Jeep’s weird new beast lands in Oz
Jeep's newest vehicle is a different beast.
The new Gladiator ute is set to roll on and off Aussie roads in the next month. But the brand's first ute in more than 30 years is different from anything else according to Jeep's head designer Mark Allen.
Allen admits to feeling unsure about the Gladiator, which is based on the Wrangler off-roader.
"The proportions of [the Gladiator] are a bit awkward and that was the tough thing for us to deal with," said Allen.
"The middle of the vehicle forward is a Wrangler base then there is a box in the back. Then you throw in that it is a convertible and the doors come off.
"It's not pretty, but it's pretty cool."
The Gladiator's looks are instantly recognisable. The basics of the styling of the Gladiator - and the Wrangler - can be directly linked back to the original Willys Jeep in World War 2.
But Allen had his doubts when designing the Gladiator. He admitted that he thought no one would care that it was a convertible, thinking the concept of a convertible four-door pick-up truck was ridiculous.
He even compared it to an airport service vehicle. But since those early stages of development he's come around and believes the drop-top is one of the car's best attributes.
And like a lot of American products the Gladiator is supersized. Because Jeep has essentially added a tray to the back of a Wrangler the Gladiator is a big bopper - measuring about 5.6m long, about 30cm longer than a dual-cab Toyota HiLux.
There is also the possibility for an electric model further down the line.
Allen believes that electric power would work perfectly for off-road focused vehicles such as the Wrangler and Gladiator.
"I don't think electricity applied to something like a Wrangler is a detrimental thing, I think of it as an opportunity to make a better Jeep," he said.
Off-road focused vehicles need to be able to vary power and traction between wheels and electric cars provide the ideal base for that.
With a motor powering each wheel, an electric off-roader can have individual power and traction controls for each tyre.
But the challenge would be to keep the Wrangler - and Gladiator's - traditional look.
Allen explains that electric cars can look a bit homogeneous because aerodynamics are so important for the car's range.
"With the battery technology now, we visually have no room to waste on anything because the range is limited.
"It is getting better by the day but that efficiency is why. That's why you see side mirrors replaced with cameras and really skinny tyres."
Allen believes battery technology will advance to a point where designers can start having a bit more fun with the look of electric cars.
Originally published as Jeep's weird new beast lands in Oz