2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel: Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel
If we had to choose one production pickup truck with the most capability to tackle almost any terrain, the obvious choice would be the Jeep Gladiator. Combining all the off-road prowess of a Wrangler with the utility of a pickup truck, Gladiator can haul gear and people practically anywhere. Now Jeep adds fuel efficiency to the mix with the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTest Vehicle
Jeep provided a 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel painted in Black Clear Coat. Even though the Rubicon is well equipped for off-road adventures, the test vehicle came with a long list of additional options including leather trim; LED headlights and taillights; an 8.4-inch display with Uconnect and navigation; Active Safety Group; a roll-up tonneau cover; 3-piece Freedom top; a forward-facing trail cam; and 17-inch polished black aluminum wheels with 33-inch Mud-Terrain tires. The result is more than $20,000 of extras, bringing the total MSRP for the test Jeep to $67,130. Competitors to the Gladiator Diesel include the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, GMC Sierra AT4, Nissan Frontier PRO-4X and the Ford Ranger FX4.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceStyle
Jeep knows how to make a tough-looking vehicle. This black and red Gladiator Rubicon with red tow hooks and black wheels with big off-road tires looks classy and tough. The LED headlights and fog lights are nice additions. As with other Gladiators the doors and roof are removable; however, with weather in the Pacific Northwest turning cold and wet, we decided staying warm and dry was the better choice.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBlack Paint and Dirt
Many drivers won’t choose a black vehicle exterior because the surface can be difficult to keep clean. Luckily, it’s not much of an issue with Gladiator Rubicon — it looks great when it’s clean, but when it gets dirty it still looks good. A Jeep is simply meant to get dirty.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTonneau Cover
The roll-up tonneau cover keeps cargo secure yet drivers still have easy access to the pickup bed. With the tonneau in place the bed stays hidden and dry — opening it requires lowering the tailgate and unlocking the rear clips. The cover can be easily rolled up and stored when not in use.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceDiesel Power
Powering 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel is a new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine producing 260 horsepower and a plentiful 442 lb-ft of torque available at a low 1400 rpm. The diesel motor gets teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission; Jeep doesn’t offer a manual gearbox with the diesel.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFuel Economy
In addition to the torque story, the diesel engine also delivers improved fuel economy. The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel has U.S. EPA fuel-economy ratings of 20 mpg city / 25 mpg hwy / 22 mpg combined. These numbers are an improvement of about 3 mpg vs. the 3.6-liter V6 gas engine, giving the Gladiator Rubicon Diesel a range of more than 450 miles. During our drive — a combination of on- and off-pavement adventuring — the Gladiator computer displayed around 24 mpg.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHigh-End Interior
This test Rubicon has black leather seats with contrasting red stitching as well as RUBICON stitched into the seatbacks. With red stitching throughout as well as a red dashboard, the Rubicon exudes a premium vibe.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOff-Road Pages
The display screens in FCA vehicles are among the best on the market, Gladiator included. Unlike the SRT models that have Performance Pages, the Rubicon has Off-Road Pages that provide all needed information regarding the four-wheel-drive system and the Jeep’s off-road operation.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTrail Cam
When off-road climbing rocks or steep inclines with the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel, it can be difficult to see the terrain directly in front of the vehicle. Gladiator solves this with a forward trail cam that displays the view directly in front of the bumper with an overlay indicating where the wheels will travel based on steering angle. This setup becomes extremely helpful to avoid sharp or overly large objects. The camera can be cleaned remotely — a convenient feature when the pickup is surrounded by mud.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceLimited Interior Storage Space
Aside from the cupholders between the front seats and a narrow center console, the cockpit of the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel doesn’t possess many places to store a phone or other small items.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seat
The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel has decent legroom and headroom for rear-seat passengers, and seats are comfortable. As expected, the middle seat can be a bit tight but it is certainly usable.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceExtra Storage
Seat bottoms fold up to reveal a lockable storage bin. Also beneath the rear seats: a box for storing the extraneous yet vitally important bolts for the doors and roof when they come off. Owners will appreciate having all bolts in one place when putting the Gladiator back together.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceMolle Straps
Both rear seatbacks of the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel feature Molle straps — useful for attaching a variety of containers, tools and other gear.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
It won’t take long for drivers of the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel to appreciate the joy of additional torque from the diesel powertrain. This Jeep feels quick off the line, and it has more than adequate power on tap. Plus the diesel engine makes this midsize pickup sound like a big rig.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceComfortable Ride
Even with large off-road tires, the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel provides a comfortable ride on the pavement. The vehicle does bounce a bit when the road gets rough, but it never feels jarring. Drivers will notice some road noise from the truck’s knobby tires, but it’s not annoying.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOff Pavement
The Gladiator Rubicon is capable of handling just about any rough terrain it encounters, so it seems at home on wet, muddy forest service roads among the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We took the Gladiator into the woods for about 30 miles of off-pavement driving and we didn’t see another soul. The capability and durability of the Gladiator allowed us to appreciate the solitude, rather than be concerned about being alone or making it back home if the weather turned.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceExtremely Capable
The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel possesses more than 11 inches of ground clearance — while certainly overkill for a pothole-filled dirt road in dense forest, it did offer peace of mind when navigating through water-filled holes with no way of knowing their depth. And enjoying a drive through the woods on a road with changing conditions is a reason enough to own a Jeep — drivers will have as much fun cruising around mountains as climbing over them.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 9.0
The Jeep Gladiator possesses an enviable combination of pickup truck utility and Wrangler off-road prowess, and its styling displays this capability as well as its unique place in the pantheon of pickups. Now the diesel powertrain adds another feather in this Jeep’s proverbial cap with excellent efficiency and great performance. However, this adventure-ready Gladiator does come with a rather steep price tag — especially when loaded with optional goodies — so it won’t make sense for everyone. But for those who have the means, the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel would make a fine daily driver whether the route is down the highway or through the woods.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOff Pavement
The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel is a great way to see the Cascade Mountains.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceIntegrated Rear Speakers
Speakers are integrated with the Gladiator’s structure so they remain with the vehicle when the roof is removed.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOff-Road Tools
All of the Gladiator Rubicon’s 4-wheel drive and off-road systems are easily accessible on the dashboard.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceStylish
The red dashboard adds a nice touch to the Rubicon’s interior.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceGetting Dirty
The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel makes a great puddle jumper.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceGreat Outdoors
The Gladiator looks right at home in this quintessential Pacific Northwest setting.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRed Trim
Red accents are a nice touch on the black Rubicon.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInto the Woods
The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel functions much like a multitool for exploring backroads the Pacific Northwest.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFall Colors
Fall colors in contrast with the stout, black bulk of this Gladiator Diesel.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceReady to Explore
A roadside pause before heading into the foothills of the Cascade Range.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Diesel
A Jeep is meant to get dirty now and again.

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