Staff editor Drew Dorian summed up our initial take on the Jeep Gladiator with a recent gem in our long-termer’s logbook: “I can’t think of another vehicle on sale today that is as flawed but still utterly charming. Everything about the way this truck drives is clunky, awkward, and uncomfortable—and yet I loved every minute behind the wheel.” For an old-school pickup with two solid axles and the added novelty of a convertible top, that’s a high compliment. But as our Gladiator Mojave rolls (slowly, noisily) past the halfway point of its 40,000-mile test, praise for its eccentric character has become less common as its day-to-day frustrations grow more prominent.
By now, our gripes about the Gladiator are familiar: It’s loud inside, plodding on the move, and its steering seems to have only a casual relationship with the front wheels. “It looks badass, but I wouldn’t want to commute in something with so little sound deadening and tires this noisy,” read a logbook comment that went on to point out how the truck’s upright dashboard forces even diminutive drivers to grasp the wheel with scrunched-up arms.
Long-distance travel remains a chore in Jeep’s mid-size pickup. Yet our rig has stayed relatively active within Michigan’s borders, including a trip to the west side of the state for an outing on the Silver Lake Sand Dunes, plus a camping excursion to the Upper Peninsula. Some takeaways from those adventures are as follows: Our truck’s soft tonneau cover is not secure enough to prevent hungry raccoons from loosening its fasteners and climbing inside the bed in search of foodstuffs that we thought were safely stowed away. And the high-strung 3.6-liter V-6, with its 4400-rpm torque peak, is not ideally suited for traversing deep sand. Even with a decent 285 horsepower on tap, we often had to engage the four-wheel-drive system’s low range and abuse the six-speed manual’s clutch to make any meaningful progress in the dunes. No thanks to the dunes, our average fuel economy is up 1 mpg, now to 16 mpg. For the full story, check out this article from Car And Driver.