FCA had a somewhat smaller presence at the New York Auto Show this year; but, as usual, Jeep dominated before anyone even got into the show, with its off-road simulation course in front of the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan.

Jeep Gladiator at New York Auto Show

For this media day, Jeep had their best off-roaders out: two Wranglers, a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, and the new Gladiator pickup. We took the drive in the Gladiator first, then the Trailhawk for comparison; in the past, we’ve done this in the Cherokee as well.

grand cherokee in new york auto show

The course includes a short, sharp rise that raises and lowers the two sides independently, a long steep rise, a steep 30° bank, an irregular shape with relatively sharp edges that could cause severe body damage to many vehicles. It illustrates how the Wrangler and Gladiator, with axle disconnect, can  keep all four wheels down at once, even under extreme conditions; and how other Jeeps can keep traction with just one wheel down.

The ramps are all open steel, which causes traction problems for many cars, but not these. With the Wranglers and Gladiators packing their V6 engines and the Grand Cherokee holding a Hemi, there was also no issue with the slopes.

Some of the angles are sharp enough to cause a bit of queasiness. The Gladiator’s front camera is a welcome addition, because on real trails, it’s not uncommon to have a fine view of your own hood and the sky, and nothing else. Now, you can see where you’re going on the dashboard, if not through the windshield.

The course provides a nice view of the city, from on top of the steepest ramp—which now provides a good demonstration of the Jeep’s speed-holding capability. You can dial in a speed and the Jeep will maintain it for you on steep downhill runs.

The course is fairly short, though for many it may be thrilling, and it gives a good indication of what Jeep is—before you go into the show and see ads for vehicles that may twist apart on the same course, advertising the freedom to make your own path. Many promise; not so many deliver, and Jeep gets the message out before spectators hit the entrance.