2020 Jeep Gladiator first drive evaluation

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is likely one of the most anticipated automobile launches of the 12 months. Jeep hasn’t made a pickup truck since 1992, when the Cherokee-based Comanche ceased manufacturing. Followers have been clamoring for a brand new Jeep truck ever since, and Jeep itself has teased the thought of a pickup based mostly on the favored Wrangler since 2004, when it unveiled an idea automotive known as, you guessed it, Gladiator (the identify was first used on a Jeep truck in 1963).

Now that the Gladiator is lastly right here, was it definitely worth the wait? Can Jeep’s new Wrangler-based pickup compete towards typical midsize vans just like the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, and Toyota Tacoma? We went to California’s wine nation to search out out.

When it goes on sale later this 12 months, the Gladiator can be obtainable in 4 trim ranges: base Sport ($35,040), Sport S ($38,240), Overland ($41,890), and off-road-focused Rubicon ($45,040). All costs embrace a compulsory $1,495 vacation spot cost. Jeep offered an Overland mannequin for on-road driving and a Rubicon for off-roading throughout our take a look at.

Stephen Edelstein/Digital Traits

Acquainted, but totally different

At first look, the Gladiator appears like a Jeep Wrangler Limitless with a pickup mattress, which is okay. The mattress, with its sq. taillights and easy “Jeep” lettering, compliments the acquainted Wrangler entrance finish properly, giving the Gladiator a cool, retro look. From behind the wheel, the Wrangler-like exterior pays dividends in glorious outward visibility. The sq., upright home windows and stubby entrance finish make maneuvering in tight areas simple, each on street and off. The Rubicon mannequin’s front-view digital camera (lively solely at low speeds attributable to laws) additionally helps.

Jeep additionally stored the enjoyable stuff from the Wrangler, together with a fold-down windshield, detachable roof (smooth prime normal, arduous prime elective) and detachable doorways. However below the pores and skin, the Gladiator deviates considerably from the Wrangler.

“We couldn’t simply take a Wrangler, put a field on it, and say it’s truck-capable,” Pete Milosavlevski, chief engineer for the Gladiator, informed Digital Traits. The pickup contains a distinctive body and rear suspension, in addition to larger rear brakes, beefed up axles, and a greater cooling system in comparison with the Wrangler.

The inside can be acquainted to anybody who has frolicked in a current-generation Wrangler. It sports activities an upright dashboard meant to imitate classic Jeeps, whereas nonetheless accommodating the compulsory fashionable touchscreen. Jeep was fast to level out a smattering of actual steel trim, in addition to a rugged-feeling rubber molding across the touchscreen, however plastic gave the impression to be the most typical trim materials. The design makes up for that, although, as do quite a few Easter Eggs just like the picture of a Jeep crawling up a nook of the windshield, and a stamping on the sting of the mattress with the quantity 419 and a coronary heart — referencing the realm code of Jeep’s hometown of Toledo, Ohio.

The Gladiator has a beneficiant quantity of inside house for a midsize truck, significantly within the again.

Jeep additionally made some Gladiator-specific adjustments inside. The rear seats are new, and incorporate a lockable under-seat storage field so driver and passengers have a safe place to maintain valuables whereas driving round with the doorways off. A waterproof Bluetooth speaker lives within the bulkhead between the cab and mattress. It unplugs to offer a transportable supply of music wherever the Gladiator goes.

The Gladiator is 31 inches longer than a Wrangler Limitless with a wheelbase stretched 19.Four inches. That interprets right into a beneficiant quantity of inside house for a midsize truck, significantly within the again. Solely the Honda Ridgeline, one other midsize pickup truck based mostly on an present SUV (it’s principally a Honda Pilot with a mattress) comes shut in total inside house. Word that the Gladiator’s arduous prime roof does include a big headroom penalty over the smooth prime.

Most different automakers (Honda being the exception) supply their midsize vans with a four-door cab and quick mattress, or a two-door cab and lengthy mattress. Jeep solely affords the previous, a transfer that matches with the automaker’s positioning of the Gladiator as primarily a life-style automobile, slightly than one for individuals who use their vans for work. The Gladiator is out there solely with a 5.Zero-foot pickup field, with a cargo capability of 35.5 cubic ft, in response to Jeep. That’s an honest quantity of room, however not as a lot as a Ford Ranger geared up with a field of the identical size. Ford claims its truck can maintain 43.three cubic ft of cargo.

Off-road prepared tech

The Gladiator makes use of the Uconnect infotainment system beforehand seen in quite a few automobiles from Jeep and different Fiat Chrysler Vehicles (FCA) manufacturers. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are normal, together with 5 USB ports (three entrance, two rear) are normal. The bottom Gladiator Sport will get a 5.Zero-inch touchscreen as normal tools, however 7.Zero-inch and eight.Four-inch screens are additionally obtainable. A three.5-inch TFT show (7.Zero-inch on increased trim ranges) sits between analog gauges within the instrument cluster.

Jeep affords adaptive cruise management and blind spot monitoring, however the latter can’t cowl an connected trailer, because the Ford Ranger’s system can. The Gladiator Rubicon mannequin does get a forward-facing digital camera that detects obstacles which are as much as two ft forward of the automobile, which turns out to be useful on the path. It additionally options dynamic gridlines that present the place the automobile will go based mostly on the present steering angle. Usually discovered on rear-view cameras, that characteristic actually turns out to be useful when selecting your approach via mud and boulders off-road.

Ahead-facing digital camera options dynamic gridlines that present the place the automobile will go based mostly on the present steering angle.

The Gladiator additionally options Jeep’s Selec-Velocity Management system. It’s principally off-road cruise management, dealing with acceleration and braking whereas the driving force steers. The motive force may choose a pace between 1 and 5 mph (that’s about as quick as you need to go throughout actually technical off-road driving). Whereas the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma characteristic comparable methods, Jeep’s is rather more succesful. It guided us over a pile of mud-slicked rocks at 1 mph effortlessly, maintaining the Gladiator shifting over these robust obstacles with the persistence of a zombie. 

Rock-crawling champ

At launch, the Gladiator can be obtainable solely with Jeep’s acquainted three.6-liter gasoline V6, producing 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Six-speed guide and eight-speed automated transmissions can be found, and the Gladiator is the one midsize truck with normal four-wheel drive. The Rubicon will get a model-specific four-wheel drive system with locking entrance and rear differentials and Four.10 low-range gear ratio for improved off-road functionality.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Stephen Edelstein/Digital Traits

Jeep will add a three.Zero-liter V6 turbodiesel to the lineup in the course of the 2020 calendar 12 months. Accessible solely with the eight-speed automated, the six will make 260 hp and a stout 442 lb-ft of torque. Because it received’t be obtainable till subsequent 12 months, we didn’t have a possibility to pattern this engine. Jeep hasn’t mentioned plans to supply the Wrangler’s 2.Zero-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, or the upcoming plug-in hybrid powertrain, within the Gladiator.

The Gladiator stored shifting over robust obstacles with the persistence of a zombie.

With the gasoline V6, the Gladiator affords extra horsepower than some other midsize truck engine besides the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins, which make 308 hp with their shared, elective three.6-liter V6. Nevertheless, torque output is back-of-the-pack stuff. That may change when the diesel goes on sale. It can eclipse even the 369 lb-ft of the Colorado/Canyon diesel – the torquiest engine presently obtainable in a midsize truck.

Lack of torque doesn’t cease the gasoline-powered Gladiator from placing out some spectacular figures. Jeep claims it should tow as much as 7,650 kilos when correctly geared up, with a payload capability of 1,600 kilos. Each figures put the Gladiator close to the highest of its class, however the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon diesels can tow barely extra (7,700 kilos), whereas the Ford Ranger affords extra payload capability (1,860 kilos), in response to their respective makers.

The Gladiator can also be a real Jeep off the overwhelmed path. The Rubicon mannequin’s locking differentials, 33-inch tires (aired down, per normal off-road follow), and disconnecting sway bars made fast work of an off-road course that featured deep mud and rocks made slick by current rainfall. Given Jeep’s off-road status, we anticipated the Gladiator to deal with this. We didn’t count on it to be really easy.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Stephen Edelstein/Digital Traits

All Gladiator fashions have 4 skid plates to guard the underside, whereas the Rubicon provides rock rails below the doorways and on the mattress corners to guard the bodywork from harm.

The Gladiator was constructed for the path, however will most likely see extra pavement than grime in buyer arms. That’s an issue as a result of, not like the current-generation Wrangler, the Gladiator’s on-road manners might use some polish.

The journey high quality is poor even for a standard body-on-frame truck, and particularly unhealthy contemplating how effectively the equally constructed Ford Ranger and Chevy Colorado journey on pavement. Jeep picked twisty roads for the drive to the off-road course, together with a stretch of California’s well-known Pacific Coast Freeway. It is a great spot to wring out a sports activities automotive, however the Gladiator felt misplaced. It’s not all unhealthy, although: the arduous prime mannequin felt as stiff and strong as a automobile with a permanently-attached roof, and wind noise was subdued.

Jeep solely had gas financial system estimates for the three.6-liter gasoline V6 prepared in time for publication. It’s anticipated to get 19 mpg mixed (17 mpg metropolis, 22 mpg freeway) with the automated transmission. The mixed determine stays the identical with the guide transmission, however metropolis and freeway estimates are 16 mpg and 23 mpg, respectively. These numbers are just under common for the phase. The fuel-economy champ of the Gladiator lineup would be the upcoming diesel.


The 2020 Jeep Gladiator joins the small however aggressive midsize-truck phase. These are its rivals.

Chevrolet Colorado (base value: $21,495)/GMC Canyon (base value: $22,095): The Normal Motors twins supply extra V6 horsepower, and you will get each with a diesel engine proper now, as a substitute of getting to attend for Jeep so as to add that choice to the Gladiator. Each vans are nicer to drive on the street, and the Chevy Colorado ZR2 affords critical off-road functionality.

Ford Ranger (base value: $25,395): The Ranger is predicated on a mannequin beforehand bought abroad, however has been closely revamped for the U.S. It has extra payload capability than the Jeep, in addition to higher on-road dealing with and journey. The Ranger can’t match the Gladiator’s off-road functionality, nevertheless it performs pretty effectively within the grime. The Ranger Raptor Ford sells in different markets could be a more in-depth rival to the Jeep.

2020 Jeep Gladiator In contrast To

Honda Ridgeline (base value: $31,Zero35): Honda is the contrarian of the midsize truck world. The Ridgeline is predicated on a car-like unibody platform, providing superior journey high quality and refinement to the body-on-frame Gladiator and different, extra traditionally-designed vans. Nevertheless, the Ridgeline can’t match the Gladiator’s towing and payload numbers, or its off-road functionality.

Nissan Frontier (base value: $20,Zero35): The present-generation Frontier dates again to 2005 so, not surprisingly, it lags behind the Gladiator and different rivals in tech, gas financial system, and total refinement. However the Nissan is a discount, and it affords an sincere simplicity that may’t be present in newer automobiles.

Toyota Tacoma (base value: $26,795): The Tacoma has a well-reserved status for reliability, and has higher on-road manners than the Gladiator. Nevertheless, the cab felt cramped and dated in comparison with the Jeep, and the Tacoma’s payload and towing figures are solely common. Toyota is rolling out some updates for the 2020 mannequin 12 months, together with a brand new infotainment system suitable with Android Auto. 

Peace of thoughts

Jeep affords a three-year, 36,000-mile new-car guarantee and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain guarantee. As a result of the Gladiator is a brand new mannequin, crash-test rankings usually are not obtainable. That additionally makes it troublesome to foretell future reliability, though FCA automobiles have an total poor status on this space.

How DT would configure this automotive

We’d go straight to the highest and order a Rubicon. Whereas $45,040 is lots for a midsize truck, and most towing capability is decreased to 7,000 kilos, the Rubicon will get the off-road upgrades that carry out the Gladiator’s true potential. The Four:10-ratio Dana 44 axles and rock rails are gadgets any critical off-road fanatic will need to match to their Gladiator, so why not get them straight from the manufacturing facility?

The Rubicon comes inventory with 33-inch tires, however Jeep famous the fenders might accommodate tires as much as 35 inches in diameter with out modification. So our first cease after the dealership would most likely be a tire store for some bigger rubber. Jeep can even supply a 2.Zero-inch elevate package and tube doorways via the Mopar components catalog. Lastly, we’d match a winch to get us unstuck from any bother spots on the path.


It’s shocking that Jeep took so lengthy to launch the Gladiator. The mix of Wrangler functionality and pickup truck utility is an apparent one. It’s additionally arduous to beat the cool issue of a truck with a convertible prime and detachable doorways. It might be designed extra for play than work, however the Gladiator is a reputable different to conventional midsize vans just like the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma.

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