It feels as if it was just yesterday when the Jeep Gladiator debuted at the 2018 LA Auto Show. Although potential buyers won’t even get to see it roll across dealer lots until the second quarter of 2019, the rumor mill indicates they may already be another variant in the works. According to insiders over at the Jeep Gladiator Forum, word on the street is that a powerful Gladiator Hercules is being evaluated. Its goal? To knock the Ford Raptor (and similar pickups) off the off-road pickup pedestal. Given how impressive the Gladiator is already, it’s hard to imagine what kind of street-legal Baja truck Jeep may be aiming to manufacture.
Many critics wrote off the Gladiator prior to its official debut; they expected it to be a Wrangler with a truck bed, but what Jeep delivered was so much more. Sure, the Gladiator is certainly Wrangler-inspired, but a Wrangler truck it is not. Jeep designed and developed the Gladiator to be a true pickup truck, including a Rubicon trim that’s designed to handle rough terrain and serious off-roading. Many Jeepers believe the rumor was born out of an interview with Jeep boss Tim Kuniskis. When interviewed at the 2018 LA Auto Show, Kuniskis indicated that the Gladiator would have a new off-road setting that’s specifically designed for high-speed desert running, thus, fueling the rumor mill himself.
So what’s this all about? Well, according to the folks over at the Jeep Gladiator Forum they’ve got inside knowledge that an uber-capable vehicle dubbed “Gladiator Hercules” is currently undergoing a market evaluation. It appears that Jeep has built a few one-off prototypes to test the waters – the brand will need to determine if an off-roader this powerful can be street legal, if it can conquer terrain off the beaten path, and can it compete with the heavyweights like the Raptor in such a particular segment? If the Hercules ever makes it into production it’ll likely be a trim above the existing Gladiator Rubicon.
Enthusiasts have already come up with various must-have features for the Hercules including large off-road tires, beadlock wheels, a front skid plate, a blackout grille, a steel front bumper, rock rails, large fender vents, ram air hood, and vented high fenders. Industry experts, on the other hand, don’t appear to have a features wishlist ready, but they sure are wondering if the Gladiator Hercules will see the brand introduce a new engine. If Jeep is serious about dethroning the Raptor, then they’re going to need a little more power than their current engine lineup offers. A naturally-aspirated V6 engine that generates 285 horsepower and up to 260 lb-ft of torque is the engine that currently rests under the Gladiator’s hood, while a diesel engine option slated to debut in 2020 makes an impressive 442 lb-ft of torque, but only 260 horsepower. Neither engine is powerful enough to take on the Raptor’s 3.5-liter twin turbo V6 engine capable of generating 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque.
If the Hercules is ever greenlit for production, experts claim they wouldn’t be surprised if Jeep were to borrow an engine from one of its sister brands under the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) umbrella. The heftier engine that currently powers the Dodge Durango SRT seems to be up for the task thanks to its 475 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. Such an engine would help the Gladiator Hercules position itself as a more direct and credible competitor for the Raptor and would also justify a $50,000-plus price tag. If Jeep manages to rise up to the challenge, who’s to say that the Wrangler can’t be redesigned with a heftier engine down the line?
All this speculation may be a Jeeper’s dream and the Gladiator Hercules may never even make it to production, but what we do know is that Jeep will be rolling out their all-new Gladiator this Spring (2019) once the second quarter begins. Follow Miami Lakes Jeep on social media to keep up with the latest Jeep news and be one of the first to take the Gladiator for a spin once it rolls across our dealer lot!