The first Desert Rated Jeep
The Jeep Gladiator is all-new for the 2020 model year and finally gives Jeep enthusiasts a midsize pickup ready to off-road. Despite being a new model, Jeep didn’t wait around to introduce a little something extra to the lineup in the form of the Mojave trim. This trim is special, not just because it’s new for the Gladiator, but because it’s the first-ever Desert Rated Jeep.
Jeep fans are already familiar with the Trail Rated badge. This is the badge you’ll find on the most off-road capable versions of Jeep’s vehicles. It’s the badge you want if going off-road isn’t an afterthought, but a priority.
Now there’s a Desert Rated badge and it means exactly what you think. Jeeps with this badge are specially tested to handle the rigors of desert driving. That means they’re up to the challenge of high heat and lots of sand so you can have more fun out on the dunes.
Passing the test
This isn’t just a clever name Jeep slapped on the side of the Gladiator. It means this Gladiator, and future vehicles with this badge, have passed a series of tests broken out into five categories. These tests include ride control and stability, traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, and desert prowess.
It passes these tests with a series of enhancements specifically designed to make the Mojave a true desert racer. It has a 1-inch front suspension lift to keep the nose out of the sand if you catch some air and a best-in-class ground clearance of 11.6 inches. There are Jeep Performance Parts step sand slider side rails, silver front skid plate, a half-inch wider track, and a modified suspension system.
That suspension system includes high-performance Fox 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks to make high-speed runs easier. They reduce the chance of bottoming out and help create a smoother ride in all conditions. There are also front and rear external shock reservoirs to prevent shock fade along with suspension fluid designed for high temperatures.
The Mojave also has industry-first Fox front hydraulic jounce bumpers. These are like a second pair of shocks that offer additional damping force and soften impacts. Whether you’re racing over desert terrain, driving along a dirt road, or managing uneven pavement, the Mojave’s suspension improves control and passenger comfort.
A capable truck in any trim
In the brief time that the Gladiator has been available, it’s already proved its mettle off-road. The launch program included a ridiculous amount of mud thanks to unexpected rain and plenty of rocks and loose gravel to traverse. It handled well and lived up to Jeep’s reputation for building off-road capable vehicles.
The Mojave comes to us in the middle of a rather unprecedented time. The launch program, which was supposed to be at the end of March, was cancelled due to the coronavirus, but Jeep managed to get the Mojave out to journalists where it was still a possibility to do so.
That gives us all a chance behind the wheel, but not necessarily a chance to drive it in the sand at high speeds. Instead, I spent a week driving it on-road and off-road in more typical conditions with mud and dirt and rocks and it handled beautifully.
Much like any off-road focused vehicle, it has a decent amount of bounce when you take it on the highway thanks to its specially tuned suspension system. There’s also a fair amount of road noise from the tires and wind noise even with the hardtop.
Jeep Wave included
Still, we loved driving the Gladiator Mojave. It’s capable and it’s a head turner, evidenced by the number of people remaining at a safe six feet away, waving, and telling me they loved the thing. It’s definitely Jeep Wave approved.
While we can’t speak to its desert prowess first-hand, we can speak to Jeep’s reputation. When the brand builds a vehicle and says it’ll go off-road, they mean it, and we fully expect the Mojave to be true to its Desert Rated badge when this whole thing passes.
The Jeep Gladiator Mojave arrives this spring with a starting price of $43,875.