The all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator has arrived with the versatility of a midsize pickup and the legendary capability of a Jeep. It looks like the beloved Wrangler, especially from the front with that seven-slot grille, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this is simply a Wrangler with a truck bed slapped on the back.
The Gladiator is a genuine truck with a five-foot steel bed that can manage a payload of up to 1,600 pounds. It can also tow up to 7,650 pounds and includes work-friendly features like under-rail bed lighting, integrated tie-downs, and a power-locking tailgate with three stopping positions.
Combine that with traditional Wrangler features that let you enjoy the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. It has a fold-down windshield, removable doors, and choice of a soft top or two different hardtops. It’s ready to work all week and then help you have some fun on the weekend.
This is a true off-road vehicle with two 4×4 systems depending on which trim of the Gladiator you choose to buy. The base Sport and Overland get the Command-Trac system. The Rubicon, named for that famous trail, features the Rock-Trac system, which adds electronically locking front and rear differentials for more aggressive off-road adventures.
Standard across the lineup are front skid plates and there are front and rear tow hooks, which of course are for getting the other guys out of trouble because you’re not getting stuck in your Jeep, right? There is 11.1 inches of ground clearance and it can ford 30 inches of water. The Rubicon again gets an upgrade over base models with a heavy-duty off-road rear bumper and an available front steel bumper ready for adding a winch.
We had the chance to drive the Gladiator on-road trip and off-road through mud and over rocks to see just how well it lives up to the Jeep reputation. On the road, it’s comfortable without undue road noise, but remember, the top comes off the Gladiator.
It’s not noisy, but it’s a bit like driving a convertible. You know that’s not a single continuous piece of metal over your head even with everything closed tight. Still, the Gladiator wasn’t wearying on passengers, even over the course of a longer drives.
Inside there’s room for five with a comfortable back seat that works for three adults on all but the longest trips. Front passengers get contoured front seats, which keep you comfy driving on the pavement and help you stay put off-road on uneven surfaces. Lock the roomy rear seats in place to create extra rear storage or fold them flat for stowing larger cargo you don’t want in the bed.
The Uconnect infotainment system, which is one of the most intuitive systems out there, includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with two USB ports. Base trims get a small five-inch screen, but higher trims get either a seven-inch or 8.4-inch screen that’s much easier to use.
A diesel engine will be available, but you’ll have to wait until next year for it to arrive. Right now there’s a 3.6-liter V6 with 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque paired to either a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic.
Our Gladiator was the Overland trim which sits just under the top Rubicon. It featured the automatic transmission, which shifted smoothly and quietly. The 3.6-liter had ample power for getting up to highway speeds and made merging into rush hour traffic easy.
It’s also capable off-road, confidently making its way through deep, muddy ruts without a second thought and across loose rocks. Take the doors and roof off and you’ll forget this is a truck as you enjoy the open air.
A choice of four available trims includes the Sport at $33,545, Sport S at $36,745, Overland at $40,395, and Rubicon at $43,545. The Gladiator truly is the best of both worlds – one-part versatile, midsize truck and one-part capable off-road vehicle. Look for it at your local dealer today.