The 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup truck debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show last year should out-climb and out-crawl every other midsize pickup available today. It uses a completely different frame than the Wrangler, and while the front suspension hardware carries over unchanged, a more sophisticated five-link setup is fitted at the rear for better on-road handling and drive-ability. The Gladiator will be available with four doors with only one, 5-foot bed.
Jeep Gladiator will be initially offered in base Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon trims, all of which come standard with four-wheel drive. There’s even a Launch Edition model, limited to 4,190 units. These limited, fully loaded early-edition vehicles are becoming more and more common. The Launch Edition goes for $60,815 plus $1,495 for destination.
All Gladiators will initially be available with Jeep’s tried-and-true, 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine, with 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The V6 works just fine, and you can get it with a six-speed manual transmission. A 3.0-liter diesel engine will come online later.
The Gladiator off-roads like a Wrangler should, with only a few minor compromises. On a Jeep-designed off-road course, full of thick, clay mud, the 33-inch Falken Wildpeak tires on the Rubicon model are getting a real workout. But the Gladiator easily gets up and over rocks, can ford deep puddles and generally gives off that “we can go absolutely anywhere” vibe. The Gladiator Rubicon ads a forward-facing camera to navigate obstacles like rocks — it’s great to know exactly where you’re putting your tires.
The Gladiator Rubicon has 43-degree approach angle, so you can easily attack steep hills without worry of scraping the front end. However, the truck’s 138-inch wheelbase reduces the breakover angle down to 20 degrees, from 22.6 in a four-door Wrangler Unlimited. It’s easier to get high-centered in the Gladiator if you’re doing serious off-roading, though the Rubicon’s rock rails help keep damage to a minimum. The Gladiator’s bed takes away a bit of rear-end clearance, with a 26-degree departure angle, but Jeep protects the bed with its very own, smaller rock rail.
A new Off-Road+ mode can adjust the throttle, transmission and stability control for different situations. When the truck is in 4WD high, the parameters are changed for higher-speed performance, say while running through sand. In 4WD low, it works in the opposite direction, dialing everything back to better traverse the rougher, more technical stuff at lower speeds. The Rubicon is obviously the Gladiator you’ll want if you routinely tackle tough off-road situations, but other versions can still handle the rough stuff just fine.
The Gladiator’s 3.6-liter V6 is nicely mated to the Jeep’s eight-speed automatic transmission. The V6 gets the truck up to speed quickly, and there’s enough mid-range power to pass slow-moving semis without much drama. By and large, the eight-speed transmission fades into the background, shifting smoothly and unobtrusively. `
The Gladiator certainly isn’t going to win any handling competitions, thanks to its relatively soft suspension, but it holds its own just fine. Like in the Wrangler, the steering offers adequate weight but lacks feedback, and the ride quality is comfortable enough for cruising, but still appropriately trucky. With the automatic transmission, Jeep estimates the Gladiator should see fuel economy ratings of 17 miles per gallon city, 22 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. With the six-speed manual, those numbers change to 16, 23 and 19, respectively.
Payload and Towing Capability
The Gladiator has towing capability to 7,650 pounds, which bests every other midsize truck on sale today. The Gladiator’s Tow/Haul mode engages at the push of a button, and while driving uphill at a 6% grade, the transmission keeps the engine’s revs high in order to send plenty of power to the pavement. The Gladiator’s mirrors aren’t very wide, so visibility isn’t the best, and the truck’s blind-spot monitoring does not cover the length of the trailer as it does on other trucks. For in-bed hauling, Jeep says the Gladiator can handle up to 1,700 pounds of payload.
However, do note that these maximum towing/hauling ratings only apply to the Gladiator Sport S with the eight-speed automatic transmission. If you step up to a Rubicon, for example, towing drops to 7,000 pounds and payload is reduced to 1,160. Get a manual transmission on your Rubicon, and towing drops to 4,500 pounds, though payload increases slightly to 1,200.
2020 Jeep Gladiator Pricing
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator costs just $2,100 more than a base Wrangler, which seems like a heck of a deal considering all the extra utility you get. The base Gladiator Sport starts at $33,545, and the top-end Rubicon comes in at $43,545, not including $1,495 for destination.
That’s a bit more money than you’ll pay for similarly equipped versions of the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger or Toyota Tacoma, but remember, the Gladiator offers the best off-road capability and none of these trucks quite match the cool factor of the Gladiator.
Some great attributes of Wrangler, an absolutely iconic SUV, make their way to the Gladiator pickup. It’s definitely the truck many have been waiting for.