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.

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Data: Compiled from state health departments by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

At least 15 states broke their single-day novel coronavirus infection records this week, according to state health department data reviewed by Axios.

The big picture: The number of coronavirus cases increased in the vast majority of states over the last week, and decreased in only two states plus the District of Columbia, Axios' Andrew Withershoop and Caitlin Owens report.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 2,818,588 — Total deaths: 129,584 — Total recoveries: 883,561 — Total tested: 34,213,497Map.
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  4. Public health: U.S. coronavirus infections hit record highs for 3 straight days.
  5. Politics: Trump extends PPP application deadlineKimberly Guilfoyle tests positive.
  6. World: Mexican leaders call for tighter border control as infections rise in U.S.
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In photos: America celebrates July 4 during global pandemic

Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

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The state of play: Axios' Stef Kight writes public parades and fireworks displays around much of the country are being canceled to prevent mass gatherings where the virus could spread. Hot-dog contests and concerts will play to empty stands and virtual audiences — all while American pride treads an all-time low.