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2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Review

Answering calls for a rugged 4x4 pickup tuned for high-speed desert driving.

2 weeks ago
Nicole Wakelin
Contributor
PROS
  • Rugged and capable 4x4
  • Improved road manners
  • Strong resale value
CONS
  • Limited bed capacity
  • Wandering on-road steering feel
  • V6 engine can be thirsty

The Jeep Gladiator Mojave is a rugged five-passenger 4×4 pickup truck in a special trim that has been tuned for high-speed driving across desert terrain. Introduced as an all-new model for the 2020 model year, the Gladiator is a pick-up version of the iconic Jeep Wrangler. The two are nearly identical mechanically, but the Gladiator has been fitted with an open pickup bed to offer more cargo capacity and utility than its closed sibling. The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave starts at about $33,500.

Gladiator Mojave Exterior

The Gladiator Mojave is the first Jeep to wear the Desert Rated badge. This badge means the Gladiator Mojave is designed for high-speed off-road driving in the harshest of environments. It off-road performance upgrades ensure it can manage the most punishing desert terrain. The Gladiator Mojave rides higher than the rest of the lineup with a one-inch front suspension lift and a total of 11.6 inches of ground clearance. This makes it better at handling desert terrain at high speeds. It also has a slightly wider track for added stability, which allowed for the addition of larger shocks that improve passenger comfort and resist bottoming-out at speed when you’re cruising over the dunes.

Along with its capability off-road, the Gladiator Mojave retains the versatility of a truck. The bed might look short tacked onto the back of that Wrangler-like cab, but it can manage a payload of 1,200 pounds. Its compact dimensions make it easier to maneuver through tricky off-road terrain and are a bonus for those who drive in congested urban environments where space is at a premium. 

Gladiator Mojave Interior

The interior of the Gladiator Mojave is designed to handle the rigors of off-road driving with several features that are unique to this trim. It has sport seats for front passengers with heavier bolstering to help hold you in place during more aggressive off-road drives. There’s also a competition-inspired steering wheel that provides better grip, so the driver has better control. There’s room for three in back, but the fit is better for only two, especially if you’re bouncing through the desert. 

The Mojave features the Uconnect infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto with the option for an 8.4-inch touchscreen that adds navigation. It’s one of the easiest systems out there right now and takes little time to master. While the 7-inch screen is fine, the larger 8.4-inch screen is worth the upgrade, especially when you’re using the camera to see the terrain around you in tight quarters.

The infotainment system also features a selection of apps including Off-Road pages. Here you’ll find details about steering angle, pitch, roll, ride height and the traction management system. It lets you see exactly what’s happening with your Gladiator, so you know just how aggressively it’s leaning in one direction or the other even if you don’t quite feel it from the driver’s seat. If your plans call for serious off-roading, then the Mojave has the capability and features to keep you on track.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Review

Gladiator Mojave Powertrain

The Gladiator Mojave is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque paired to a six-speed manual transmission. Fear not if you can’t drive a manual as there’s the option for the same engine paired to an eight-speed automatic. There’s plenty of power for climbing dunes or towing a trailer in the Gladiator Mojave. It’s a capable engine that doesn’t strain when pressed for power and it has smooth shifts that won’t jar passengers under hard acceleration.

Jeep recommends 87 octane fuel, so you don’t have to spend extra money on premium gas. It gets an EPA-estimated 19 mpg combined with either transmission, which isn’t great fuel economy so plan accordingly. Also be aware that the minute you go off-road, that number will likely fall as you occasionally lose traction in rough terrain.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Review

Gladiator Mojave Driving Experience

The Gladiator Mojave has quite a mission. It needs to be a pickup truck that can tow a trailer and manage a payload, an off-roader that can handle crawling over rocks, and a desert racer ready to blast across the dunes. Does it pull off that trifecta? Yes.

As a midsize pickup, the Gladiator Mojave has the capability to manage cargo with a 1,200-pound payload rating and a 6,000-pound maximum tow rating. It does so without complaint, easily getting up to highway speeds even with a trailer and maintaining its composure without feeling sloppy or uncontrolled.

Off-road it has the capability to handle rocks and deep mud just as easily. This isn’t a pickup truck that makes you wonder if you’ll get stuck. Instead, it makes you wonder if you have a tow rope to pull out the other guy. Its high ride height and capable 4×4 system make it easy to go off-road. It lets experienced drivers push their skills and has the tools to help newer drivers learn the ropes. Take it to the desert and the high-performance shocks, front skid plate, and reinforced frame make it fun to bring the Gladiator up to speed. The Mojave is designed for high-speed driving and it feels that way with great control even over soft sand and across undulating desert surfaces. It resists bottoming out, which is easier on your truck and easier on your passengers. The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave is a true desert-ready pickup that can handle serious off-road adventures.

On-road, the heavy duty suspension and burly mechanicals add weight and reduce responsiveness. Acceleration from 0-60 takes about 8 seconds (slower than most minivans) and we’ve noticed that the steering feels loose and floaty on the open highway. Most owners consider those acceptable compromises for the vehicle’s off-road prowess.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Review

2021 Jeep Gladiator Pricing

The base Gladiator starts at around $33,500 and the line tops out at around $52,000. It is offered in four trims, including the Mojave, along with several special editions:

  • Sport (starts at about $33,500) – This is the base trim with a 5-inch infotainment screen, manual windows and door locks, and cloth seats. 
  • Overland (starts at about $40,500) – Upgrades include power windows and door locks, tinted windows, and side steps.
  • Mojave (starts at about $44,000) – The only Desert Rated trim, upgrades include a front suspension lift, upgraded shocks, and sand slider side rails
  • Rubicon (starts at about $44,000) – This is the most off-road focused trim with sway-bar disconnect, rock rails, and both front and rear locking differentials 

If you are looking for a more accurate idea of pricing, you can build and price a Gladiator Mojave on Jeep’s official web site.

Gladiator Mojave Best Features

The best feature of the Gladiator Mojave is its enhanced suspension system. Driving at high speed through the desert presents a unique set of challenges including whoops that can have a vehicle catching air and coming down hard. The high-performance shocks and jounce bumpers that are standard on the Mojave resist bottoming out while still allowing plenty of suspension travel so you can drive at speed with confidence.

What is Our Favorite Version of the Gladiator?

You can’t go wrong with the Mojave (starts at about $44,000) if your plans call for high-speed, off-road driving. It has the features needed to make desert racing fun. Those who don’t have such plans should consider the Overland (starts at about $40,500). It has ample off-road capability and a comfortable interior at a more affordable price.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Review

Gladiator Mojave Notable Safety Features

The Gladiator comes with a limited number of standard safety features, so you’ll need to add one of several available packages to get more advanced features. The split of feature availability puts blind-spot monitoring in the Jeep Active Safety Group and forward collision warning with active braking in the Jeep Advanced Safety Group. These are both key features that are available on all trims, but unfortunately in two different options packages.

Who Should Buy a 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave?

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave targets a specific kind of off-roader who wants the capability to head off the pavement along with the cargo versatility of a truck. Not everyone lives in desert country and among those that do, not all of them are interested in high-speed driving in the desert. Those who are of a mind to sprint across the dunes will find the Gladiator Mojave an ideal choice. While there are other trucks designed for desert driving, there’s not another option that also adds the open-air experience of the Gladiator with its removable doors and roof.

CarExpert’s Take on the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave takes the Jeep brand in a new direction in keeping with its off-road heritage. There are plenty of Jeep options and even mid-size trucks that can handle off-roading. There aren’t many that are tailor-made for handling desert driving.

The Gladiator Mojave is that option with the features to handle both rugged terrain and desert sands. It also has the towing and payload to make it a versatile truck and open-air driving you won’t find elsewhere. The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave gives off-road desert drivers a truck option that is sure to please.

The Gladiator Mojave is that option with the features to handle both rugged terrain and desert sands. It also has the towing and payload to make it a versatile truck and open-air driving you won’t find elsewhere. The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave gives off-road desert drivers a truck option that is sure to please.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Review

Gladiator Mojave Competitors to Consider

  • Ford Ranger
  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • Toyota Tacoma
  • GMC Canyon
  • Nissan Frontier

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OVERALL RATING7.7
Show Breakdown
Cost of Ownership 8.1
Ride Comfort 7.1
Safety 7.6
Fit for Purpose 8.7
Handling Dynamics 7.2
Interior Practicality and Space 8
Fuel Efficiency 6.9
Value for Money 7.9
Performance 7.9
Technology Infotainment 7.6