2024 Jeep Gladiator Mojave review: Are you not entertained?

2024 Jeep Gladiator Mojave X, Photos courtesy Jeep

MOAB, Utah — Every spring, off-road enthusiasts gather on the otherworldly rocks of Moab for Easter Jeep Safari, a celebration of all things off-road and Jeep. And, every spring, Jeep brings some concept cars to show off and get feedback on what could be coming in the future.

Prior vehicles have included a two-door Wrangler fitted with a 700-horsepower Hellcat engine, and a fully electric Wrangler called the Magneto. This year, Jeep brought four new concept cars to the safari.

The Jeep “Low Down” concept

The loudest of them somehow squeezes 42-inch tires on Dana 60 axles with 5.38 gears and slaps a 392 Hemi V8 under the hood. They call it the Low Down because all this wild customization was done without a lift by simply removing all the parts that got in the way. With the enormous tires, there is very little clearance or suspension travel as the axle was essentially pegged against the bump stops — while by no means a practical machine, it turns heads.

Getting closer to reality, the Vacationeer is the concept closest to production. It’s a Grand Wagoneer — the brand’s full-size luxury SUV akin to the Lincoln Navigator or Cadillac Escalade — with a mild lift, giving it 35-inch off-road tires mounted to bead lock-capable wheels. A massive tent, large enough for the whole family, is mounted on the roof.

They should have called it the Canyonero…

In addition to the concepts, Jeep also brought a new production vehicle: the 2024 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X. For the first time, buyers can get a two-door Wrangler equipped with 35-inch tires from the factory. This highly capable Jeep will conquer 99% of trails straight out of the showroom with zero modifications needed. Five years ago, this would have been a concept unto itself. Unsurprisingly, the X runs into the $70,000 range, a breathtaking amount of money for a two-door SUV but competitive with other top-end off-roaders like the Ford Bronco Raptor.

Of course, in addition to the Jeep faithful, members of the automotive media are also in attendance to try out the new rides and experience the awe-inspiring rock-crawling at Moab — which, it must be said, might have been pushing the abilities of some of my media brethren.

Luckily, Jeep had equipped us with the most important off-road upgrade of all: certified 4×4 master trainer Nena Barlow as trail leader. Nena is the real deal; I’d follow her anywhere. After lunch, she led us on a trail ride of the 2024 Jeep Gladiator Mojave.

The Gladiator, Jeep’s pickup variant of the Wrangler, has been updated with a new infotainment system featuring a 12.3-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, side curtain airbags (!), and power seats for the first time.

It’s almost shocking that optional power seats are considered luxurious in a Jeep, but here we are. Jeep has seen some sales challenges lately, partially driven by steep competition from the Ford Bronco (without which the 35-inch Wrangler X would certainly not exist, for what it’s worth). Jeep has implemented some steep price increases in recent years, and this year’s changes seek to retreat from that strategy, as the company was eager to promote all the value its customers get.

The Jeep Gladiator (and Wrangler!) finally get a big screen.

As I started our trail run behind Nena in my Gladiator Mojave review unit, I almost immediately heard the truck repeatedly hitting the bump stops. For someone with a bit of rock-crawling experience, this was initially disconcerting. The Mojave features Fox racing shocks with a 2.5-inch remote reservoir and hydraulic bump stops. The result is a ride like I have never experienced. The sound is a weirdly metallic squish during a progressive soft landing.

Once you move beyond the bump sounds, the result is a confident ride at speeds that few vehicles can exhibit off-road. The Mojave is one step below the Rubicon in the Jeep Gladiator trim lineup, with the former forgoing a disconnecting sway bar and front locker. It is still a competent rock crawler, using its rear locker when needed, but it’s not quite as capable. The trade-off — there’s always a trade-off — is that the Rubicon could never handle the Mojave’s speed in the bumps and sand.

The Mojave climbed Moab’s famed Wipeout Hill with ease. While some less experienced off-roaders spun their tires, I could walk it right up with some gentle throttle control. Compared to the Wrangler Rubicon with the 4xe hybrid or 392 V8 engine, both featuring 470 lb-ft of torque and a 4:1 transfer case, the Mojave’s venerable Pentastar V6 makes some 260 lb-ft of torque via a 2.71:1 transfer case. It requires the driver to dig deeper into the gas pedal but delivers a smoother torque application. Still, the V6 provides just adequate power. A Baja race truck, it isn’t.

The Gladiator is often maligned for being neither a Jeep nor a truck, as it compromises the abilities of both in its quest to be good, but not great, at everything. But this drive finally showed me who this truck is for.

In the Mojave trim, it’s a desert runner toy that still allows you to rock crawl, tow a camper or haul trash to the dump. There are plenty of people in southern California for whom this makes perfect sense. You must be willing to accept the compromises of a Gladiator, but it will get the job done.

A well-equipped Mojave will easily run more than $70,000, and for that price, you could get a very well-equipped full-size truck territory or, ahem, the new Ford Ranger Raptor, which starts just under $60,000 and is much better equipped.

Still, the Gladiator is the Jeep of pickups (or is it the pickup of Jeeps?) and is finally starting to come into its own — and, unlike the Ford Ranger, you can take the top off if you want to bake under the bright desert sun.

I hope you brought your sunscreen.

Bryan Woods is a four-wheelin’ AI/ML engineer with a passion for community planning and economic development.