Ford’s F-150 Raptor is the preeminent badass desert race truck on sale today (even if most of them spend more time cruising affluent suburbs than the sands of Baja). Not surprisingly, that’s put a target on its back — and has other automakers taking aim.
Jeep is coming after the Raptor — or at least its market share — with the Gladiator Mojave, a new top-of-the-line desert racing trim of its acclaimed midsize truck that surpasses even the Rubicon in capability. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s Desert Rated, not Trail Rated
The Gladiator Mojave is the first Jeep to receive the new “Desert Rated” badge, which means it’s been certified for high-speed off-road performance in desert-like conditions. This entails even more rigorous testing than the Trail Rated designation found on many Jeeps. It includes tests for ride control and stability, traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, and what Jeeps calls “desert prowess” — withstanding the heat, sand, gravel and dust one would encounter in the desert.
It has an upgraded suspension
Jeep upgraded the suspension components to withstand the beating that comes with traveling over rough terrain at high speed. The Gladiator Mojave has Fox 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks, as well as Fox hydraulic jounce bumpers. Other modifications include a one-inch suspension lift delivering 11.6 inches of ground clearance, a silver skid plate, reinforced axles and frame, cast iron steering knuckles, what Jeep describes as “aggressive” front seats with integrated upper bolsters and 33-inch Falken Wildpack all-terrain tires.
During a reveal event for the media, Pete Milo, Jeep’s chief engineer for Wrangler and Gladiator, said the modifications would deliver a firmer ride than the standard Gladiator without being harsh. (We’ll have to wait and see whether that’s true once we get our hands on an example.)
You can buy it with a stick shift
The Gladiator Mojave sticks with the base 3.6-liter V6, delivering 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. There’s no option for the EcoDiesel and its 460 lb-ft. The upside: the V6 is the only way to get the six-speed manual transmission, which is available on this trim.
But you better like orange
The Mojave uses a bright orange on the badging and tow hooks, instead of the Rubicon’s red. It also scores a distinctive heavy-duty hood with a center scoop. Steel gray seats — designed to absorb less heat in the desert — are available, though you can also order black ones if you’re so inclined.
You can buy one soon
Jeep plans to have Gladiator Mojave models arrive at dealers during the second quarter of 2020. No mention yet on pricing.
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