March 28, 2009

The Jeep Gladiator concept car (2005)

The Jeep® Gladiator converts the Wrangler into a pickup truck, bringing up memories of Comanches past. It features the historic box side-mounted spare of past models as well as an open-air canvas top, an expandable truck bed and a stowaway rear seat cushion, has a rugged functionality only found in Jeep. The engine is a 2.8 liter diesel (we've been told a highly efficient VM model, a good choice - better than similar Mercedes models), ideal for off-roading thanks to the ruggedness and torque of diesel engines - yet environmentally friendly, since gas mileage of diesels is better and modern diesels don't pollute like those of years past. (It can presumably also be run on biodiesel, which both reduces the amount of energy spent on processing and avoids toxic spills). The current Jeep Wrangler Unlimited gets a mere 14 mpg city, 18 highway, with manual transmission; the diesel should get that up into the 20s. The engine has an abundant 295 foot-pounds of torque and 163 horsepower. (On the Jeep press page, by the way, it shows a 6.1 Hemi in the Firepower engine bay...guess someone was in a hurry.)

The short rear overhang allows a good departure angle for off-roading. There is a solid front axle, and in the rear, a trailing arm system with coil-within-a-coil to handle both laden and unladen conditions. There are a front winch, front and rear locking differentials, and skid plates. On the driver's side, there is a cabin storage access panel, and a lockable storage box in front of the rear wheel where the jack is stowed.
As befits a Jeep, the transmission is a six-speed manual (the original specifications said it was five-speed), hooked up to all four wheels via part-time four wheel drive. Eighteen inch wheels are used all around. The weight is heavy for the size, as is the case for the Wrangler - 4,150 pounds.
Like the successful if overpriced Chevrolet Avalanche, the Gladiator includes a midgate to make use of interior space when loads longer than 5 feet, 8 inches are needed. The midgate brings an extra foot of length; bringing the tailgate down brings an added two feet.
The design is credited to Mark Moushegian and Steve Ferrerio.
The Gladiator looks like the shape of Wranglers to come, and rumor has it that's exactly what it is: a first try at getting the dimensions and shape of the next-generation Wrangler, due around 2006 (partly to meet new safety standards). We've been told that the Gladiator retains the classic Jeep live axles, with a similar 4x4 system and length, but with more width for better stability and comfort (the Gladiator is ten inches wider, but we suspect the actual increase will be half that).
The suspension will be updated for additional capacity and safety, and we suspect some electronics will be thrown into the mix.
If the Gladiator is any indication, ground clearance of the next Wrangler will also be considerably better - which will be helpful given the new competition from Hummers, Porsches, and the like. As noted in the chart near the bottom of this page, in fact, the Gladiator does better than the Wrangler Unlimited in every off-road measure provided by Jeep, while it does better in all but one than the standard Wrangler.
The most clever feature for the "average car buyer" (rather than the hard core Jeep buyers who will be more thrilled by the diesel engine and greater width) is a new take on the midgate concept pioneered in the Chevrolet Avalanche. The cab's rear window rolls down into its divider, but, according to credible rumor, the seats then fold and tumble under the pickup bed, so that the bed itself is effectively six feet, eight inches long, extending into the cab. This is rather different from the Avalanche/Sport Trak setup. We only hope such a device doesn't add too much to the cost.
We've also heard that there will be four doors, but the two rear doors will be partial-width - a suicide door on the passenger side for easier entry into the back seats, and, cleverly, a smaller door on the driver's side, to allow people to toss in their briefcase, backpack, gear, or dog.
The Gladiator is being publicly discussed as an exploration of whether Jeep can re-enter the pickup truck market again. The Comanche, Jeep's last entry, did not work out as well as AMC could have hoped - yes, it was fielded that long ago.
If this is the shape of Wranglers to come, we suspect a big sales spike in one of the world's most fun-to-drive cars.
Jeep's Director of Design, John Sgalia, said that the Gladiator was "just testing the waters on whether or not it's OK to bring a pickup truck back to the brand." Like the Dakar, though, the Gladiator seems more like a production car than a concept; its refined interior looks more like a standard Jeep, and is not far from the current Wrangler, though the gauges are much bigger. The doors appear to be removeable; they are attached using Jeep's standard pin hinge with a cloth limiter. It turns and handles normally, and has good, conventional seating and a conventional stick-shift that works well and is easy to use. In general, the Gladiator feels more car-like than the current Wrangler, despite the loud diesel engine that gives it quite a bit of torque. Keeping in mind that the concept-car course is a section of parking lot, and that normal speeds are generally not reached, the Gladiator seemed ready for production - driving like a more civilized Wrangler.
The Gladiator, like the Wrangler, was designed to be produced with either right or left hand drive; the spare is on the side rather than the gate or underneath to help keep a high departure angle for off-roading. Sgalia said the Gladiator is not based on any other vehicle.

The front and rear suspension are multi-link designs for a smooth ride over all surfaces with plenty of suspension travel for capable off roading. Coilover shocks are used at all four corners for superb control. The rear incorporates dual, concentric springs for a comfortable ride while offering a 1,500-pound payload. Key off-roading specifications include a ground clearance of 13.7 inches (348 mm), break-over angle of 23.2 degrees and an approach/departure angle of 47.6 /38.0 degrees, respectively. Tires in the front and rear are 34 inches in diameter (265/75R18) mounted on 18x8 inch wheels.
In all available off-roading measures other than breakover angle, the Gladiator is superior to the Wrangler; in breakover, it is superior to the Wrangler Unlimited. A shorter-wheelbase version would most likely be far better on the trail than the current Wrangler.
On the interior, Gladiator is contemporary with a utility theme. The color palate includes green with dark gray accents. The seats are weatherproof and the interior is designed for hose-out ease of care.

Length: 205" (5,207 mm) 
Wheelbase: 138.4" (3,515 mm)
Front Overhang: 28.3" (718 mm)
Rear Overhang: 38.3" (974 mm)
Width (max): 76.6" (1,947 mm) 
Height: 74.8" (1,900 mm)
Track, Frt/Rr: 65.6"/66.2"
Bed Length: 5’ 8" (1,725 mm)
(midgate expanded) — 6’ 8" (2,026 mm)
(expanded w/ tailgate down - minimum) - 8’ 11" (2,723 mm)
Front - Solid Axle w/ 5 bar links, single coil springs
Rear - Solid Axle w/ 5 bar links, dual coilover springs
Ground Clearance - 13.7" (348 mm) 
Front/Rear Tire Size: 265/75R18"


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