2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Is Your Desert-Running Jeep Pickup

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Kicking Up Sand In Desert

Manufacturer images

By Aaron Bragman

Jeep unveiled a new trim level for the 2020 Gladiator pickup truck at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show aimed at those jonesing for a convertible Ford F-150 Raptor. The new 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave is the first of Jeep's Desert Rated series. Just as Trail Rated Jeeps go through a qualification for low-speed off-road readiness, the Desert Rated models go through a multistep evaluation for high-speed desert running. Jeep created five areas of evaluation for ride control and stability, traction, ground clearance, maneuverability and "desert prowess." By comparison, in a Trail Rated Jeep must qualify in areas of water fording, traction, ground clearance, maneuverability and articulation.

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The Mojave includes a lot of uniquely tuned parts meant specifically to help the truck survive high-speed desert running, which means jumps, dunes, hard landings and traversing soft ground. This lifted Gladiator has a 1-inch front lift above a typical Gladiator Sport, putting it half an inch higher in front than the Rubicon and giving it a quarter inch more overall ground clearance. There are new 2.5-inch aluminum, internal-bypass Fox off-road shock absorbers with remote reservoirs all around, and underneath are skid plates and sand slider side rails. Also, upgraded axles and 10-millimeter steel track bars front and rear, the beefiest of any of the Gladiator or Wrangler lineup. The frame has been strategically reinforced, as have the motor mounts, and industry-exclusive Fox hydraulic jounce bumpers have been fitted up front to help dampen suspension impacts.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Shocks

The powertrain is the standard 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar engine that comes with all Gladiators, mated to either an eight-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. The max-tow cooling system comes standard in order to aid in engine cooling, but no changes were necessary to the V-6's air intake to prevent sand ingestion. Jeep engineers said their testing showed that none was getting past the airbox even in thick airborne sand conditions.

Unlike the Rubicon, the Mojave will use the Command-Trac four-wheel-drive system with its 2.72:1 transfer case instead of the Rubi's more aggressive low-speed 4:1 Rock-Trac system. The idea behind a Desert Rated vehicle is that it needs to be quick and able to maintain engine rpm and speed across soft terrain. This will allow the Mojave to see 4-Low operative at speeds up to 50 mph (30 mph is the max speed for 4-Low in a Rubicon).

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Cresting A Sand Hill

The Mojave will also let you lock the rear differential in 4-High; normally you can only lock a Gladiator or Wrangler in 4-Low. The electronic Off-Road Mode Plus is also included, which changes throttle response and fully disengages the electronic stability control, just like it does in a Rubicon. Tires are not mud terrains as you might expect, but instead they're less-knobby 33-inch Falken Wildpeak all-terrains, which Jeep says do much better in sand than the chonky BF Goodrich M/Ts or Goodyear DuraTracs seen on most of Jeep's off-road models.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Tire Pushing Through Sand

Unique Appearance

The Mojave will have a unique look as well, starting with the new Desert Rated badge. Whereas Trail Rated vehicles tend to have red accents, orange is the chosen color for Desert Rated vehicles.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Exterior Desert Rated Badge

There's a new hood up front with a removable panel that could accommodate a hood scoop for cooling, but in its from-the-factory form, it's not open to the engine bay, according to Jeep engineers. The bumpers are standard Rubicon-style, but not three-piece models. The added weight from those styles prevented Jeep from including them from the factory, but you'd better believe there'll be accessory bumpers for the Mojave with removable endcaps. Inside, the interior isn't all that different, but new Steel Gray leather seats will be available — Jeep says that the light interior color helps keep the truck cool when sitting out in the desert sun without a top. The seats themselves are slightly different with bigger upper bolsters to keep you in place and embroidered Mojave logos to set the trim level apart.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Front Seats

The First of a New Desert Breed

The Gladiator Mojave is apparently the answer to something that's been demanded from Jeep customers for some time: a high-speed capable factory desert runner that should be an interesting competitor for the trick Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 (albeit one that's significantly more luxurious and chockfull of features). The current Gladiator Rubicon does OK at high speed, but you can tell from the way it lands after a jump that its front suspension isn't happy being treated this way. No pricing has yet been released for the Mojave, but it's considered to be at least the equal of the Rubicon in terms of positioning and equipment, so it's safe to expect a price easily as hefty as a Rubi's $45,370 starting price with destination, if not more. The Gladiator Mojave's release date is the second quarter of 2020.

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