By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.
After months of waiting for my ordered Jeep Gladiator Launch Edition, I was dying to throw on a few “Barlow” modifications and hit the trail, and I needed to answer one question: How does the Gladiator measure up? Though I have argued that the Gladiator should be compared to other midsize trucks, like the Tacoma, Ranger, and Colorado, in the end I stuck with what I know best and sized up the Wrangler and Power Wagon against the Gladiator.
The Launch Edition I ordered, named Sparrow, is just a fully loaded Rubicon model with a proprietary bronze badge on the tailgate denoting that it is one of 4,190 built. All of the features on the Launch Edition are available to order—except the badge. I am lucky enough to also own both a 2018 JL Unlimited Rubicon with the 2.0 Turbo eTorque (Ginger) and a 2017 Power Wagon (Ellie). The Wrangler, Power Wagon, and Gladiator have all received some mild modifications, including suspension, tire, and wheel upgrades. As most of you already know, all of these rigs come with factory axle lock and power sway bar disconnect.
A “real-world” test drive like this means having my usual 500 pounds of equipment and tools, along with what I consider a few basic upgrades, like extra undercarriage armor, a suspension lift, and larger tires. On the Gladiator, we installed the Mopar 2-inch suspension lift and 35-inch Falken Wildpeak A/T3W tires. I also added the extra 200 pounds of my oversized rooftop tent held up by Thule Xsporter Pro bed rack.
Behind the wheel, I noticed the usual Wrangler wind noise and splatted insects collecting on the windshield, but her longer wheelbase made her track better than the Wrangler. On the trail, it was a dream. Only a few tight turns gave notice to the extra wheelbase compared to the Wrangler, but it was still far more maneuverable between the rocks and trees than my Power Wagon. Although I had added so much weight to her, she did not seem to feel it much, either in acceleration or ride quality. My fuel range combined was 16-17 mpg overall, with an average of about 10 mpg while on the easy 4×4 portions of the Rimrocker Trail that climb from 4,500 to 9,500 feet in elevation.
As for my expectations of the Gladiator overall, I must say it surpassed them. I was concerned that driving the Gladiator would feel like settling for mediocre capabilities in between the Wrangler and Power Wagon. It did not. The Gladiator made her own place and name. After 1,000 miles and five days behind the wheel, I came to the amazing conclusion that I didn’t even notice how comfortable I was all week. Sparrow had served as my overlanding rig with seamless grace and ease. Like a perfectly attentive butler ready to provide whatever assistance you might require for your adventure, it seemed like everything fit perfectly, worked together perfectly, and even provided a few things I loved and didn’t know I needed. Adaptive cruise control, front camera, select speed control, Off-Road Plus—all features not found on any of the other rigs in this comparison, except the Gladiator.