First Offroad Shake-Down Run in the Gladiator
Took the Gladiator off-road for the first time this fourth of July weekend. Specifically, we drove up to our family cabin, which requires some pretty serious 4x4 capability (and, if I do say so myself, some driver skill). The route includes everything from mountainous 2-lane blacktop, to 65mph posted highway driving, to long washboard dirt roads, to deep sandy sections and wash-running, to steep & technical rock crawling and narrow single-track roads. 4x4 high, low, locked... you name it, it requires it. Very diverse and challenging..... and the truck handled it all with aplomb. On this inaugural run (literally, my first time ever driving a Jeep off-road), the things that stood out to me include:
- Nimble. Compared to the old monstrous F250 Crew Cab, this Gladiator feels like a sports car. It's much narrower and easier to maneuver in the tighter sections of the trail. Downright fun to drive.
- Sway-bar Disconnect. Wow. The ride quality off-road once the sway-bar was disconnected was night and day. Really nice feature to have.
- Soft Ride. Another thing that jumped out at me was just how compliant and, well, "soft" the ride was. The stock suspension is really pretty good on this thing, soaking up everything we threw at it.
- Tire Size. I was quite worried about the 33-inch diameter tires at the start of the trip. There's some pretty deep (2-foot in places) ruts, plus lots of big boulders and drop-offs on the trail. The relatively small diameter tires and long-wheel base had me worried. But in the end it was fine. I got down on the rocker panel sliders just twice, but didn't bottom out underneath (primarily due to line placement). The bottom line is the 33-inch OEM tires were just fine. Yes, I'm still thinking up upgrading to 35's, but for now the 33's are up to my needs.
- Mileage. I love the diesel for its torque, but *really* love it for the mileage. On the entire 4-hour trip, we averaged 24.5mpg. That's more than double what we used to get with the Ford. Wow.
- Carrying Capacity. If I have any one negative thing to single out is the cab capacity. We bring a lot of supplies with us when we go to the cabin, and because of the monsoon rains at this time of the year, we like to keep everything inside the cab in the back seat area. It was A LOT tighter than we're used to-- but not really surprising, either. This is a compromise for sure when stepping down from full-size to mid-size truck.
- Ingress/Egress. We stopped a lot on the final few miles of the trail to clean up fallen debris, trim back overhanging branches, etc. Getting in and out of the stock-height Gladiator (for these 60-year-old bones) was definitely easier than in the old lifted truck on 37's truck. A very welcome change.
- Severe Conditions = No Problem. Finally, we got walloped by a heavy monsoon storm on the way out and back home in the late afternoon. The trails quickly turned to running rivers, lots of road washouts, and we had to cross a couple of deep rutted washes. The. Gladiator. Did. Not. Flinch. She was fantastic, sure-footed, and absolutely inspired confidence on what was actually a kinda dicey descent and return trip.