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Desert Rated Jeep Gladiator Mojave Pre-Empts Ford Bronco Raptor Pickup

Its 2.72:1 transfer case means torque for sand dunes, up to 50 mph in Lo gear.

Todd LassaWriterThe ManufacturerPhotographer

CHICAGO—Jeep's new Desert Rated lineup makes its debut at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show with the Thursday unveiling of the new Gladiator Mojave. It's a Wrangler-style pickup that can climb rocks, and it serves notice to Ford and that company's plan for a Raptor-style Bronco pickup in its future lineup: Jeep will not cede desert-running to its crosstown rival.

The Gladiator Mojave features a one-inch lift kit, a 44-degree approach angle, steel front skidplates, orange shadow lettering in place of Rubicon red, a 2.72:1 transfer case that allows speeds of up to 50 mph in Lo-range, and a locker that works in Hi range. This Mojave launches a new lineup first announced at Fiat Chrysler's Capital Markets Day in Bolocco, Italy, in June 2018, before Jeep claimed two class wins with the Gladiator at last November's Baja 1000 off-road desert race.

"The Gladiator Mojave is something we've been working on since the beginning" of the pickup's development, said Pete Milosavlevski, chief engineer for Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator. It goes on sale in the second quarter of this year.

While a Jeep Wrangler Mojave is most certainly in Jeep's future, creating such a vehicle is not simply a matter of using the same specs and equipment. The Gladiator is built on a Wrangler front suspension, but with its frame and rear end derived from the Ram 1500 truck. The Mojave comes with one engine option, the 280-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, offered with a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.

Beside the orange-accent Mojave lettering, there's also a new hood with a scoop, though the scoop is blocked to protect the alternator behind it from sand. Owners can remove the baffle if they so desire.

The Gladiator Mojave comes with reinforced solid 10-millimeter front and rear axles, cast-iron knuckles, and reinforced engine and transmission mounts. Jeep re-tuned the chassis for more nimble handling, and the Mojave comes with 2.5-inch aluminum-body Fox shocks with remote reservoirs, which suffer no fade and have "the right amount of compliance," Milosavlevski said. Hydraulic jounce bumpers control the Gladiator Mojave over the most severe inputs and prevent it from bottoming out. The Mojave is "slightly firmer" on paved roads compared with the Gladiator Rubicon.

Falken Wildpeak Mud-terrain 33-inch (outer-diameter) tires have the best traction in the sand, Milosavlevski added. Maximum towing capacity is unchanged at 7,650 pounds.

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Chicago show truck is painted Granite Crystal, though the model range's entire paint palette is available. Front seats are "more aggressive," according to Jeep, with integrated bolsters to hold passengers comfortably in place. The upgraded seats come in leather or cloth, with orange accent stitching and embroidered Mojave logos, in a choice of black, or as shown, Steel Gray—the idea is to reflect light differently than black and be more comfortable under the desert sun.

For more Jeep action at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, check out the High Altitude variants of the Jeep Gladiator and Wrangler.