The 2020 Jeep Gladiator enters a mid-size pickup truck market filled with worthy rivals, including the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado. But even among this impressive company, the Gladiator stands out for its tough-guy looks, go-anywhere capability and sun-loving nature. Much more than a Wrangler with a pickup bed attached, the Gladiator fills a unique niche in the truck world.
Standing out from the crowd will cost you, however, as the Gladiator gets pricey when you start loading options and climbing trim levels. It also lacks the sharper handling provided by some mid-size truck competitors. We recently put the Gladiator through its paces to see what sets it apart and uncover some of the things that hold it back. Keep reading for a quick-hit rundown of the pros and cons of Jeep’s first pickup in nearly 30 years, and don’t forget to check out our comprehensive review by Cars.com’s Aaron Bragman via the related link above.
Here are eight things we like to the Maximus, and three things by which we’re not entertained, about the Gladiator:
Things We Like
1. Not Just Some Wrangler With a Bed
Yes, the Gladiator looks like a four-door Wrangler Unlimited with a cargo bed slapped onto the rear end. However, Jeep likes to point out that there is more than meets the eye. Compared with the Wrangler, the Gladiator rides on a longer wheelbase, has added structural reinforcements to boost towing capacity, and has a rear suspension that shares many components with the full-size Ram 1500 pickup truck. Even those traditional Jeep front grille slats are wider than what you find in the Wrangler in an effort to aid with engine cooling.
2. Smooth Ride … No, Really!
When is the last time you heard anyone marvel at the smooth, comfy ride of a Jeep Wrangler? Unless you’re taking a donkey cart to the dealership as your trade-in, the answer is a resounding, “Never!” Except here comes the Gladiator and its surprisingly isolated and well-rounded suspension tuning. The longer wheelbase and beefier suspension give the Gladiator a highway ride we commented “feels like a Lexus.”
3. Vivacious V-6
The 3.6-liter V-6 in the Gladiator delivers 285 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque. That’s enough to hustle this big Jeep down the road, or over rocky terrain, without breaking a sweat. Then again, Bragman commented that the Gladiator feels underwhelming when compared to the punchy 2.3-liter turbo four and 10-speed automatic found in the latest Ford Ranger.
4. Manual or Automatic Available
We ultimately suggested the automatic transmission is the better choice for most buyers, though it’s nice that Jeep offers a manual gearbox in the Gladiator. The six-speed manual is direct and pleasant to use, though you need to row through the gears to keep this Jeep in the right rev band. Since the eight-speed automatic is equally well mannered, there isn’t a bad choice to be made here so long as you know what you like.
5. Jeep Nakedness
The Gladiator stays true to Jeep tradition by allowing owners to take off the doors, remove the top and lower the windshield. As a convertible pickup truck, the Gladiator reigns in a field of exactly one.
6. Where the Asphalt Ends, the Gladiator Begins
Beyond the uniform predictability of paved roads is where the Gladiator comes alive. Like its Wrangler cousin, the Gladiator is adept at traveling across terrain that would have most trucks crunching their fenders and bending their suspension. The added size and heft of the Gladiator means it can’t quite match the smaller, lighter Wrangler for overall rock-crawling capability — but it sure comes close.
7. Handy Cargo Bed
We already mentioned that the Gladiator is more than a Wrangler with a pickup bed. Well, the pickup bed in the Gladiator is more than an empty cargo shell, too. The tailgate can be fully opened or left in a half-open position for ease of hauling bulkier items. There are tie-down points and loads of accessories available to let you tote surfboards, bikes, motorcycles or whatever gear you want to bring along for your adventure.
8. Mighty Rubicon Still Reigns Supreme
As with the Wrangler, the top trim level and the one most adept at all-terrain driving is the Rubicon. In the Gladiator, the Rubicon includes items like underbody skid plates, off-road tires, front and rear electronic differentials, electronic sway-bar disconnects, plus a 1-inch boost to ride height.
More From Cars.com:
- Shopping for a 2020 Jeep Gladiator? Research One, Here
- Find a 2020 Jeep Gladiator for Sale Near You, Now
- Ready for a Mid-Size Truck? We Rank 4 of the Best
- Ranger, Gladiator, Ridgeline, Canyon: Which Has the Best Bed and Tailgate?
- Doorless 2020 Jeep Gladiator Isn’t Just for Fun
Things We Don’t
1. Awkward Proportions
With all due respect to Jeep’s design department, the Gladiator looks darn strange from some angles. The awkward proportions are most evident when you see this truck from the side. Maybe the cargo bed is too short. Maybe the cabin is too long. Whatever’s going on, the Gladiator is not what you’d call a conventionally handsome vehicle.
2. It’s Expensive
More eye-widening than strange styling, however, is the prodigious price you may wind up paying for the Gladiator. A starting price of around $35,000 for a 2020 Gladiator Sport sounds reasonable, but the trouble is when you start adding options and choosing higher trims. Believe it or not, fully loaded with options and accessories, a Gladiator can go for more than $70,000.
3. Disinterested Steering
We were surprised by the Gladiator’s inoffensive ride, but the floaty steering revealed that some bad habits from the Wrangler carry over to Jeep’s pickup. Granted, looser steering can be useful when clattering into a rock or rut while off-roading. Yet in day-to-day driving, the vague steering makes the Gladiator feel outclassed and outhandled by mid-size truck rivals.
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