Jeep Gladiator Mojave. Photo: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
I've rarely encountered as many thumbs-up, smiles and nods in a pickup truck as I did last week while driving the Jeep Gladiator Mojave.
Why it matters: Jeep built its reputation for crawling over rocks, but the Mojave was engineered for high-speed off-road performance, earning what its marketers say is Jeep's first "Desert Rated" badge of authenticity.
The big picture: There's a boom in desert-racing-inspired pickup trucks like the Ford F-150 Raptor, Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. Now, with a heavier-duty suspension for off-road thrills, the Gladiator is joining the fun.
I was dying to go off-roading in it, but had to settle for a two-hour drive to the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan's Thumb region. I folded back the Sunrider soft top for an easy open-air feeling but left the doors on for better acoustics while making calls over the truck's Bluetooth connection.
The Gladiator has surprisingly good road manners for a truck that's meant to fly over rough terrain.
- And with leather bucket seats, an 8.4-inch infotainment system plus active safety features like blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control and a collision warning system, it's equipped like most many premium passenger cars.
- But with a starting price of $43,875, the Gladiator can get expensive with all the add-ons. Mine topped out just shy of $60,000.
- And since the mid-sized Gladiator is a toy for most buyers, that's a pretty pricey toy.