Last year, the Jeep® brand launched the Gladiator Mojave, the first Jeep vehicle to carry the brand’s new “Desert Rated” badge. The Gladiator Mojave represents high-speed off-road capability and performance while traversing grueling desert and sand environments. So while the model was made available here in North America, one would think that Jeep would be offering the Mojave in the middle-east, an environment for which it was built. However, it wasn’t until this past month, that Jeep Middle-East announced the introduction of the vehicle without its Mojave name.
Enter the Gladiator Sand Runner, virtually identical to the Mojave sans the name. Why? We assume Jeep wanted the Middle East region not to think they were excluding them as the Mojave Desert for which the vehicle was named for is located in California. Gotta love politics, right?
To earn the Desert Rated badge, Jeep engineers equipped the Gladiator Sand Runner with specially-tuned high-performance FOX™ 64mm (2.5-inch) internal bypass shocks to maximize handling, comfort, and bottom-out resistance on high-speed sand runs. The FOX shocks contain internal passages that allow fluid to bypass the piston through regulated ports as it moves through the suspension travel. The result is a predictable ride over normal off-road driving conditions, with the ability to ramp up damping force in extreme use.
We found the U.S.-spec Gladiator Mojave to have a much softer and comfortable ride than the Rubicon when we had one for a week late last year.
Front and rear external shock reservoirs keep shock fluid cool, preventing shock fade during long runs through the hot desert at high speed. The same kind of military-grade suspension fluid used in off-road racing shocks maintains performance at extreme temperatures.
Industry-first FOX front hydraulic jounce bumpers, which combine race-proven technology with new, cutting-edge features, add additional damping force as the suspension reaches maximum compression to soften impacts and prevent bottoming out in harsh off-road situations. A 13-mm (1/2-inch) increase in the Sand Runner’s track provides additional stability and allows for the packaging of the larger shocks. Jeep engineers also reinforced both the frame and axle to handle rough desert terrains at high speed.
The Off-Road Plus button allows drivers to take the Gladiator to the next level of tractive capabilities. With the push of the button, the driver triggers adjustments to the throttle, transmission shift points and traction control for peak performance on higher speed passes on sand terrain, as well as during low-speed soft sand and rock crawling conditions. In addition, for the first time on a Jeep, the Off-Road Plus drive mode on the Gladiator Sand Runner enables drivers to lock their rear axle at high speeds while in the high range, “4H”.
Nothing is different under the hood either. The Sand Runner is powered by the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that delivers 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque and features engine stop-start (ESS) technology. Unlike the North American models, only the 8-speed 850RE automatic transmission is available.
The Gladiator Sand Runner boasts an impressive crawl ratio of 52.6:1– making cresting a dune or scaling any obstacle on the trail easy.
Unlike the Rubicon model which uses the Rock-Trac NV241OR two-speed transfer case, the Gladiator Sand Runner uses the Command-Trac 4×4 system found on the Overland model. The Command-Trac system features a two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio and heavy-duty third-generation Dana 44 front and rear axles with a 4.10:1 rear axle ratio and electronic-locking rear differential as standard equipment.
The reason for the choice of the Command-Trac system is because it provides higher 4LO (low range) operating speeds for climbing sand dunes and other challenging desert events.
The Sand Runner also has a best-in-class approach angle of 44.7 degrees, a break-over angle of 20.9 degrees, a departure angle of 25.5 degrees, and a best-in-class ground clearance of 295mm (11.6 inches) to further enhance its off-road credentials.
Just like the Mojave, the Sand Runner features more aggressive front seats with integrated upper bolsters to hold occupants comfortably in place during high-speed off-road driving. The upgraded seats are available in leather or cloth with orange accent stitching and embroidered Sand Runner logos.
The vehicle features a 25-mm (1-inch) front suspension lift, a performance hood with center scoop, a unique hood decal, orange tow hooks, unique 17-inch x 7.5-inch wheels, and can be equipped with optional Jeep Performance Parts heavy-duty side steps from Mopar.
“Already the world’s most off-road capable midsize pickup, we have now applied Jeep’s exceptionally high standards for off-road performance to the extreme desert conditions of the Middle East with the Gladiator Sand Runner,” said Marco Melani, Managing Director for American Brands at Stellantis Middle East. “Developed and tested in some of the world’s mos,t harsh and rugged regions, the Jeep Gladiator Sand Runner was built in the desert, for the desert, delivering a new level of capability with the ability to master challenging rock and sand terrains with ease.”
The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Sand Runner is currently available for order in the Middle East region.