The 2020 Jeep® Gladiator is one of the most anticipated vehicles in recent memory. While Jeep hasn’t made a pickup since the Comanche stopped production in 1992, Jeep has been teasing fans with concept trucks over the years. Now, twenty-seven years later the Jeep Gladiator has arrived and we just spent a week with it.
Our Gladiator Rubicon is finished in Firecracker Red and powered by the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 which puts out 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. This particular Gladiator is backed up by the smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, although a six-speed manual is available. While the Pentastar is currently the only engine offering in the Gladiator, early next year the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel will become available, but will only be offered with the automatic transmission.
This Gladiator has received a lot of attention from on-lookers during our week with it. While it looks like a Wrangler with a bed there is actually a lot more at play here. The Gladiator has its own unique frame and is 204 inches long, or about 31 inches longer than a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. The wheelbase for the Gladiator is 19.4 inches longer than the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited for a total wheelbase of 137 inches. This added length was needed to add the 5-foot steel bed. Yet, the Jeep Gladiator is only 400 pounds heavier than the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
Compared to the Wrangler the Gladiator also gets bigger brakes, axles, and a modified suspension. When properly equipped the Gladiator can tow up to 7,650 lbs. and haul up to 1,600 lbs. of payload, our tester being a Rubicon comes in at of towing and of payload.
The exterior of the Gladiator retains that classic Jeep Wrangler look that was refined when the Wrangler (JL) debuted in 2018. The Gladiator gets its own grille with larger openings to help engine cooling when towing, the LED headlights look great and illuminate the road exceptionally at night. Since our tester was a Rubicon, you get red tow hooks front and rear, rock rails to protect the rocker panels, and an attractive set of 17-inch wheels wrapped in 285/70/17 Falken Wildpeak Mud Terrain tires. Around the back are LED taillights, a third brake light integrated into the tailgate handle, a tow hitch, and a large black Jeep badge.
The box is 5 feet in length and has some smart functionality to maximize its use. There is an integrated track system with sliding tie-downs, an AC power outlet, LED box lighting, and a tailgate that can be set to drop into a half-open position which lines up perfectly with the tops of the wheel wells for moving large items such as four by eight sheets of plywood. Jeep says the majority of motorcycles or dirt bikes will fit in the box with the tailgate down and if I had one complaint about the box it would be that it is quite a bit shallower than I’m used to, but again this is a lifestyle truck, not a work vehicle, the box will be more than sufficient for the Gladiators target audience.
The interior of the Gladiator is well laid out and the quality of the materials is quite good. All controls are easily within reach and logically laid out. Our tester had a black interior with red accent stitching, which I found to be quite attractive. Seat comfort is good and I was able to find a comfortable driving position easily. There is a good amount of storage in the center armrest which is two-tiered and features another USB plug in the bottom portion.
The 8.4-inch Uconnect screen is mounted high up on the dash and features Android Auto/Apple Carplay, Bluetooth streaming, Sirius XM with rewinding satellite radio, and much more. Unique to Jeep are the off-road pages, which can show important information such as the pitch and lean angle of the vehicle, auxiliary gauges, the front trail camera to help position the vehicle on tight trails or over rock obstacles, and much more. Speaking of the cameras the Gladiator has both front and rear cameras and the resolution on both is excellent.
Under the Uconnect screen is a bank of buttons and knobs to control radio volume, tuning, climate settings, and more. Under that are your window controls (mounted on the dash as the doors are removable), a 12-volt power plug, and USB and USB-C media connections. Mounted down low on the dash are controls for the front and rear lockers, off-road plus mode, the sway bar disconnect button, and four auxiliary buttons for aftermarket equipment.
At 6’1 with the driver’s seat set to my position, I was able to sit behind myself with about an inch of knee room and plenty of head and foot room. The backrest of the rear seat is sloped so that rear-seat passengers aren’t sitting upright which is a common issue in the half-ton truck segment. Rear seat passengers are treated to air vents for climate control, a USB port, a 115V power plug, and a total of four cupholders, although if you have a middle seat passenger you will lose two of those as they are in the fold-down armrest. The rear seat bottoms also flip up revealing latched compartments on each side for extra storage. On the driver’s side under the seat, there is also a compartment to put all the bolts for the removable doors and hardtop to keep everything organized. Rear seatbacks also fold forward which is where the removable and rechargeable Bluetooth speaker is if equipped. Take it out, take the speaker with you and when you return it to its place, the Gladiator will recharge it.
There are smart storage options in the rear too. So, how does the Gladiator drive? One thing that was immediately apparent to me was the ride quality. I did not expect the Gladiator to ride as smoothly as it does. The longer wheelbase, combined with the fox shocks of the Rubicon provides an impressively smooth and stable ride. I did find that the Gladiator does tend to wander a bit in its lane but overall the driving manners are very good for such an off-road capable vehicle. The electrically assisted power steering is direct and this Jeep holds a good line through corners without excessive body roll.
As always the Pentastar V6 and 8-speed transmission combo are very smooth and refined although it does feel a little soft at low RPMs. When the V6 gets into its operating range though it does feel quite strong and has no problems moving this Jeep pickup around, the transmission is decisive and always in the right gear providing extremely smooth shifts.
As I mentioned the Gladiator gets larger brakes than the Wrangler, the largest rear brakes in the mid-sized truck segment in fact and braking performance is strong. The pedal feel is linear and the brakes are very easy to modulate under hard braking.
Another thing that impressed me is just how quiet the interior is. Wind and road noise are kept to a minimum, with just the growl of the V6 engine entering the cabin when pushed. Even with the front two freedom panels removed from the hardtop wind noise and buffeting are well controlled. Removing those panels though is where the magic really happens, the open-air experience is, of course, exclusive to the Gladiator in the pickup truck segment, and quite frankly the feeling is intoxicating. The front freedom panels are extremely easy to take off and can easily be stored in an included pouch, while the rear section of the hardtop requires two people and requires some bolts and an electrical connector to be removed. Since the weather was all over the place while we had the truck, we didn’t bother taking the rear portion off. There are three different tops available across the Gladiator range, a soft top, a black hardtop like on our tester and a body-colored hardtop is optional on Overland and Rubicon trims.
Pricing for the Gladiator starts at $33,545 plus destination in the U.S for a Sport model or $46,995 plus destination in Canada for a Sport S, as equipped with our nearly loaded Rubicon tester rang in at $58,985 U.S or $69,040 Canadian.
After spending a week with the Gladiator I am extremely impressed. Jeep did an excellent job of combining capability and driveability into a compelling mid-sized truck, all while keeping that classic Jeep look. Nowhere else can you get a mid-sized truck as capable off-road or that allows for open-air motoring. If you’re in the market for a mid-sized truck, or a Jeep, the Gladiator needs to be on your list.
- Off-road Capability
- Classic Jeep® DNA
- On-road Driveability
- Needs More Low-End Torque
- Priced Close To A Half-Ton Truck
- Shallow Bed
2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon Review Image Gallery: