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The 2020 Gladiator Mojave working in its intended habitat. (FCA)

What we're driving: 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

Jeep pickup gets a tough new "desert-runner" trim.

The aftermarket driven by Jeep Wrangler is reportedly north of $1 billion and I like to think that my dad had something to do with kickstarting that phenomena. After purchasing a new 1947 Willys CJ2A ($1,067!), he began adding accessories that, at the time, were practical rather than fashionable—a front-mounted Koenig PTO winch, a Warn overdrive, extra driving lights and a snow plow package. For the plow, Dad had to fabricate the entire mounting arrangement himself.

Today’s Wrangler buyers need only check the boxes—dozens of them—to customize their new steeds “from the factory.” On the heels of last year’s launch of the Gladiator pickup bodystyle, Jeep has added the Mojave moneymaker to the Gladiator lineup for 2020. Although aimed at the “desert runner” vehicle trend, many “Glad Mojaves” will never see a speck of sand. Their owners will nonetheless point to their Jeeps’ truly desert-capable hardware—Fox 2.5 Performance suspension dampers, Dana-44 axles with rear locker, 33-inch tires, and more skid plates than a Stryker combat vehicle.  

The available options on our tester jacked the Mojave’s $43,875 base price to more than 60 grand. It’s worth noting that many of the tick-box prices would stun early-CJ customers; FCA charges $2,000 for its ZF-engineered 850RE 8-speed automatic transmission, for starters. On pavement, this muscular pickup has better ride quality than I expected, which makes up for the excessive tire noise, uninspiring acceleration (it’s a heavy beast) from the 285-hp 3.6-L V6 (the only available engine for all Gladiators) and poorly designed cargo-bed tonneau. 

Off-road, I found the $595 forward-facing TrailCam useful for climbing/descending a steep trail near a rural Michigan quarry. It was the closest to desert running we could get during the lockdown. The Mojave ate it up.

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