Tech features that enhance the Jeep Gladiator's off-road ability

JAY

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Those of you familiar with the Jeep JL Wrangler will already know most of these techs well, but this should be interesting reading for those new to the Jeep JL Wrangler / Jeep JT Gladiator, and obviously the 2.0L turbo doesn't apply to the Gladiator.


Via Roadshow

Following the Gladiator's debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show a few weeks ago, we sat down with Brandon Girmus, Gladiator brand manager, and Brian Lees, Wrangler chief engineer, to learn just how these rough-and-ready vehicles use reworked tech for optimal performance. Here are five of the Jeeps' most interesting tech tricks.

Electronics that still work when wet
At this point, we've established that the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator are loaded with electronics, but things that run off electricity don't play nice with water, so how are the Wrangler's and Gladiator's complex electronics engineered to hold up as they ride in vehicles that are capable of fording 30 inches of water?

"So we have a 30-inch water-fording depth, which means we strike a line right down the vehicle," Wrangler's Lees says. "Anything, any electronic device that is housed below that line has to be completely submersible. Anything above does not have to be, but it has to be water-resistant."

But don't think electronic components above the fording line have it any easier, for they have to undergo a 16-hour mist test. "At our tech center in Auburn Hills, [Michigan], we have a booth that we put the Jeep in," Lees says. "We take the top off, we take the windshield, fold it down, windows down, and then for 16 hours, it's just got a fine mist that is raining down on it."

Lees says the mist test is meant to simulate the Wrangler's and Gladiator's water resistance in the event the vehicles are left exposed in a thunderstorm while camping.

"We have to make sure that [...] when you walk in and you see water puddled everywhere in the foot wells [...] we don't strand the driver," he says. The misting may last 16 hours, but the vehicle is periodically checked over the next several months to make sure everything, from the USB ports to the radio, still operates.

"What we found when we run these tests [is that] water gets into places that we had no thought that it would be and just starts dripping down. So we may have to be really strategic and put some type of awning or umbrella over the top of a certain electrical component because water can drip down on it."

Top-down with a quickness
One of the coolest things about the new Jeep Wrangler is its Sky One-Touch power top available on four-door Sahara and Rubicon models. Think of it like a retractable fabric roof that, when used along with the easily removable rear-quarter windows, gives you just as much wind-in-hair thrill as any other convertible on the market.

Driver assistance tech that doesn't get in the way of Jeep stuff
The radar sensor -- the component primarily responsible for getting radar-guided cruise control to work -- is typically placed inside a car's front grille or lower bumper. But those locations aren't ideal for a Jeep Wrangler or Gladiator that's capable of fording up to 30 inches of water. Also, complicating the nose with complex electronics is a no-go if you're selling your vehicle to buyers who heavily customize their rides with upgraded bumpers, winches, LED spot-lighting, etc.

So when it came to equipping adaptive cruise control on the Wrangler for the first time, Jeep had to take a different tack. Rather than the radar unit being placed at the very front of the vehicle, it's located behind the windshield and in front of the rearview mirror, which means no negative impact on customization, all while still allowing you to flip down the windshield for a bug-in-teeth thrill.

For Wranglers or Gladiators with the eight-speed automatic transmission, ACC works across the SUV's or pickup truck's entire speed range. For people like me to whom a manual transmission is as necessary to life as clean drinking water, if you want to row your own, you can also enjoy radar cruise control, which is rare in the auto industry. That said, manual-transmission ACC deactivates at speeds less than 15 miles per hour if you have to have a clutch pedal. The addition of the radar unit also unlocks other driver-assistance features tied to that component, such as forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Other driver aids include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and ultrasonic parking sensors out back.

The rearview camera is also innovatively placed. It resides inside the hub of the spare tire and wheel holder, and remains there regardless of whether you have a spare mounted on the back swing gate.

Off-road infotainment
The base Wrangler Sport comes standard with a 5-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth streaming, which is just fine, but you can jack that all the way up to 8.4 inches with Rubicon and Sahara models. The 8.4-inch system comes with all the features you'd expect in a thoroughly modern vehicle, such as embedded navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster display, Wi-Fi capability and satellite radio with real-time traffic information.

To go the extra mile, the Wrangler and Gladiator also allow you to call up Off-Road Pages on the infotainment screen. Kind of like what you get on a much more expensive Mercedes Benz G-Class or a Range Rover, Jeep's Off-Road Pages give you information about your steering wheel angle, transfer case, the vehicle's pitch and roll angles, ride height, traction management system information and whether your sway bar is connected/disconnected or whether your axles are locked/unlocked. On top of that, the Wrangler offers up to an impressive seven USB ports, three of which are USB Type-C. That's as many USB ports as you'd get in larger, three-row SUVs.

The mild-hybrid is just as capable
The newest engine for the Wrangler is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Those figures compare favorably with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which is rated at 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, but what makes the new four-cylinder stand out is its eTorque 48-volt mild-hybrid system that uses a 0.3-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery.

With the eTorque system, not only can electricity be recouped through regenerative braking, but it can also be recovered via the crankshaft. The Ram 1500 features this eTorque system on its V6 and V8 engines, and many automakers like Audi and Mercedes-Benz are quickly rolling out this mild-hybrid tech.

"So when we are slowing down, we can have the MGU [motor generator unit] turn on. It can clamp down on the crank and put some energy back in the system. That's how we can recharge," Gladiator's Girmus says. Girmus also says that because of the MGU's crankshaft clamping, the 2.0-liter engine can provide just as much engine braking as the larger and inherently more resistant when off-throttle 3.6-liter V6.

Near the back and underneath the vehicle lies the briefcase-sized power pack unit (lithium-ion battery), which is watertight and is encased within a skid plate.

"Every Wrangler is Trail Rated. So we've got to make sure it lives through mud, it lives through water, it can get beat up on the trail," Girmus says. "So it's kind of the uniqueness of putting any kind of hybridization on a Wrangler: it's that added dimension that it's got to pass and be able to go over the Rubicon trail."

The hybrid assistance also makes the Wrangler more responsive under acceleration by adding up to 70 pound-feet of torque to the driveline. As a result, the Wrangler, absent turbo delay or lag, doesn't feel turbocharged at all. Step on the gas, and you get instant, confident power. It's really all the engine you need in a vehicle like this. Unfortunately, as we reported earlier this month, the Gladiator won't be getting the four-cylinder, likely due to the inherent heat stress of towing.





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Troybilt

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I am so glad to hear the news about the mist test. I have heard talk of jeep making the JL more water resistant than the JK but I did not see any good info on that until now.

I run with the doors and top off my jeeps a lot. In fact I have had to doors and top off here in Ohio for the last 4 days. It is usually in the 20's when I leave for work in the morning.

I have yet to get caught in a downpour but have been very close a few times.
 

Ian cj10

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hopefully with this extra effort put into there electrics they might actually be a bit more reliable because electrical issues are killing jeep sales here in aus
 

Jeep_VB

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hopefully with this extra effort put into there electrics they might actually be a bit more reliable because electrical issues are killing jeep sales here in aus
Interesting, what issues are you guy's having. I never had an issue with either of my JK's, so just curious.
 

Ian cj10

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they are many & varied i have had crank angle sensors fail 1 of my mate has to disconect his battery for 30 second when his windows wont go up so it resets & from all reports ive heard the current model grand cherokee sales have plummeted mostly due to getting a bad reputation for unreliability
the big problem with selling 4x4's here is the whole country is in love with land cruisers so you only need a few problems with jeeps & its all people want to talk about when they see you have a jeep they just start telling you how bad they are
but ill be sticking with my jeeps ive had toyotas & sure theyre tough but theyre also bloody uncomfortable
 

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