Dune-bashing 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave pickup arrives

Ford’s F-150 Raptor has shown there’s serious interest in trucks capable of desert racing, and now Jeep has thrown its hat into the ring with a desert-rated Gladiator unveiled on Thursday at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show.

Called the Gladiator Mojave, the high-speed off-roader is Jeep’s first desert-rated model and there’s even a new badge to go with it. But this isn’t just a bit of marketing. The “Desert Rated” badge on the back of the Gladiator Mojave marks serious upgrades made to the truck to ensure it handles desert and sand environments with ease.

It starts with the suspension, and here Jeep has wisely turned to one of the best in the business: Fox. The Gladiator Mojave features Fox 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks renowned for their ability to deliver comfort in normal driving and firmness when on rougher terrain. But Jeep goes further by also installing Fox front hydraulic jounce bumpers which add additional damping.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave, 2020 Chicago Auto Show

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave, 2020 Chicago Auto Show

To fit the upgraded suspension parts, Jeep needed to increase the Gladiator’s track by 0.5 inches. The engineers also raised the ride height by an inch and reinforced both the frame and axle to handle the rough conditions that desert racing brings. Where necessary, underbody protection was also fitted. The final touch is a set of 17-inch wheels with 33-inch Falken Wildpeak All-terrain tires (these can be swapped for mud-terrain tires if needed).

In the cabin, the driver has at his or her aid an Off-Road Plus button that tweaks the throttle, transmission shift points, and the traction control. This button will also allow drivers to lock the vehicle’s rear axle at high speeds while in 4H (4×4 high range) mode, which is a first for Jeep. It means maximum torque will be going to each of the rear wheels all the time.

Right now the Gladiator comes standard with V-6 performance, in this case a 3.6-liter V-6 mated to either a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic and rated 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. More powertrains are planned, including a diesel and possibly even a plug-in hybrid option.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave, 2020 Chicago Auto Show

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave, 2020 Chicago Auto Show

The Gladiator Mohave will reach dealers in the second quarter of 2020 as a 2020 model. No word yet if we’ll also see one lining up at Baja.

Jeep also used the Chicago Auto Show to introduce the premium High Altitude grade on the Gladiator and Wrangler. It too will be available in the second quarter.

For more from the Chicago Auto Show, head to our dedicated hub.

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