 and targeted to distinct flavours of off-road action as described above.

Finally, atop the 2023 Jeep JT lineup is the $70,480 Gladiator High Altitude.

Check out the latest Jeep Gladiator model.

Online Editor, Driving.ca

Trained researcher and writer

10+ years of experience as a working photographer

H.BA, History — Wilfrid Laurier University

Elle Alder earned an Honours BA in History from Wilfrid Laurier University, with focuses on Soviet industrial planning and the modern Middle East. Between coursework, Alder worked as a Research Assistant both for faculty members and under third-party contract.

While a student, Alder also co-founded the University's International Students Overcoming War Scholarship Fund. Funded through an administration-matched student levy, this initiative partners with NGOs in regions of conflict to offer full scholarships to students whose studies have been impacted by war. ISOW remains a student-managed program a decade on, and has continued to grow its staff, budgets, and student rosters.

Educated in History, Alder's resume spans international archival research, skilled trades, humanitarian organization, photography and videography, freelance writing, copy editing, and editorial content planning and assignment.

Having picked up a camera as a distraction from oft-gloomy subject matter in University, Alder's combination of photo skills and writing ability caught the attention of Canadian automotive publishers. Starting with classic-car special-interest stories in Porsche Provinz and Autostrada magazines, Alder later went on to photograph galleries for Driving before being hired as a staff editor.

As a full-time automotive journalist, Elle Alder's professional scope has broadened from the romance of classic motoring to the utility of modern consumer- and performance vehicles, as well as to on-camera presentation of vehicles for video audiences. Alder also contributes as a videographer for other Driving contributors, and has sought mentorship to continue to expand on all of these skills.

Off-hours, Elle Alder drives and maintains a small collection of classic vehicles including a 1983 Porsche 944, 1997 Lada Niva, 1983 AMC Eagle wagon, 1959 Citroen ID 19, 1952 Tucker Sno-Cat, and a 1971 Massey-Ferguson Ski Whiz. Further hobbies include film development, fountain-pen- and typewriter restoration, and model railroading.

Email: [email protected]

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ellealder

Instagram: www.instagram.com/analogmotoring/

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

To contribute to the conversation, you need to be logged in. If you are not yet registered, create your account now - it's FREE.

5 Affordable EVs

Small trucks

Popular Crossover SUVs

Practical 3-row SUVs

Minivans for the whole family

Compact Cars

Luxury SUVs

Affordable AWD SUVs

All things automotive: breaking news, reviews and more. Wednesdays and Saturdays.

A welcome email is on its way. If you don't see it, please check your junk folder.

The next issue of Driving.ca's Blind-Spot Monitor will soon be in your inbox.

We encountered an issue signing you up. Please try again