The 2020 Jeep Gladiator combines pickup-truck utility with the Wrangler’s unmistakable swagger and off-road prowess, for better or worse.
The 2020 Gladiator costs more than its rivals and is a compromised hauler in some ways, but it can trudge off-road exceptionally well, its top comes off, and it won’t be mistaken for anything but a Jeep.
On our scale, we award it 5.2 out of 10 points. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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Three Gladiator trims are on offer: low-frills Sport, tony Overland, and massively capable Rubicon. All share a standard 285-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 teamed to either an 8-speed automatic transmission or a 6-speed manual and part-time four-wheel drive. Properly equipped, the Gladiator can tow 7,650 pounds. Fuel economy is slightly worse than the Wrangler but in line with mid-size pickup truck rivals at 19 mpg combined regardless of transmission.
A 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is due by the end of calendar year 2020, but the Gladiator won’t offer the 2.0-liter turbo-4 that’s optional on the Wrangler.
The Gladiator revives a long-retired name but it’s less conventional than most Jeep pickups that came before it. From the rear seat forward, the Gladiator is a Wrangler, seven-slot, upright grille and all. Fun fact: The Gladiator’s grill slots are slightly wider than those in the Wrangler to improve engine cooling. Its windshield folds flat against the hood after removing a few screws and its fabric soft top or composite hard top can be partially or fully dropped. Behind the Gladiator’s four-door cab (no two-door version is available) sits a 5-foot steel bed with a tailgate that flops down. The Gladiator’s wheelbase is about 19 inches longer than the Wrangler’s and Jeep tacked on an additional 12 inches of frame behind its rear wheels. At 218 inches from bumper to bumper, the Gladiator is a half-inch longer than rivals with 5-foot beds.
Predictably, off-road breakover and departure angles suffer in the name of practicality, but the 2020 Gladiator remains hugely capable due to its standard four-wheel-drive system, high ground clearance, and solid axles. Rubicons do even better with their 33-inch all-terrain tires, Fox monotube shocks, taller springs, sway bars that disconnect at the tap of a button, and locking front and rear differentials.
Inside, the Gladiator feels like a Wrangler, albeit one with the rear window moved a few feet toward the cabin. Its front seats are comfortable enough, but not as adjustable as in some rivals and the center console is relatively narrow. Outward vision isn’t as good as the high seating position would suggest due to the small windows and high sills. Rear leg room grows about three inches over the Wrangler four-door, but the small door openings remain a hindrance.
Jeep charges about $2,000 more for the Gladiator than it does for a similar Wrangler. You won’t find one on a dealer’s lot for less than $35,000, and that money buys roll-up windows and a tinny audio system.
Base Gladiator Sports are spartan. Air conditioning and a 5.0-inch radio display are standard, but that’s about it. Power windows, alloy wheels, a hardtop, 7.0- and 8.0-inch touchscreens for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and an 8-speed automatic transmission are options that will bump the price of most Gladiators north of $40,000.
The Gladiator Overland is far from lavish, but can be outfitted with leather upholstery and heated seats. Opt for the Gladiator Rubicon and Jeep builds on the base model with a slew of off-road goodies. Automatic emergency braking is paired with adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warnings in an option package, too.