[REVIEW] 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

Can you name a vehicle that was born out of the necessities of war, has the novelty of a targa top, the utility of a pick-up truck, but yet is able to traverse rugged terrain?

There’s essentially no other vehicle on the market that quite fits in with these criteria other than the Jeep Gladiator.

If it’s not already obvious, Jeep transformed the ironic Wrangler into a pick-up truck by using a longer wheelbase and grafting on a 5-foot bed. It’s perhaps one of the most significant things that has happened to the Wrangler since it was officially offered with four doors as the now ubiquitous Wrangler Unlimited model.

The Gladiator shares many of its strengths with other smaller pick-up trucks, but it also has some drawbacks in comparison to today’s modern pick-up truck standards. This makes for an interesting mix when comparing against niche models out on the market such as this one.

What’s with the Mojave trim?

By now, you’re probably familiar with Jeep’s Trail Rated badge. That’s where they take their vehicles through a battery of tests to determine how proficient they are in off-roading and slow-speed conditions. This includes obstacles such as boulders, through trails, over mountains, but not necessarily high-speed desert running.

Well, now there’s something new for 2021 in the form of the Desert-Rated badge, complete with a new set of tests and a new set of equipment.

Inspired by the Ford F-150 Raptor and the Ram 1500 TRX, the Gladiator Mojave is the second of the two top off-road trim levels on Jeep’s mid-sized pick-up truck. Indeed, Jeep calls it their first “desert-rated” Jeep and it’s aimed at a different clientele than the TRX or the Gladiator Rubicon. You can read more about the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon in my 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon review.

Only available with either an eight-speed auto or a six-speed manual paired with Jeep’s 3.6-litre V6 producing 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, the Gladiator Mojave adds to the standard Gladiator with an even more aggressive equipment stack for the most challenging of off-road situations you might want to tackle.

The Mojave differs from the Rubicon in that it was designed for desert cruising, as its name would hint. Helping owners to tackle this sort of terrain that may come their way, the Gladiator Mojave gets a significant suspension upgrade in the form of 2.5-inch-diameter internal bypass Fox Shox with remote reservoirs and hydraulic bump stops for the front suspension. To complement the raised higher suspension,

Jeep also fitted a 10mm wider front track, sand-slider side rails, heavier duty cast iron steering knuckles, a manually lockable rear axle, a brake-based torque-vectoring front axle, and Falken Wildpeak A/T3W tires.

Due to the upgraded suspension and reinforced frame, the Mojave is able to take far more abuse during higher speed off-road driving than the Gladiator Rubicon. The Fox shocks have special valving to cope with high-speed bumps as well as a more robust shaft. The hydraulic bump stops, which are extra compression dampers built into the centre of the coil spring, prevents the front end from bottoming out over obstacles.

When stacked up against the Gladiator Rubicon, the Mojave also has more ground clearance (11.1 vs 11.6 inches), a better approach angle (43.4 vs 44.7 degrees), and a better breakover angle (20.3 vs 20.9 degrees).

The manually lockable rear differential also differs from the Rubicon in that it can be activated in four-wheel-drive high range instead of just in low range. You can also drive up to 80 km/hr in 4LO compared to 48 km/hr in the “regular” Wranglers.

How does it drive?

All of the impressive aforementioned equipment truly allows the Gladiator Mojave to truly stand out off the beaten path when compared to other Wranglers. But as far as on-road performance, both the Rubicon and Mojave Gladiators are essentially identical.

What you get is a ride that is surprisingly good (and actually more compliant than the Rubicon’s) considering its solid front and rear axles. Like other Gladiators, the Mojave shares its rear suspension with its corporate cousin, the impressive Ram 1500 pick-up truck. The result is a better ride than the four-door Wrangler and mid-sized pick-up truck rivals such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma. And the Gladiator Mojave carries over Jeep-caliber off-road skills bar none.

The 3.6-liter V6 endows the Gladiator with some serious oomph and decent towing capacity. Fuel economy is not stellar, but it is on par with competitors. Alas, the excellent 260-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6, available on other Gladiators, is not available with the Mojave trim.

Handling is on par with what you expect from a Jeep…a bit of an old school pick-up feel with slow steering that requires a fair amount of arm aerobatics to get the truck to turn. The Mojave’s Falken tires may be great off-road, but the knobbly tread blocks result in a fair amount of wandering on paved surfaces.

The amount of micro steering corrections constantly required can be tiring over a long drive, such as a road trip from Vancouver to Whistler and back. The Gladiator’s less aggressive tires were much better in this respect.

What about the interior and creature comforts?

Climbing into the Gladiator Mojave’s cabin is slightly more challenging due to its one-inch lift from the Rubicon. Once you’re in, you’ll find the same excellent dashboard layout, instrument cluster, and seats.

As with the Wrangler, a second gearshift lever is used to select the drive modes (2H, 4H, N, 4L). I liked that Jeep decided to stick with the tried-and-true transfer case lever versus a switch or knob.

There’s certainly a novelty about the vertical driving position in all Gladiators and Wranglers, one that only Mercedes-Benz G-wagen owners can relate to as well. Sightlines forward are excellent with the front corners of the Jeep easily visible. The front-facing trail camera (complete with a camera washer nozzle) comes in very handy for tight spots.

Out back, it’s a little more challenging to see the corners of the box, but the excellent rearview camera covers most of the blind spots sufficiently enough.

Whereas Rubicon-trimmed Gladiators and Wranglers receive red accents inside and out, Mojave models feature unique orange accents inside and out. Other than the “Mojave” stitching on the front seats, the rest of the excellent interior is a carry-over except for the absence of a Sway Bar disconnect button under the OffRoad+ button.

Jeep explains that since the Mojave was designed for higher speeds in the sandy desert, not boulder bashing, the sway bar disconnect wasn’t as necessary. On that same token, whereas you can lock the front differential in the Rubicon, the Mojave only lets you lock the rear differential.

Final thoughts

Like Jeep Gladiator Rubicon I reviewed back in 2019, the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave certainly passes the thumbs-up test amongst other Jeep Wrangler owners. Even amongst the general public, this Gobi Tan coloured Gladiator Mojave generates more stares-per-dollar than most vehicles I have tested.

When it comes to faults about Gladiator Mojave, aside from the noise and on-road wandering from the aggressive Falken tires, there was only one major fault I could find and it goes against all Gladiators.

The depth of the Jeep’s pick-up box limits what you can do with the truck. While it’s perfectly capable of hauling two dirtbikes in the back or even a four-wheeler, the box only features 35 cubic feet of volume. For most customers wanting a Gladiator, this is likely a non-issue. However, if you are one of the truck buyers who uses their pick-up’s bed rather often, you might want to look more towards a 2021 Ram 1500 Rebel.




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