2020 Jeep Gladiator
Remember the last time Jeep had a pickup truck?
It was 1992 and Chrysler just cancelled the Jeep Comanche in favor of the Dodge Dakota. It was built off of the iconic XJ Cherokee and brought curious truck buyers to Jeep-Eagle dealers after Chrysler’s purchase of American Motors from Renault.
Almost three decades later, Jeep finally answered the requests by their enthusiasts and potential customers to introduce a new pickup truck. The new truck is called Gladiator.
Built from the JL Wrangler platform, the Gladiator was built for off-road capability while its competitors had to develop their four-wheel-drive systems from a basic pickup truck. However, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles want potential customers to know that this Wrangler with a box in the back is also a powerful midsized pickup truck.
We had our turn in the new Jeep Gladiator to find out whether it works as a truck, as well as a rough-and-ready off-roader.
The front part of the Gladiator is what you expect from a Wrangler Unlimited/4-door. The seven-slot grille with LED lighting done in a traditional style going as far back as World War II. The bold fenders flank the sides until you get to the cab. Our Overland tester came with side running steps, which is something you normally do not find on a Wrangler. Access to the rear seat is through a small opening. Passengers need to be careful accessing the rear seat by avoiding contact with the door latch.
A cool feature on the Gladiator is the ability to remove the roof and doors from the vehicle. The panels above the front seats are removable by even a single hand, while the rest of the hardtop and the doors will require tools for removal – and a place to store them, while you head off with them.
Where the Gladiator deviates from the 4-door Wrangler is the box in the rear. The steel five-foot long box has a maximum payload capacity of 1,600 pounds. The box adds 30 more inches to the length of the Gladiator from the 4-door Wrangler. The Gladiator also rides on a longer wheelbase – 19 inches more than the Wrangler 4-door.
What has not changed from the Wrangler is the interior layout. The flat dashboard offers an instrument binnacle with two analog dials and a digital TFT screen in-between them. The UConnect 8.4-inch screen dominates the center of the dashboard with audio and climate controls directly below. The power window switches are also on the center stack, instead of on the doors. One thing that is refreshing for off-road enthusiasts is the lever for the part-time four-wheel-drive system, instead of a knob in most other pickup trucks.
Up front, there are two large seats with manual adjustments for height, rake, recline, and lumbar support. Tall drivers may want to be careful with the roll bar right above their head. Rear seat passengers are fine, as long as they are average sized or smaller children. Our Overland tester came with soft leather upholstery in a contrasting saddle color, next to everything else trimmed in black finishes.
Our Overland tester came with the 285-horsepower Pentastar 3.6-liter V6. This proven engine helps handle the 1,600-pound payload and can tow up to 7,650 pounds. Our tester had the available 8-speed automatic transmission with its power sent to a two-speed transfer case onward to Jeep’s proven part-time four-wheel-drive system.
In terms of fuel economy, we averaged 21.5 MPG.
For a mid-sized pickup truck, the ride quality is pretty good. It absorbs bumps in the road well. We experienced some wind buffeting due to its squared design that challenged us to keep the Gladiator in the lane. Otherwise, it handles quite well by keeping it together through evasive maneuvers.
The steering system is on the soft side. There is some play in the steering wheel when the truck is on-center. However, we found the turning radius to be quite good, making tight turns with ease. The brakes are also pretty good, with a good pedal feel and strong stopping power.
Pricing for the Jeep Gladiator start at $33,545 for the Sport model. Our Overland model came with a sticker price of $55,840, which puts in on average with half-ton, full-sized pickups with V8 engines and four-wheel-drive.
Being the new kid on the midsized pickup truck block, the Gladiator is up against some tough competition. One should compare the Gladiator with the Ford Ranger, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Honda Ridgeline.
Story Credits: CarSoup Editors