The compelling moniker of Jeep’s latest machine sounds like a newly introduced hero from Avengers: End Game. While off-roading through the outskirts of Sacramento Automotive Rhythms discovered the beastly nature of the 2020 midsize Jeep Gladiator while simultaneously witnessing its powerful capabilities in various scenarios such as scaling down trails of boulders and creeping through mud like navy seals. After experiencing dozens of 4×4 adventures from Jeep and other truck brands, the Gladiator is like a chess grandmaster utilizing strategic power moves during the endgame to outmaneuver the competition.
Representing as the automaker’s first pickup truck since the 1992 Comanche, the new edition is rugged, tough as nails and a workhorse in the wild. Expect a payload of 1,600 pounds, towing capabilities of 7,650 pounds and full-on rock-climbing prowess. Either the 3.6-liter V6 or 3-liter EcoDiesel (coming in 2020 with 260-horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque) will energize the utility.
During my California visit I was able to spend time behind the wheel of a Billet Silver Gladiator Overland, a Gladiator Sport S and of course the Gladiator Rubicon. Each was authorized by the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 285-horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque and paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission with Overdrive. A 6-speed manual is also available. Encased by 17” rims, the Overland featured enormous 32” Bridgestone Dueler H/T tires for confident all-season traction and handling. A more aggressive aluminum hood and taller fenders allowed the implementation of larger tires. Highway cruising felt relaxed and calm with no signs of turbulence, but the Gladiator did strain a bit when I towed an Airstream trailer.
Jeeps says the Gladiator is 100% truck, 100% Jeep and not just a Wrangler with a bed attached. It was specifically designed and engineered to be a pickup. Now, the styling may be hit or miss. Some will love the nostalgic, utilitarian shape and others may want a modern silhouette. I’m impartial and can flex either design direction. With roadster like enjoyment, the Gladiator puts itself in a unique category. The ability to remove the lightweight, high-strength aluminum doors, windshield (4-bolt configuration) and the top creates one of the greatest freedoms while bringing along your favorite sport activity equipment such as a set of Ghost mountain bikes. I can see myself road tripping to Moab from Colorado with fellow Fit Fathers for a long weekend of MTBing.
Gladiator owners have a choice of two hardtop options — one of which is the black 3-piece modular hardtop system — and one premium Sunrider soft top. No worries as there are no zippers to toggle with. The tonneau cover is made from the same company that makes the cloth roof. In this case they went with a roll-up method. The steel bed’s versatility continues with the available spray-in bed liner, movable hooks and a bed divider. In addition, the tailgate is aluminum for easier opening and closing scenarios. Gladiator Rubicon models are outfitted with bed rock rail protection for the cab and cargo box.
Speaking of the Rubicon, it’s the model slated the for the most enthusiastic and exploratory Jeep owners or soon-to-be owners. For example, it comes standard with the larger 33” Falken Wildpeak All-Terrain rubber which focuses on adventure driving in any condition such as snow and wet environments. It was absolutely amazing crawling up steep slopes and traversing over rocks, sometimes unbelievable even. The Rubicon also stands out from the family by way of red tow hooks, the Rock-Trac 4×4 system with heavy-duty Dana 44 axles, a heavy-duty steel off-road rear bumper, Tru-Lok electronic locking differentials and an electronic front sway bar disconnect to help the vehicle overtake almost impossible obstacles. My only concern was that the gear lever kept jumping out of 4-low for myself and my drive partner when we needed it the most. You have to apply added pressure to thoroughly lock into place.
Throughout the handling course Jeep ascertained that all test drivers were well aware of the Gladiator’s full capabilities such as the new Off-Road + feature that improves throttle response and helped me inch up steep hills. The rear and front TrailCam is cool as well but I have experienced this on other SUVs such as the 2019 BMW X5. The Gladiator can also creep through 30” of water like gators. The Sport and Overland models are packaged with Jeep’s Command-Trac 4×4 system with a 2.72:1 crawl ratio. Skid plates are a given and performance stats are impressive:
- approach angle = 43.6 degrees
- breakover angle = 20.3 degrees
- departure angle = 26 degrees
- ground clearance = 11.1 inches
Inside feels like a refreshed Wrangler with clever ergonomics and crew cab seating flexibility. Various storage bins and space have been created from configurable seats and include locking capabilities when the doors have been removed. The 4th generation Uconnect multimedia system is a gem and features 5” to 8.4” screens. Off Road Pages is one of my favorite apps since it displays vehicle Pitch & Roll, altitude, an off-road camera and more. Another cool feature is the portable Jeepafied Bluetooth speaker behind the rear passenger seat. The durable speaker stays charged, is waterproof and can be dropped without consequence. USB, USB c and 115v AC charge points are placed throughout the cabin for optimal connectivity.
The “Jeep Life” will instill 75 years of legendary heritage into Gladiator purchasers who can choose from the $33,545 Gladiator Sport, $36,745 Gladiator Sport S, $40,395 Gladiator Overland or the $43,545 Gladiator Rubicon. Expect a big-ticket $1,495 destination fee however. Or maybe you were one of the lucky 4,190 customers who registered during the 1-day pre-order opportunity for a 2020 Jeep Gladiator Launch Edition which is essentially a $60,815 fully-loaded Rubicon with special badging, rims and interior trim.
Don’t forget you can Moparize your Gladiator with more than 200 factory warrantied Jeep performance parts and accessories from the Mopar brand. So, let’s get Jeeping!