The much anticipated, much rumored, long awaited Jeep pickup truck has arrived. And it’s one of a kind as it’s available with a convertible top that no other truck maker offers. And keeping with Jeep heritage, the doors also come off and the windshield folds, just like traditional Jeep Wrangler’s.
The last year Jeep offered a pickup was back in 1992. But a Jeep pickup goes back to when it was offered from 1947-1965. After that it became an FC-150/170 (1957-1965); Jeep Gladiator/J-Series (1963-1987); CJ-Scrambler (1981-1985) and finally, the Jeep Comanche (1986-1992).
The midsize 2020 Gladiator comes with some impressive numbers. According to Jeep, it has a best-in-class tow rating of 7,650 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,600 pounds. And that’s just for starters.
Gladiator comes in four trim models; Sport, Sport S, Overland and rugged Rubicon. As of this writing, there’s probably no other midsize pickup that can go where the Rubicon model can go with its locking front/rear differentials, sway bar disconnect and an approach angle of 43.4 degrees and a departure angle of 26.0 degrees on the Rubicon version. Chevy’s Bison comes close, but can’t match the Gladiator for its off-road prowess.
Although it’s fairly new to the market, Jeep has racked up nearly 7,200 in U.S. sales for the second quarter. I’ve been seeing a lot of them on the road of late and in fact a good number of them have already been tricked out with custom oversize wheels and tires, light bars, side steps, winches and more.
The similarities between the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited SUV and Gladiator are very close, especially in the cabin. Round air duct vents are identical as is the display, HVAC controls, 4WD shifters, burly steering wheel, gauge cluster and more.
The main difference is in size. Gladiator is 31 inches longer and wider by 19.4 inches. And it can ford up to 31 inches of water enabled by a generous 10.25 inches of ground clearance (11 on the Rubicon).
Step-in into the cabin is a 25-inch stretch, but there are grab handles above the wide opening doors for easier ingress.
All seats have weather resistant covers that are heavily padded for rough road absorption and supportive to hug the torso during off-road jolts and bumps.
Back seats have gobs of headroom and adequate legroom. They too are equally as padded, split and flip up against the bulkhead to expose a storage bin beneath them. The rear seats, however, are set a bit upright which doesn’t make for comfy long distance riding.
Of the four trim models, we were privileged to test the nicely equipped Sport model. With it came an optional 7-inch touchscreen (5-inch is standard) with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and a variety of other apps and rearview camera.
The Sport had the Command Trac part-time 4WD with the usual 2H, 4H, 4L gearing that included a locking rear (Rubicon has locking front/rear diffs plus a disconnecting sway bar), heavy duty Dana front/rear axles, fuel tank skid plate, transfer case skid plate shield, electronic trailer sway control, stability control, electronic roll mitigation and more.
Each model comes in one bed length that measures 60 inches deep, 57 wide and 17 high. Liftover into the bed is a not too high 35 inches and the tailgate can be positioned to allow carrying 4×8 sheets of plywood.
As there is only one bed length, there’s also one engine choice, that is until the 3.0L, EcoDiesel V6 is offered sometime in 2020. When it’s available, it reportedly will generate 260-hp and a whopping 442 lb/ft of torque.
Until then, the standard powerplant is a 3.6L, V6 with 285-hp and 260 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 17 city, 22-highway mpg with start/stop engine technology and an 8-speed automatic transmission. The combination was independently tested at 7.2 seconds for a 0-60 sprint. There’s certainly no want for power.
Ride and handling wise, Gladiator has a tendency to wander over the road with virtually little road feel. It’s a bouncy ride on knobby, deep lugged, Bridgestone AT 17-inch tires. But this is no different than a Wrangler or Wrangler Unlimited in fact Gladiator rides a bit better because of its longer, wider dimensions. Load the bed with mulch or an ATV and it’ll ride even better. On convertible models, you’ll certainly grab eyes in summer with the top down and doors off.
Gladiator’s only drawback so far is its price. With a certain amount of options, it’s priced above most of the competition from Chevy’s Colorado, Ford Ranger and some Toyota Tacoma models. The Sport test truck carried a base price of an affordable $33,545. But add the Customer Preferred Package ($3,200) with a long list of goodies such as power tailgate, aluminum wheels, power heated mirrors, tinted windows, automatic headlamps and more; 7-inch Radio Group ($995) comprises the display, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, A/C, Sirius radio and more; Convenience Group ($395) for a universal garage door opener; Cold Weather Package ($995) consisting of heated front seats/steering wheel, remote start; Max Tow Package ($995) with the A/T tires, HD front/rear axles, 4.10 rear, receiver hitch, trailer hitch zoom, HD cooling and more; Jeep Active Safety Group ($995) with Park Sense Rear Park Assist, blind spot/rear cross traffic detection; Adaptive cruise with forward collision warning that includes stop ($795) plus full speed forward collision warning, advanced brake assist; Auxiliary Switch Control that is programmable ($295), 700-amp battery, tonneau cover; All Weather Slush Mats ($150); 8-speed automatic trans with skid plate, Tip start ($2,000); Alpine audio ($1,295); Wireless Bluetooth speaker ($295); Premium Sunrider soft top ($595) and delivery ($1,495), takes the bottom line to $48,535. It’d be nice to be able to pick and choose but Jeep bundles everything, which drives up the cost.
Gladiator comes with a 5 year, 60K powertrain warranty and 3/36K basic limited warranty.
If you’re looking for a pickup that excels all others, check out the Gladiator. You’ll be glad you did.