The Toyota HiLux, in a range of variations, continues to top the sales charts. Ford’s Ranger is close on the Toyota’s wheels and often outsells it when it comes to four-wheel drive, dual cab utes.
Any number of people, from tradesfolk to nomadic retirees, have found a four-door ute the right vehicle for work and play. Today’s ute is more comfortable, more capable and more family-friendly than ever while offering versatility that’s hard to match.
There is already a slew of choices on the market plus the likes of Hyundai and Tesla are set to join the fray but for now, the newest – and one of the most expensive – of the mob is Jeep’s square-jawed Gladiator.
Jeep has a four-wheel drive heritage stretching back to 1942 and development as a “go-anywhere” line-up of vehicles, so this four-door Gladiator has good off-road capability straight from the showroom floor.
While the $75,000 plus price tag is high the American ute offers a fair swag of gear plus good highway manners for a heavy, live-axle vehicle.
The Jeep won’t be on everyone’s shopping list. It is petrol only (at least for now) and its 2700kg towing capacity and 527kg payload falls short of some rivals.
There’s an upside though – the V6 engine puts out 209kW, and 347Nm of torque, through a pretty slick eight-speed transmission which makes for good road performance, whether around town or in the country.
And the surprise is how well the Gladiator handles rough and ready roads. Sure, there’s a little initial lightness to the steering feel but the coil-sprung ute is more comfortable than most rivals over back roads.
Off the bitumen, and with a family reputation to protect, the 5.5m machine is a poised off-roader up and down the hills, through the mud and over the rocks, though that longish wheelbase could catch the middle out in some situations. There’s low range and back-ups such as hill descent control to complement the Jeep’s great wheel and axle articulation.
Drivers sit straight and high without a tonne of room for the left foot, but there is decent visibility to the front and sides and an excellent rear-view camera when backing out of trouble.
The cabin here can be turned into a fresh-air experience through removable roof panels and doors plus fold-down windscreen and while it’s stacked with modern-day conveniences such as a big touch screen for navigation and entertainment, there’s an old-school, timeless character to the dashboard and instrument layout.
The Jeep Gladiator is a top machine at a top price that won’t meet every ute buyer’s needs. Yet it’s a worthy edition to the ranks, suitable for young or old adventurers wanting to travel in style.
And for confident travels across the country, Jeep Australia’s warranties are now five years/100,000 km with lifetime roadside assistance and a team of “flying doctor” mechanics to fix issues anywhere on the continent.