THE TRUCK YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU NEEDED: 2020 JEEP GLADIATOR SPORT S 4X4
Quite amount of time has passed since a Jeep has had a bed attached to one of its products. Departing in 1992, the Comanche, being the last pickup to wear the seven slotted grille, was the utilitarian brute of the Jeep lineup. Given the popularity and well-rounded ingenuity of the new Wrangler, the only thing it was missing was the ability to haul more than just some bulky camping gear. The new 2020 Jeep Gladiator is now the mid-size truck that you never thought you needed.
The receipt for the Gladiator is simple; it comes with four-doors, a five-foot bed and selectable four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case. Like the Wrangler comrade, it’s available with a soft or hard top and all the doors and roof can be removed as well as the trend continues with an option to lower the windshield.
Looking at the Gladiator, it’s difficult to find it aesthetically appealing – it is quite the odd duck. Perhaps that’s also what makes it so distinct. There are four available models: Sport, Sport S, Overland, and Rubicon with pricing starting at $33,545 and can be topped out near the $63,000 range in Rubicon form. For this article, our tester arrived as what most likely would be the popular volume consumer choice, Sport S starting at $36,745. Despite coming standard with 17-inch aluminum wheels, power windows, power locks, and automatic headlights, our Gladiator needed more of the contented essentials as it brought in the 7-inch Radio Group ($995), Convenience Group ($359), Cold Weather Group ($995), Hardtop Headliner ($555), Cargo Management Group ($895), Black Freedom Top ($1195), Alpine Premium Audio System ($1295) and a Spray-in Bed liner ($495).
Sure, the new Gladiator looks exactly like a Jeep Wrangler – every bit that you can see and touch has been pulled from the Wrangler except for two very important sections; the chassis and the back half of the truck. Built using a lightweight, high-strength steel ladder frame – the Gladiator shares many of its under pinning’s with the new RAM 1500. On the basis of keeping the Gladiator unique underneath, it uses an old-school, sophisticated set up with two live axles, five-link coil suspension configuration and lateral control arm design that helps the axle movement with minimal angle change during suspension travel.
Going old school with its development insures durability and reliably but also mixes in a lot of modernization as the springs have been tuned to employ a satisfied balance of on-road comfortably and off-road capability. Unlike Jeep of the past, the Gladiator is one that can be driven hundreds of miles to its off-road destination and maintain its comfortability through any terrain whether smooth asphalt or a rocky path.
For now, the 285-horsepower, 260 lb-ft of torque 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 is the only available engine option on the Gladiator with the option to stick with the six-speed manual or drop an extra $2000 on the fantastically engineered eight-speed automatic. The rumors can be laid to rest as the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel with 260-horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque with a standard eight speed automatic will be released sometime in 2020. There has been no information whether or not the 2.0-liter turbocharged with e-Torque from the Wrangler will make its way into the new Gladiator.
Carrying the Jeep logo, the Gladiator has to be more than just a truck. Its off-road capability follows the Wrangler footsteps utilizing a Command-Trac 4X4 system on entry level Gladiators while the Rubicon will see the more advanced Rock-Trac 4X4 with Tru-Lok locking differentiates. All Gladiators, except for the Rubicon will have a 43.6-degree approach angle, 20.3-degree break over angle, 26-degree departure angle, 11.1-inches of ground clearance and the ability to forge water up to 30-inches – the Rubicon sees a few more inches of aggression
On the road, the Gladiator isn’t as spirited as one would hope, but the 3.6-liter V-6 has determination as it benders to life utilizing low-end torque for quick off the line acceleration which also comes in handling for the essential extreme off-roading. Getting to 60-mph takes roughly 7-seconds with the eight-speed automatic that never seems to skip a beat. For as good as the Gladiator is, the steering, which utilizes a recirculating-ball makes the steering not as good as it can be but works better for the off-road articulation.
Having the ability to do truck stuff is an important part to the Gladiators mantra. Its five foot bed is relatively useful without having too much interruption from the wheel wells. It can tow upwards to 7650lbs and payload is rested a max of 1600lbs depending on trim and powertrain configuration with the equipped 4.10 Axle Ratio as part of the $995 Max Tow Package that will incorporate 240-amp alternation and heavy-duty engine cooling.
If the interior looks familiar, you know why… carrying the same simple modern design as the Wrangler, it supports function and style. Our tester was equipped with the optional 7.0-inch Uconnect touch screen infotainment that incorporated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – the screen can also be upgraded to the 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen with Navigation. All the buttons and knobs are carry a chunky design that can be operated with gloves and carries a certain weather resistant application.
Given the stature of the Gladiator, it’s not quite as big as a Ford F-150 or RAM 1500, technically it would be considered a mid-size truck compared to the Chevrolet Colorado, Honda Ridgeline and Ford Ranger. Circulating the mid-size segment, the interior supports a comfortable setting for all passengers with a tall, upright demanding position. Rear seat, while legroom is a bit snug, has an overall comfortable balance that can handle long distance road trips. The rear seats also support a 60/40 split fold – both folding flat and raising the bottom seat up for store taller items.
Removing all the panels is reasonably simple if you have a partner to assist in removing the heavy bits… aka the roof. It takes roughly an hour to remove all the panels without lowering the front windshield. Our biggest complaint however falls towards the three-piece freedom panel on the optional $1195 Black Hard Top. Removing the panels is as simple as pulling a lever; however, while Jeep provides a panel storage bag there is nowhere to place the storage bag except to place in the bed of the truck, leaving it to bounce around – it would have been convenient if Jeep had designed a storing placement in the bed of the Gladiator for easier storability and protection for the panels.
It won’t come as a surprise that the Gladiator is not a cheap pick-up; but it is important to also keep in mind, an entry Toyota Tacoma SR5 Double Cab 4X4 starts at $36,110, a Chevrolet Colorado LT Crew Cab 4X4 starts at $35,395, and a Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4X4 starts at $34,295. Where we start to lose sight is the as tested $48,350. The Gladiator, like other Jeeps is a lifestyle vehicle built with perseverance – you’re not just paying for a truck, you’re also paying for a one way ticket into the most exclusive off-road club in the world. Besides, name one other truck on the market that can have its roof taken off in less than hour?
Model: 2020 JEEP GLADIATOR
Starting Price: $33,545
As Tested: $48,350
Color: BRIGHT WHITE
Engine: 3.6-LITER PENTASTAR V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 285-HORSEPOWER / 260 LB-FT TORQUE
Transmission: 8-SPEED AUTOMATIC
Drivetrain: COMMAND-TRAC FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE
Fuel Economy: EPA RATED: 17-CITY / 22-HWY / 19-COMBINED
(AS TESTED: 20.8 MPG COMBINED | 22.7 MPG – 500 MILE HIGHWAY)
Fuel Range: 370 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±7.0 SECONDS