SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Driving a 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon on the Rubicon Trail is a fitting thing to do, but not an easy thing to do. We're inching the Gladiator along the inward-sloping right side of a narrow passage with the left front tire precariously perched atop a boulder at the base of Arnold's Rock, a particularly hairy section of the trail. The tire begins to slide into the water below, crashing the Gladiator's underbody onto the boulder with a bang. High-centered, we can’t move forward or back. The Jeep Jamboree trail guides begin tossing smaller rocks under the tires to give them something to grab on to. When they’ve built up a little pile, they rock the Jeep pickup from side-to-side as we give it a little gas to pop off the boulder. We then approach it again, managing to keep the tire on it this time, and clamber over. The fun's not over. We immediately crank the wheel hard to the left and climb the stair steps up onto the slickrock, accompanied by a fair bit of scraping of the rock rails. For much of its length, the Rubicon Trail is less of a trail and more like a pile of boulders strewn in a sinuous thread draped over the rugged Sierra Nevada. Its history with Jeep dates back to the Willys days, when early off-roader Mark A. Smith led a group of 4x4s over the trail in 1953. Jeep corporate involvement followed the next year. Smith would go on to found Jeep Jamboree USA, the outfit that today leads dozens of off-road trail rides in locations across the United States. Of them, none is more hard-core than the Rubicon, which alone garners the maximum trail difficulty rating of 10. Jeep first used the Rubicon name on a specially upfitted version of the 2003 TJ-generation Wrangler. The Rubicon has since grown to become the trim level designating the most off-road-capable version of the Wrangler. The Gladiator pickup now becomes only the second Jeep model to be offered as a Rubicon. And so far, the Gladiator Rubicon is proving extremely popular. Brandon Girmus, Jeep Gladiator brand manager, reports that the Rubicon is the Gladiator's bestselling version, as early adopters clamor for the top trim level even if they don’t need its off-road capability. The Rubicon version of the Gladiator includes locking front and rear differentials, disconnecting front sway bars, Fox monotube shocks, a Rock-Trac shift-on-the-fly transfer case, a 4.10:1 rear axle ratio (up from 3.73), 17 x 7.5” wheels with LT285/70R17C tires, high-clearance fender flares, rock rails, a front skid plate/brush guard, and four tow hooks. (All Gladiators get skid plates protecting the fuel tank and transfer case.) Ground clearance stands at 11.1 inches, which is 1.1 inches greater than other Gladiators. The Rubicon has an approach angle of 43.4 degrees (vs. 40.8 for other Gladiator models), a breakover angle of 20.3 degrees (vs. 18.4), and a departure angle of 26.0 degrees (vs. 25.0). We’ve previously found …
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|MPG||16 City / 23 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd man w/OD|
|Power||285 @ 6400 rpm|
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