Jeep Gladiator Rubicon: An Off Road Lifestyle Icon

  • Nick Jones

We certainly turned a few heads in our Jeep Gladiator Rubicon adventure to the Coromandel Peninsula. But I can assure you it wasn’t due to our fishing accomplishments; it was all down to the 5.5m long, charismatic, growling ute under our command. The key word that sums up the Rubicon experience is ‘fun’. It’s a lifestyle vehicle that will take you anywhere you want in comfort and style.

Road driving

While the Rubicon is a competent off-roader, I was intrigued to see how she felt on the tarmac. The driving position is high due to the ground clearance and large tyres, allowing you to look down at nearly every other car in sight. While the Rubicon is not overtly wide like some utes from ‘Murica, the model is around 200mm longer than other similar vehicles, making parallel parking in Ponsonby somewhat challenging (but who buys a Jeep to access inner-city boutiques and cafes.).

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When you get underway, it takes a little time to get a feel for the Rubicon. As you’d expect for a large-bodied long wheelbase ute, the steering is slower than your standard car – no surprise given it is well-suited to low-speed rock crawling. Once we had our eye-in, however, the Rubicon was a joy to manoeuvre through the notorious winding roads that follow the Coromandel’s coastlines and steep terrain.

The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is a fun vehicle.

The accelerator is responsive, delivering enough power and plenty of noise from the jump. The Rubicon ups the ante once it has shifted through a few of its 8-speed gears, though, with quite a bit of kick in the 50-100kph range – great for powering up steep hills. The 209kW/347Nm 3.6-litre petrol V6 Pentastar engine averaged around 14L/100km fuel economy over our test days.

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On the open road, the Rubicon produces some wind noise, probably from the removable roof panels and lack of aerodynamics, to go alongside the rumble from the all-terrain tyres. However, one of the off-road features was a very pleasant surprise on the less-maintained Coromandel roads – the Fox suspension made most lumps and bumps barely noticeable. While she does not reach the standard benchmark for a tow wagon (3.5 tonnes), the Rubicon will tow most family-sized trailerboats with a braked capability of 2.7 tonnes.

Comfort and technology

In contrast to the powerful, utilitarian and quintessentially ‘Jeep’ exterior design of the Gladiator Rubicon, the interior greets you with a modern, comfortable look and feel. Space is applied universally throughout the inside of the Rubicon – from ample legroom and headroom to armrests that simultaneously cater for both the driver and front-seat passenger. The back offers far better seating than comparable utes, with ample knee and toe room even for 6ft+ adults. The large transmission tunnel does take up some footwell space, but we did not find this a problem and felt there was adequate room for the driver’s left hoof.

The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon’s interior has a modern, comfortable and classy feel.

A standard 8.4” touchscreen display offers satellite navigation with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. A convenient ‘Media Hub’ offers USB, AUX and 12V outlets, and the nine-speaker Alpine Premium Audio system delivers crisp sounds. We took advantage of the heated seats and steering wheel for our early morning fishing expedition – a luxurious touch well received by all.

Harking back to the good ol’ days, there’s also a button for virtually every control (independent from the central touchscreen). While it takes a while to gain familiarity as to where everything is, this would be a handy feature once you’ve developed your ‘muscle memory’ as the vehicle’s owner. I must admit that it took some time to find the centred electric window controls, and we had begun rationalising that taking the roof off might be a pre-requisite for accessing fresh air (oh, did I mention that it comes with a tooling kit to easily disassemble the roof and doors for a hot summer’s day?).

Ample storage for all your fishing gear is on offer.

Leather-trimmed seats and rubber floormats mean you won’t have to worry about getting your Jeep dirty on your weekend away. In addition, the tray is just over 1.5m long and provided adequate space for our fishing tackle and chilly bin – the textured tray lining was a nice touch and helped our gear stay in one place around the tighter corners.

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Off-road capability

Now, off-roading is undoubtedly the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon’s favoured event. Aside from looking the part, the Rubicon features 275mm of ground clearance (better than other utes in the market), front and rear differential lockers, electronic sway bar disconnection and a catch-all ‘Off Road +’ setting for off-road driving. The Off Road + function disables traction control and optimises other settings for off-road use.

Off-roading is undoubtedly the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon’s favoured event.

As we travelled north along the coastal road between Thames and Coromandel, we spied a few rocky bays to give the Rubicon an initial blast sans road. The Jeep felt right at home prowling over the boulder-strewn terrain, and we knew we weren’t even scratching the surface of her abilities. Later that day, we hit the gravel, and the Rubicon impressed – particularly regarding smoothing out potholes and corrugations. Switching between two and four-wheel drive modes while underway is a breeze, and the grip on the gravel felt very secure even at high speeds.

The next morning, we hit Kūaotunu Beach at sunrise with visions of gleaming snapper being hauled in from the back of the Rubicon. Unfortunately, only a couple of humble kahawai fell for our offerings, although we made up for the lack of fishing action by throwing some sand around with the Jeep. She was at ease on the beach, so we figured we better find some freshwater on the way back to Auckland to test the factory-rated wading depth of 760mm. A rocky river trail at the foot of the Kopu Hills provided the perfect opportunity, and boy did she look and feel good traversing the creek!

River crossings are no trouble with a factory-rated wading depth of 760mm.

Overall fun

The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is an experience – I know that sounds cliché, but there really is a unique feeling it brings to those behind the wheel. With its luxury price point and lack of appeal as a towing workhorse, it presents as the perfect weapon for a weekend outdoor adventurist who wants to enjoy the journey and look cool along the way.

Specifications

Engine

3604cc V6 Chrysler Pentastar engine

Drive

Rear/all-wheel

Power

209kW @ 6400rpm

Torque

347Nm @ 4100rpm

Transmission

8-speed automatic

Turning Circle

13.6m

Maximum Towing Capacity

2.7 tonne braked

Length

5591mm

Suspension

Solid axle, link coil, leading arms, track bar, coil springs, stabiliser bar (Fox)

Steering

Hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion

Weight

2215kg

Wheels and tyres

17” alloy wheels with 32” Off-Road tyres

Wheelbase

3488mm

Warranty

Three years or 100,000 km (whichever occurs first)

Price as tested

$104,990 +ORC

 


November 2022 - Nick Jones
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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