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Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 4x4: a vehicular mugwump

Photo courtesy of Jeep

The Gladiator oozes machismo, albeit with compromises.

A mugwump is an indecisive politician, like a bird that sits with its mug on one side of the fence and its wump on the other. The Gladiator is a sort of mugwump among vehicles, its mug being a 4-door Jeep Wrangler and its wump a 5-foot truck bed atop a suspension setup from a Ram 1500 pickup. Turning the Wrangler into a midsize pickup was genius, generating high demand when the Gladiator debuted late last year.

The Gladiator’s 285-hp V6 is mated to either an 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission; a diesel may soon be an option. You can opt for a soft or hard top; advanced safety features are available; and it has Fiat Chrysler America’s easy-to-use UConnect infotainment system. It’s tow-rated at 7,650 pounds. Every Gladiator has 4WD for serious off-road duty.

But the Gladiator’s ample road clearance makes stepping in or out of the cabin a stretch. The suspension produces a choppy ride, although it improves with a loaded bed. There’s lots of wind noise at highway speeds, and the steering is imprecise. The Gladiator’s length could make it less able to conquer inhospitable terrain. And there’s no choice of bed lengths.

The Gladiator is neither the best pickup nor the best Jeep. But it looks cool, and there’s nothing quite like it.

With AAA's free Car Buying Service, members can enjoy a no-hassle experience when purchasing a new or used vehicle. Get estimated pricing and access to online inventory before visiting a AAA-recommended dealer near you. For details, go to AAA.com/auto or call 800-709-7222. 

Vehicle layout: V6 (285 hp), 8-speed automatic, 4WD
MSRP, base model: $35,040; (as tested: $59,680)
MPG, city/hwy/combined: 17/22/19
Safety ratings: NHTSA: Frontal crash, 4 stars; rollover: 3 stars; IIHS: not yet rated
Spare tire: Full-size spare
Final assembly: Toledo, Ohio
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles

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