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REVIEW: 2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave:

Is This The Best Gladiator For Daily Driving?

The 2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave is the brand’s first vehicle to wear the new “Desert Rated” badge, as the brand looks to expand past its “Trail Rated” portfolio and capture the hearts of those who love high-speed off-road racing rather than rock-crawling. Recently, we got to spend a week behind the wheel of the new Gladiator Mojave and put it through the paces of daily-driving and everyday use. So what does the Mojave stack up against its “Trail Rated” brother, the Gladiator Rubicon?

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).

For 2021, the Gladiator Mojave enters the new model year unchanged. With the same starting Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $46,180 (excluding destination) as the Rubicon, so you would have to be foolish not to think that the two models wouldn’t be cross-shopped by potential Gladiator buyers. But both couldn’t be further apart from one another.

Our Mojave tester had just over $13,500 in options, including the 850RE 8-speed automatic transmission, Trailer Tow Package, Forward-Facing TrailCam, Body-Color Fender Flares, and Active Safety Group which includes ParkSense rear park assist, cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring. Other options included Keyless Entry and Remote Start, Tri-Fold Soft Tonneau Cover, and the Cargo Management System which adds a weatherproof 115-volt outlet in the box, LED Bed Lighting, and slidable Trail-Rail tie-down system.

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).

Starting off with powertrain, both models come standard with the award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with Engine Start/Stop (ESS) under the hood. Both are offered with a standard 6-speed manual transmission, although an 8-speed automatic is optional. Pentastar models deliver 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, which is in both the Rubicon and Mojave and makes the Jeep feel sluggish and underwhelming powered. Our tester was mated to the 850RE 8-speed automatic, which provided smooth shifting on the highway and during city driving. However, the Gladiator is in desperate need of more power.

The Pentastar is adequate, but this bullish 4,974 lb pickup could use a V8 transplant to liven things up. Luckily there are aftermarket options like America’s Most Wanted 4×4 in Holly, Michigan, which swap out the Pentastar for HEMI offerings. Unfortunately, the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 is not an option in the Mojave, as this is supposed to be a high-performance version of the Gladiator. If you want diesel power, the Rubicon is the way to go.

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).

During our journey throughout the week with Mojave, the Pentastar averaged around 18 mpg in mixed driving conditions between city, backroads, and highway driving. The Pentastar proved to be quite thirsty despite the Gladiator being a midsize pickup. Of course, with high axle ratios, large aggressive off-road tires, and not being the most aerodynamic thing on the road, 18 mpg wasn’t too bad considering. However, our much larger long-term Ram 1500 Laramie Sport Crew Cab 4×4 with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8, returns about the same average fuel economy on the same roads.

The all-around driving experience of the Gladiator Mojave on blacktop is very acceptable. The 33-inch Falken Wildpeak All-Terrain tires can be a bit noisy, but again this is built for the sand. The question is, how many of these Mojave pickups will make it there. We did notice that the Mojave (just like the Rubicons will have tested) has a wondering motion when traveling on the pavement at speed of 45 mph. It a motion that the truck likes to feel disengaged from the steering for about a 5 mph range and likes to track all over the lane, instead of where you are steering the vehicle down the road.

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).

One of the best features of the Gladiator Mojave has to be the specially-tuned FOX™ 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks with external reservoirs. These shocks provide a much better ride on pavement as well as traveling fast down backroads when compared to its Rubicon sibling. The Jeep engineering team has also added FOX front hydraulic jounce bumpers, a reinforced frame, a 1-inch front suspension lift, a front skid plate, and stronger axles with cast-iron steering knuckles to the Mojave’s equipment list.

The package seems more well rounded than the Rubicon and provides an amazing ride when traveling down dirt roads in excess of 55 mph. When you press the “Off-Road Plus” button on the center stack, the throttle is adjusted, transmission shift points, and traction control are recalibrated for better performance unleashing the Mojave’s potential for high-speed passes on the sand or as we found on country backroads.

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).

The 1-inch front suspension lift gives the Mojave a 44.7-degree approach angle, which is the best of any Gladiator in the lineup. As for break over angles (20.9-degrees) and ground clearance (11.6 inches) are best in the Gladiator fleet as well. The Rubicon does have a better departure angle by half an inch though.

When it comes to four-wheel-drive (4×4) systems, the Mojave takes a different approach than the Rubicon. While the Rubicon features a Rock-Trac full-time two-speed transfer case providing a 4:1 low-range gear ratio for excellent trail exploring. But when your mission is high-speed desert running, Jeep went with the Sport and Overland’s Selec-Trac two-speed transfer case with full-time 4×4 and delivering a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio. Our tester featured a 52.6:1 crawl ratio, giving the Mojave plenty of ability to tackle a large dune or most obstacles on the desert floor.

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).

There is no doubt that the Gladiator Mojave is one sharp-looking pickup. No matter where we took our tester, we were having people come up to us and asking about it, as well as making comments about its rugged looks. Its unique performance hood with center scoop, bright orange tow hooks, and its 17-inch x 7.5-inch low-gloss black aluminum wheels give it a much more aggressive appearance than the rest of the Gladiator lineup. Our tester featured the optional body-colored fenders and Jeep Performance Parts step sand slider rails which even enhanced the look even further.

When it comes to faults about the exterior, there is only one major fault we could find and goes against all Gladiators. The depth of the pickup box limits what you can do to certain things with the truck. While it’s perfectly capable of hauling two dirtbikes in the back or even a four-wheeler, the pickup box only features 35 cubic feet of volume. Even the 2011 Dodge Dakota had more cargo volume than the Gladiator in its short box configuration. So if you are one of the truck buyers who uses their pickup box often, you might want to look more towards a 2021 Ram 1500 Rebel.

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).

When it comes to the interior, it is a surprisingly welcoming place. Borrowing much of its interior from the Wrangler Unlimited (JL), the Gladiator features a very comfortable layout for the driver and their passengers. While some short-legged persons will find it challenging to climb up into the Gladiator Mojave thanks to the highly placed entry points, the interior is quite pleasant once you climb in.

Presented with sporty orange accents following the “Desert Rated” orange theme from the exterior, our tester featured aggressive cloth front seats with integrated upper bolsters with orange accent stitching and orange Mojave logos embroidered into them. The surround placed around the Uconnect touchscreen is made of a rubberized material. All the knobs and switches feature the same kind of rubber-like material on them, which is a nice touch.

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).

We did find that the Gladiator Mojave’s interior features more hard plastics than most of the vehicles in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) current portfolio, but the Gladiator (like the Wrangler) the interior is made to brave the elements, be hosed out, and be rugged enough to take abuse. So don’t expect some of the nicer materials found on the vehicles in the same price class as the Gladiator. 

As a 6-foot, 1-inch person, I found getting into a perfect driving position difficult to get into. The seats are manual adjusting, due to the Gladiator ability of water fording and electrics being absent to achieve its benchmarks, I found it difficult to find true comfort due to not being able to lower the seat. However, there are some aftermarket options out there, but they prove to be pricey. Once I found a seating position, I could live with, the Gladiator felt very pleasant to drive. 

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).

A pleasant drive indeed, when the warm Michigan fall, allowed us to remove the front two Freedom panels and allowed us some quick open-air excitement. Removing the front panels was a breeze, however, it took us a few times of trying to understand the confusing directions on the storage bag of how to place the panels in just right, to allow us to zip up the bag with ease. The rear panel covering the rear seats and the cargo area requires some tools for removal which are included with the vehicle.

Our 11-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, found the back seat of the Gladiator to be quite comfortable. It is roomy enough for most adults, however, I found myself having limited legroom when sitting behind where I normally sit in the driver seat. The headroom in the rear was excellent and the back seat has ample shoulder room for two adults. Three medium-sized adults could fit across the back seat, but don’t expect much room for them to move around on the trip.

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).

Overall, we highly enjoyed our time with the Gladiator Mojave. Like all Gladiator models, you are paying a premium for the Jeep lifestyle when compared to other midsized pickups as our tester had a $58,860 price tag. While that is the same amount you can spend on a half-ton, the Gladiator gets more looks, has that complete open-air capability, and that famed Jeep ruggedness you can’t get in anything else on the market.

If you are in the market for a Gladiator and are torn between a Rubicon or Mojave, there is something you should keep in mind. If you are an avid rock-crawler and planning on taking your Gladiator off-road often then the Rubicon is for you. But if you are looking for something to take to the dunes, has a better overall everyday driving experience thanks to its awesome FOX™ shocks, and has a more aggressive look, then the Mojave is right up your alley.

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave. (MoparInsiders).
  2021 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon 2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave
Engine: 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 3.6-liter Pentastar V6
Horsepower: 285 hp (209 kW) at 6,400 rpm 285 hp (209 kW) at 6,400 rpm
Torque: 260 lb.-ft. (353 N•m) at 4,400 rpm 260 lb.-ft. (353 N•m) at 4,400 rpm
Transmission: D478 6-Speed Manual  D478 6-Speed Manual
Optional Transmission: 850RE 8-Speed Automatic 850RE 8-Speed Automatic
EPA Fuel Economy MPG
(city/hwy/combined):
16/23/19 – Manual 16/23/19 – Manual
  17/22/18 – Automatic 17/22/18 – Automatic
Optional Engine: 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6
  260 hp (194 kW) @ 3,600 rpm
  442 lb.-ft. (600 N•m) @ 1,400-2,800 rpm
Transmission: 8HP75 8-Speed Automatic
EPA Fuel Economy MPG
(city/hwy/combined):
20/25/22
Transfer Case: NV241OR (MP1622OR) Rock-Trac MP3022 Selec-Trac
Type: Standard — Part-time
Available — Full-time
Full-time
Operating Modes: 2WD High; 4WD High; Neutral; 4WD Low 2WD High; Auto; 4WD High; Neutral; 4WD Low
Low Range Ratio: 4.0:1 4.0:1
Axle Ratio: 4.10 4.10
Axles:    
Front: 3rd generation Dana heavy-duty axles 3rd generation Dana heavy-duty axles
Differential Type: Tru-Lok electronic locking Open
Axle Ratio: 4.10 4.10
Rear:    
Differential Type: Tru-Lok electronic locking Tru-Lok electronic locking
Axle Ratio: 4.10 4.10
Suspension:    
Front: Solid axle, link coil, leading arms, track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar Solid axle, link coil, leading arms, track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar,
FOX hydraulic jounce bumper
Stabilizer Bar: Electronic Sway-bar Disconnect System — standard
Shock Type: High-pressure gas-charged FOX aluminum monotube shock
absorbers with hydraulic rebound stop
FOX 2.5-in. diameter aluminum internal bypass shock absorbers
with external reservoirs
Rear: Solid axle, link coil, trailing arms, track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar Solid axle, link coil, trailing arms, track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Shock Type: High-pressure, gas-charged FOX aluminum monotube shock FOX 2.5-in.diameter aluminum internal bypass shock absorbers with
external reservoirs
Clearances:    
Approach Angle (degrees): 43.4 44.7
Breakover Angle (degrees): 20.3 20.9
Departure Angle (degrees): 26 25.5
Ground Clearance (inches): 11.1 11.6
Curb Weight:    
Automatic transmission (lbs./kg) 5,072 (2,301) 4,974 (2,256)
Manual transmission (lbs./kg) 5,050 (2,291) 4,952 (2,246)
Wheels:    
Type & Material: Fully painted with Granite Crystal aluminum Fully painted with Low Gloss Global Black cast aluminum
Size: 17 x 7.5 in. 17 x 7.5 in.
Optional Wheels:    
Type & Material: Painted pocket with Mid Gloss paint and polished cast-aluminum Fully painted, polish / painted textured Low Gloss Black cast aluminum
Size: 17 x 7.5 in. 17 x 7.5 in.
Tires:    
Size & Type: LT285/70R17C LT285/70R17C
Mfr & Model: Falken Wildpeak A/T Falken Wildpeak A/T
Revs per mile (km): 617 (383) 617 (383)
Optional Tires:    
Size & Type: LT285/70R17C LT285/70R17C
Mfr & Model: Falken Wildpeak M/T Falken Wildpeak M/T
Revs per mile (km): 617 (383) 617 (383)

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave Image Gallery:

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Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only a Co-Editor for MoparInsiders.com, 5thGenRams.com, and HDRams.com but an automotive photographer. He is an avid fan of offshore powerboat racing, which he travels the country to take part in.

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I'll take a RUBICON....in Sting-Grey with a Diesel....but only because the Mojave does not get the diesel's Mojo.

Too bad no stick shift offered with the efficient oil burner.

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I'll take a RUBICON....in Sting-Grey with a Diesel....but only because the Mojave does not get the diesel's Mojo.

Too bad no stick shift offered with the efficient oil burner.

Nobody buys a stick in the U.S.

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