Jeep drops desert-rated Mojave Gladiator, two special editions at Chicago 2020

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Perhaps, like many customers in America and outside it, you have a Jeep. Though you can jounce over rocks and trails and gravel galore, there’s something missing, deep inside your Jeep-loving heart. If only you could dune surf with your beloved 4×4. Well, now you can satisfy that nagging emptiness with the Gladiator Mojave, Jeep’s midsize pickup adapted specifically for the desert. 

Jeep is touting the Mojave as its first “Desert-Rated” vehicle, which reflects its capability over five categories: ride control and stability, traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, and desert prowess. What mechanical changes does that translate into? Jeep modified the Gladiator’s four-wheel-drive system to run in 4LO (low-range) mode up to 50 mph for maximum dune romping. The front end gets a one-inch lift, and underneath, FOX hydraulic jounce bumpers complement FOX 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks with external reservoirs. To allow for those larger shocks, the Gladiator’s track gets widened an inch. The truck’s frame has also been reinforced and the axles strengthened and supplemented with cast-iron steering knuckles —they’re aluminum on the standard Wrangler and Gladiator.

In the Mojave’s Off-Road Plus mode, you will, for the first time, have the option to lock the rear axle at speed—a feature Jeep says will debut later this year. The Gladiator’s powerplant remains a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, naturally geared with a focus on low-end torque. A six-speed manual comes standard and will give you a crawl ratio of 57.3:1. Should you opt for the eight-speed auto, that ratio goes to 52.6:1. (For comparison, the 2020 Gladiator Rubicon, equipped with the six-speed manual, has an 84.2:1 crawl ratio). 

The Mojave features marginal increases in approach, breakover, and departure angles compared to its Rubicon relative. The largest difference is in approach angle: 44.7 degrees for the Mojave versus 43.6 for the Rubicon. The Rubicon does boast a higher payload and towing capacity than the Desert-Rated Mojave, but you likely won’t be dune-surfing while pulling a camper anyway. 

Jeep Mojave Gladiator
2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

How will your friends know you’re rocking a Desert-Rated Gladiator, rather than some stock Jeep truck? It won’t be difficult. “Mojave” decals splash across the sides of the hood, which features a center scoop, and “Desert Rated” badges are scattered everywhere, grapeshot style. Bigger wheels—17×7.5 inches—come with standard 33-inch Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires (mud-terrains are optional). 

We’re not too surprised to see Jeep choosing the Gladiator as the recipient of this special desert treatment. From a marketing perspective, the Gladiator is Jeep’s first pickup since the Comanche and, among Jeep’s portfolio, has the magnetic allure of novelty. In addition, though the two-door Wranglers shine on tight trails thanks to their compact wheelbases, the wider and more open desert terrain should favor the Gladiator’s longer wheelbase. At speed, over dirt roads and washes, a long wheelbase will help. 

Perhaps you’re not itching to explore sand dunes and want a Gladiator a bit on the luxe side? Fear not. In case you’ve been wandering aimlessly, seeking the properly luxurious spec of Gladiator (or Wrangler, for that matter), Jeep offers its limited-edition High Altitude package on both these models. Take a Gladiator or a Wrangler, throw in a bunch of body-color accents (mirrors, hardtop, fender flares, and door handles), add a dash of LEDs and lots of leather inside, and there you go. Twenty-inch wheels round out the package, which will automatically opt you in for Jeep’s premium tech options as well—such as snazzier driver assistance programs and a nicer sound system. 

Jeep Mojave Gladiator

To complete its showing at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, Jeep also fulfilled its teased promise of a Jeep Performance Parts special edition: the JPP 20. Imagine the lift kit you’d want to add to your Wrangler, plus the bright lights and stickers—only Jeep does it for you at the factory. An American flag decal will now make sure you stand out among all your Jeep bros… OK, well, the tube doors might do a better job of that. There’s a nice big winch up front, badges all around, and lots of blacked-out bits. Get hyped. 

Jeep Mojave Gladiator
Jeep Mojave Gladiator

Jeep Mojave Gladiator

Which of these new and new-ish Jeeps would you spring for? The desert-tuned Mojave, the posh Rubicon or Wrangler, or the kitted-out JPP 20? Let us know in the comments below.

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