Thanks to Nena Barlow I was able to test, in european exclusive, the new Jeep Gladiator on the dunes of Glamis (CA). It was a pleasant surprise and a confirmation of the overlanding qualities of this pickup that only with a few modification it is possible to change its face and performance.
Photography and story by Paolo Baraldi
The Jeep Gladiator has been on sale in the States since last April, while in Europe it will be on sale from the second half of 2020 and only in the Sport and Overland versions with a 3.0 liter EcoDiesel V6 engine. Unfortunately no petrol and no Rubicon.
The Jeepers and the European press had the opportunity to see the new Jeep pickup at the San Martino di Castrozza Camp Jeep. Too bad that it was only exhibited in a static manner and still in the American version; without the updates for the European market.
First in Europe I tested the Jeep Gladiator in action
As you can imagine, both for fans of the Stars and Stripes brand and for journalists the wait and the curiosity to see the Gladiator in action is enormous. If Europeans have to wait until next year, I have had the opportunity to see it in action both in February at King of the Hammers and in October on the Glamis dunes thanks to Nena Barlow of Barlow Adventures. On this last occasion, as well as seeing the Gladiator in action, I also sat in it.
About Nena Barlow and Barlow Adventures
Before entering into the merits of this Jeep Gladiator, I would like to introduce to you Nena.
Nena Barlow grew up in the Southwest, exploring the back roads by Jeep, horse, and hiking boots. She has been in the Jeep business since 1996, providing tours, 4wd instruction, location scouting, offroad event planning, trail mapping & photography, and recovery. Nena has logged thousands of hours in the backcountry behind the wheel of a Jeep, with additional off-road experience in Hummers, Unimogs, Fords, Toyotas, and Nissans. She says, “The most important things about four-wheeling are to let the vehicle do the work—don’t overdrive it; and never take any trail for granted—go slow, pay attention, and never be ashamed to turn around and go home.” Nena is a certified Master Trainer by the International 4wd Trainer Association.
Nena is the founder (2004) and owner of Barlow Adventures based in Sedona (AZ) and Moab (UT). Barlow Adventures provides legendary 4-wheel drive experiences in the rugged and beautiful American Southwest. From our locations in Sedona, Arizona, and the famous sandstone wonderland of Moab, Utah, Barlow Adventures provides state-of-the-industry equipment, and our staff will share the knowledge and trail information to make your journey as safe and easy as possible. We even offer custom guided trips across the High Sierra on California's challenging Rubicon Trail. Whether your travel activities call for a few hours of backroad fun in Sedona, or a multi-day journey through the Rubicon or the Canyonlands, Barlow Adventures is ready with a fleet of custom built Jeep Wranglers for rent, and a friendly, knowledgeable staff to help get you out there and back in safety and style.
Imperial Sand Dunes: the perfect location for the Gladiator test
Rebelle Rally was the occasion of this meeting. Jeep is sponsor of the Rebelle and Nena competed in the first 3 editions. Glamis was the wonderful location of this test.
The Glamis Imperial Sand Dunes is a large erg (72 km long and 9.7 km wide) located in the southeastern part of the US state of California, near the border with Arizona and the Mexican state of Baja California. Here the last part of the Rebelle Rally took place and here Nena Barlow joined the Tebelle staff with her Gladiator.
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 3.6l V6 by Barlow Adventures. The Paolo Baraldi test
After this dutiful introduction, I am happy to write about the subject of this article: the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 3.6l Pentastar V6 petrol with 8-speed automatic transmission.
Saturday 19 October at the end of the race, at 7.30 am with the rising sun, Nena and I went to the dunes for the shooting and the Jeep pickup test.
This Gladiator interested me because it was slightly modified and only where it is needed to be able to became a overlanding offroad vehicle. In fact Nena mainly uses this pickup along the trails, obviously not the toughest ones, of the Moab and Sedona and for driving training on the sand.
So let's see how she worked on it. The suspensions have been raised by 2-inch Mopar suspension lift kit and the original tires have been replaced with 35x12.50x17 Falken Wildpeak AT3W tires.
From an aesthetic point of view, these small changes have completely changed the appearance of the Gladiator, making it more proportionate and at the same time more aggressive than the standard version. Confirmation of my idea that I made myself at the Camp Jeep. Its dimensions, especially the length and the breakover angle, do not make it ideal for the toughest trails. In fact, Nena told to me that "its extra length prevents it from facing the most aggressive rock trails for which its sister Wrangler JL was designed," she continues, "since the interior and the snout are the same as those of the JL, when I'm at the wheel I have to remember that it's a Gladiator to not drive on the hard tracks.”
Having said that and well aware that it is a pickup, and I add a nice pickup, driving it was a pleasure: the drivetrain capability of the Wrangler, but with increased payload capacity, the comfort of a longer wheelbase on long and rough roads, and the convenience of a pickup truck. The extra capability it offers for longer trips makes it a worthy option for those looking to venture into extreme terrain.
Even on the sand, where we well know that the breakover angle is important, if you are aware of its characteristics it is pleasant and fun to drive especially if you do it like the Americans do when they face the dunes at full throttle.
In conclusion, as Nena Barlow confirms to me, the Jeep Gladiator is a perfect option for those who wish to overland in extreme terrain.