Exclusive! Desert Runner vs. Rock Crawler: Jeep Gladiator Mojave vs. Rubicon Off-Road (Video)

See where the new Mojave dominates—and falls short of—its Rubicon brother.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

TFL got it hands on FCA’s newest truck, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave. Specifically tuned for high-speed desert runs, the Mojave is Jeep’s attempt to showcase the versatility of the Gladiator platform as a competitor to the likes of the Chevy ZR2. While we don’t have easy access to a wipe open sandy wash or desert track that runs for miles, we do have the Ironclad, our signature off-road test-course, and Gobi, TFL’s own Gladiator Rubicon.

In this side-by-side comparison, we pit each truck against the Razor Rocks, which tests a truck’s approach angle, articulation, breakover angle, and traction. Then we compare each truck’s crawling ability to determine which one can go the slowest. And last we mapped out a roughly quarter-mile high-speed off-road track with bumps, mud, snow, and dirt for speed runs.

Oh, What a Difference a Locker Makes

Jeep Gladiator locker switches
The Mojave’s locker control on the left. The Rubicon’s on the right. (photo: TFL)

Both Gladiators run on two solid axles, feature 4-low gearing, and are shod with the same 33-inch off-road tires. Both come with FCA’s Pentastar V6. Here’s where the Mojave differs from the Rubicon:
– No front locker
– No disconnecting sway bar
– 2.72 transfer case is geared for speed, not crawling
– thicker steering wheel and bigger bolsters on the front seats for better control when bouncing around at speed.
– 2.5-inch diameter Fox shocks with remote reservoirs on the Mojave vs. 2-inch diameter Fox shocks with no reservoirs on the Rubicon
– A factory-installed fluid down bumper inside the coil, an industry first according to Jeep
– An extra inch lift on the Mojave to 11.6-inches of ground clearance
– As spec’d, our Mojave’s MSRP is $60K compared to our Rubicon’s $55K purchase price.

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The Results

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave
(photo: TFL)

On the Razor Rocks, the Gladiator Rubicon’s front locker made all the difference keeping power to all four tires and muscling the Gladiator up and over the rocks. The Jeep Gladiator Mojave, despite its rear locker, got hung up with one front tire spinning in air, while the other front tire did nothing. “The Mojave got stuck in 3-wheel-drive while the Rubicon didn’t,” Roman says. We knew the Rubicon would make short work of the obstacle, but we were semi-surprised that the Mojave didn’t. It’s a tough challenge.

Next up: The World’s Slowest Drag Race. It determines each truck’s crawl ratio. While we knew the Rubicon’s gearing would win the day, we were surprised by just how much steeper the ratio on the Mojave was by comparison. If anything told us that the Mojave is not a rock-crawling champ, this test was it.

Speed Sprints

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
(photo: TFL)

After mapping out a roughly quarter-mile stretch of trail, the guys raced the clock. Here, the Mojave finally showed off it’s true abilities, beating the Rubicon’s time by a whopping 4 seconds. When sprinting over bumps, through mud pits, and around corners, we found no penalty for bottoming out the suspension (“It’s like landing on a cloud,” André says).

So, is the Gladiator Mojave a true desert runner? Well, running trucks with solid axles would indicate that it’s not. But for a Jeep, it offers a measurably different ride and performance capability, one that will appeal to Jeep fans who want a truck that’s “Desert Rated,” not “Trail Rated.”

See for yourself by clicking on the video below.