30 Minutes With: The 2019 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

Front view of 2019 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The 2019 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon.
Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Day in Monterey, California.

Needless to say, these are quick drives and brief impressions that we hope to be able to flesh out with a full review of the vehicle at some point in the near future.

Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley over Laureles Grade and back or off-road on the acclaimed Land Rover Experience on the grounds of Quail Lodge.

Round Five of the day for me was a ride in a 2019 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon on the Land Rover Experience off-road course.

Rear 3/4 view of 2019 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
2019 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon.
The Gladiator is Jeep's newest vehicle, prominently featured in our piece about the Jeep event onboard the USS Hornet two days before WAJ Media Day.   Yes, it looks like a Jeep Wrangler from the front and it has a pickup bed out back---but Fiat Chrysler did not just bolt a pickup onto the back of a Wrangler and call it good.  

Jeep is promoting the Gladiator as "100% Jeep. 100% Truck".  It shares some pieces with the best-in-class RAM 1500 pickup, but the frame is unique to the Gladiator.

With fellow WAJ member Norman Woo at the wheel and Fiat Chrysler's Western Region spokesperson Scott Brown, himself an avid off-roader riding shotgun to act as guide, we took the Gladiator on the Experience trail to prove that the additional length of the Gladiator doesn't for a moment hamper its abilities as a serious off-road machine.

Part of it, of course, is good old-fashioned Jeep ruggedness, but the Gladiator also comes with some impressive tech that helps you handle the roughest terrain.

A big favorite is the front facing camera that can help you see what's below your field of vision.  That rectangle in the lower right that says "Clean Camera"?   That's what it does.  Touch that button and a washer activates to clear dust, mud and debris from the camera so you always have a clear view of what's ahead.

The Range Rover Experience course is actually several courses.  For Media Day, there were two--blue (easy-ish) and red (bring a guide).  For the Gladiator, red was the only choice and though there are some seemingly okay trails on that course, Scott was looking for ways to get the Jeep into trouble so we could see that, for the Gladiator, it's not really trouble at all.

Scott got it high-centered on purpose---and Norman drove it right off.  100%  Jeep.  100% Truck.  100% mountain goat.

The 2019 Jeep Gladiator starts at $33,545 for the Sport model.  The serious off-roader Rubicon like we drove begins at $43,545, but demand is high in these early days and some dealers are taking advantage, asking (and getting) well above sticker price. 

We'll have a complete review of a Gladiator soon.  But I'll be honest---based on the quick ride on the USS Hornet and half an hour as a passenger on the course at the Quail---I want one.