Months after Jeep announced the diesel Gladiator pickup truck was coming, we’ve finally driven the 2021 Gladiator EcoDiesel with its 260-horsepower V-6 that makes 442 pounds-feet of torque. More specifically, we spent a lot of time on-road in a Gladiator Overland EcoDiesel, one of the Gladiator’s pavement-oriented trims. Having already driven the Wrangler EcoDiesel last year, how does its Gladiator sibling fare?
For starters, it fares much like the Wrangler, as Jeep has chosen subtlety when it comes to EcoDiesel-equipped Gladiators. There’s no significant difference in outward appearance, save for a small EcoDiesel badge on the rear. The only other visual cues indicating you’ve got a diesel-powered truck come when you pop the hood and see “Jeep 3.0L EcoDiesel” printed on the V-6’s engine cover, and when you pop the fuel filler lid and see the green diesel cap and a second cap for adding diesel exhaust fluid.
With its increased torque versus the gas engine (442 versus 260 pounds-feet), the Overland EcoDiesel more than makes up for its added 365 pounds in around-town acceleration. In fact, the Gladiator EcoDiesel felt like it might be a shade quicker in lower-speed acceleration situations than its gas-powered siblings, like when getting away from a stoplight. Things feel a bit more sluggish at higher speeds with the engine already spinning, but not glaringly so.
The Gladiator diesel’s on-road manners, however, are still, well, not great. If you’re looking for a placid on-road cruiser, this isn’t it. Jeep beefed up the Gladiator diesel’s suspension to accommodate the added heft, which results in a stiffer, choppier ride than other Gladiators. It did feel like the EcoDiesel Overland tracked a hair better at highway speeds than the gas version — a very low bar — perhaps due to the extra weight up front, but driving them back to back would be the only way to really be sure of this. And it still wasn’t good at tracking on the highway; having just driven a Ford Transit 350 high roof before this Gladiator, I preferred the Transit’s highway driving experience.
There’s also a lot of noise from the outside world and the EcoDiesel itself that intrudes into the cabin. Jeep added extra sound-deadening material to compensate for the noisier diesel engine, and the noises aren’t deafening, but it’s still a loud cabin. During one particular drive, I experienced a fairly strong headwind and it sounded like I was driving with the windows open. Longer trips in the EcoDiesel were a bit grating on the ears.
Is the EcoDiesel Worth It?
You probably won’t like a lawyer-like answer here, but: It depends. The Overland we drove had a sticker price of $61,435 (including a $1,495 destination fee). It had $19,545 in options, and $6,000 of that was taken up by the EcoDiesel — $4,000 for the engine itself and $2,000 for the required eight-speed automatic transmission. (No manual diesel here, sorry.) With that added cost you get improved EPA fuel economy of 22/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined versus 17/22/19 mpg for an eight-speed auto gas version, and greater range (not that much greater, however, as the EcoDiesel’s fuel tank is 18.3 gallons versus 22 for the gas engine). I observed fuel economy ratings from the onboard trip computer consistently in the 20s. The Overland EcoDiesel also has the higher payload rating of 1,275 pounds compared to 1,140 for the gas engine, and higher towing capacity of 6,500 pounds compared to 6,000 for the gas on this trim level, despite the added weight of the engine.
So if you’re looking for a longer-range Gladiator for highway trips, especially if you’re towing or hauling, the EcoDiesel-powered Overland may be right for you. But the Gladiator was never really the ideal pickup for that scenario, and wouldn’t be my first recommendation. Or probably even my third.
I’d much rather shell out for the EcoDiesel in a Rubicon, where I could make use of the extra torque in off-roading situations and the improved fuel economy and range to give me a little more time out on the rocks or to get farther while overlanding. We haven’t gotten to drive a diesel Gladiator Rubicon yet, but wehave driven a Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel over some rough stuff and came away impressed. We found the powertrain “nearly telepathic” in terms of throttle manipulation and torque delivery and concluded that it was “arguably better” than a gas version — despite the 3.73 gears the EcoDiesel requires versus the 4.10 gears you get with the Pentastar. That seems much more worth it to me despite the Rubicon EcoDiesel’s lower max towing capacity (6,000 pounds) and payload (1,075 pounds) compared to the Rubicon’s gas ratings of 7,000 and 1,200 pounds, respectively.
Would the EcoDiesel be worth it in a different trim level? We loved driving the Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel off-road, so a diesel Gladiator Rubicon may be the way to go.
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