The Chicago Auto Show started this weekend and we were there for the press preview day before it began. This is the first major U.S. auto show in over a year, the last one being, you guessed it, the Chicago show in February of 2020.

Moving to a one-time summer format means that some of the show is outdoors and there is a lot to see and do. Here’s our quick rundown of what to see there.

For tickets and other information, see http://www.chicagoautoshow.com

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In this special episode, we talk about the annual Texas Truck Rodeo put on by the Texas Auto Writers Association. Kristin walks us through what she saw, what she learned, and the types of capabilities and comparisons that are tested at this event.

Kristin’s review of the Durango SRT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYpMpVco370

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t1C2ldyafo

Interview with Nicole and Alice pre-Rebelle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIbFlG7G4a4

Interview with Alice and Nicole, Rebelles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szw3oonSd-Y

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Mountain biker? Camper? Outdoor enthusiast? This Jeep is for you.

Using exclusive Jeep performance parts and custom accessories, Mopar designers transformed a 2020 Jeep Gladiator into a fun concept vehicle for mountain bikers.

Loaded with nearly 20 performance parts, the Gladiator Top Dog Concept was created for passionate mountain bike enthusiasts, but it’s also attractive to anyone who likes to have everything but the kitchen sink in one vehicle.

A hot-dog roller grill, y’all. Buns and mustard not included.

Painted K-9 Blue, the Jeep “Top Dog” concept expands the cargo-carrying abilities by removing the standard cargo box and replacing it with a custom PCOR flatbed storage system. On the passenger side of the storage system, pull-out drawers securely store tools and supplies that mountain bikers need when out on the trails.  Interior storage shelves, exterior lighting switches and extra power supplies are within reach.

On the driver’s side of the storage system, a battery-powered refrigerator and electric hot-dog roller grill stand ready to refuel riders for the next section of challenging trails.


On the driver’s-side of the PCOR storage system of the Jeep Top Dog Concept, a battery-powered refrigerator and electric hot-dog roller grill stand ready to refuel riders for the next section of challenging trails.

Not just for bikers, but Jeep’s Top Dog will appeal to you if you are

Above the cab area, two rack structures provide additional storage space for tools and equipment. Dual concept exterior task lights are mounted on each side and a set of traction mats for vehicle recovery and extraction are also attached to the storage racks. On top of the rack structure, a dual bike rack provides a safe way to transport the Trek mountain bikes to the trails.

It also features a JPP two-inch lift kit with FOX shocks that provides increased ground clearance, augmented by 17-inch JPP beadlock-capable aluminum wheels and 37-inch BF Goodrich KM3 mud-terrain tires. Concept steel “high-top” fender flares provide additional clearance at all four corners.

Powering the Jeep Top Dog Concept is a 3.6L Pentastar V-6 with 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a eight-speed automatic transmission. On the front end of the Jeep Top Dog Concept is a JPP Rubicon bumper, which holds a concept two-inch steel grille guard, inspired by the Jeep J6 concept and the exclusive JPP 8,000-lb-capacity Rubicon Warn winch that includes 100 feet of Spydura synthetic rope.

The concept hood is accented with custom black Mopar hood latches that feature the Jeep Willys logo. A JPP snorkel helps direct cool air into the engine when off-road conditions threaten normal air inlets. A pair of JPP five-inch, off-road, LED lights installed at the base of the A-pillars help illuminate the trail.

On the passenger-side of the PCOR storage system of the Jeep Gladiator Top Dog Concept, pull-out drawers securely store tools and supplies that mountain bikers need when out on the trails. Vast interior storage shelves, exterior lighting switches and extra power supplies are within easy reach.

Fortified with Jeep Rubicon details and upgraded Katzkin leather

Body sides are protected by JPP rock rails, customized with welded two-inch steel tubes, similar to the front grille guard design. Black door sill guards feature a raised Gladiator logo and help protect interior sills from scratches and scuffs.

A second JPP Warn winch is installed at the rear of the Jeep Gladiator Top Dog Concept. Just above the rear-facing winch, a roll-out storage drawer carries a foldable ladder used for access to the dual bike rack.

Inside the cabin, the exterior color theme of K-9 Blue and black is continued with an instrument panel that matches the body color. In addition, black Katzkin leather seats, armrests, shifter boots, steering wheel and the parking brake handle are accented with blue stitching.

Mopar stainless-steel pedal covers with black rubber pads add a bold flare and plenty of traction to the accelerator and brake pedals. Just below the pedals are Mopar all-weather floor mats installed throughout the cabin area.

Are you ready to hit the road with this dressed-to-the-nines Gladiator?


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Jeep Gladiator Mojave

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.

Jeep Gladiator Mojave

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.

Jeep Gladiator Mojave

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.

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Both Aaron and Kristin talk about the new Jeep pickup truck, the Gladiator. After having driven most of the renditions available for this truck and having spent a fair amount of time with it, Drive Mode is in agreement that the 2020 Gladiator is legendary.

We’ve gone off-road with it in California, stripped it down (https://drivemodeshow.com/2020/01/01/how-to-strip-a-jeep-gladiator-in-3-minutes/), and saw the new Mojave trim in Chicago (https://drivemodeshow.com/2020/02/11/unwrapping-the-jeep-gladiator-mojave-in-chicago/). Oh, ya, we drove it on the road too. Mostly to get where the good stuff was.

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