The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is based on the fourth-generation Wrangler, but it is so much more; a well-thought-out pickup truck with obvious Ram DNA.
The first Jeep Gladiator appeared in 1962.
The J-Series, as it became known from 1971, was a full-size pickup based on the Jeep SJ or Wagoneer platform. It remained in production in one form or another until 1982.
The current Jeep Gladiator, is based on the fourth-generation Wrangler with a ladder-type frame and solid axles front and rear
But it is more than a Wrangler with a five-foot box out back. It is a well-thought-out pickup with obvious input from the same folks who bring you the Ram.
The Gladiator can haul up to 7,600 pounds and do so without sacrificing much, if any, of the go-anywhere capabilities that have earned the Wrangler its enviable reputation.
The development team were successful in retaining the ‘fun’ qualities that have made the Wrangler such a popular off-roader.
You can remove the doors and top for an open-air experience and safely ford 76-centimetre deep streams. There are numerous skid plates beneath to protect critical components.
The approach and departure angles and an incredibly capable four-wheel drive system allow the Gladiator to go where only a Wrangler could serve as a tow vehicle.
But the Gladiator can also serve as a workhorse if that is your need.
The cargo box adds a layer of utility that enhances the ownership experience. The box allows you to tote anywhere from 1,105 to 1,700 pounds. Depending on equipment level, the Gladiator can tow a minimum of 4,000 pounds and as much as 7,600.
Compared to the Wrangler, there is an extra 49 centimetres between the front and rear wheels. The vast majority of that has been allocated to rear seat legroom. This makes the Gladiator a much more family-friendly vehicle than the Wrangler. You can share the off-road experience with the kids or friends!
The interior successfully combines the rugged touches essential in a true off-roader with the amenities expected in this day and age. You get a water-proof push-button start along with a heated steering wheel and seats (optional). You can take the doors off but there is a big infotainment screen complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Early production model tested not at its best on the open road
The longer wheelbase also allows a better ride, than a Wrangler. But the test vehicle was not at its best on the open road. In severe winds and in two-wheel-drive mode, the constant need for on-center steering corrections made long highway runs tiring.
The tester was an early production model when it rolled off the Saltillo, Mexico assembly line. Subsequent versions benefitted from updated steering gear valve tuning, and pump calibration changes which have reportedly addressed this issue.
The standard V6 is a smooth and strong companion, matched in this case with an eight-speed automatic. A six-speed manual is standard equipment.
Also available is a 3.0-litre diesel belting out 446 lb. ft. of torque compared to 260 for the gasoline engine.
As you might expect from a tall, 5,000-pound truck with the aerodynamic properties of a brick, fuel mileage is not its’ forte.
The numbers varied greatly during the test period, heavily influenced by speed and wind direction. Highway mileage varied from 10.7 – 14.2 litres/100 km.
The Jeep Gladiator combines the ruggedness and off-road capabilities of the Wrangler with the rear seat room and carrying capacities of a pickup. Keep an eye on the option sheet – prices can climb pretty quickly.
FACTS & FIGURES: 2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland 4X4
As tested: $64,085 including freight
Pre-Collision System with Bicycle and Pedestrian Detection, Automatic High Beam, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Tracing Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Backup Camera with Guide
20-cm touchscreen, 12-speaker audio system with remote, Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto. traffic, weather and map updates,
STANDARD EQUIPMENT INCLUDES
Rear view camera, remote keyless entry with push button start, four and seven pin wiring harness, Class II hitch receiver, 115-volt inverter, tilt & telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, power windows and locks, UConnect 4 with 18-cm display, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, satellite radio,
Billet silver metallic paint, $245; leather-trimmed seat, $995; trailer-tow package (Class IV hitch, HD cooling, hitch zoom), $500; Cold weather group (heated steering wheel and front seats, remote start, LED lighting group, $895; UConnect 4C with Nav and Sound Group (five-year Travel Link and traffic subscription, auto-dimming rear mirror, Alpine premium audio system, 21-cm touchscreen, $1,395; Safety Tec group (park sense rear park system, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection), $845; auxiliary switch group (four auxiliary switches and 700-amp battery), $295; hardtop headliner, $725; cargo management system (trail rail, lockable & removeable under seat storage, 115-volt AC in-bed outlet), $995; roll-up tonneau cover, $495; eight-speed automatic transmission, $1,595; anti-spin rear differential, $525; wireless speaker with Bluetooth, $395; remote proximity keyless entry, $300.
3.6-litre V6, 285 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel OK. Eight-speed automatic transmission, Command-Trac part-time four-wheel-drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 13.7 / 10.7
Length, 5,593 mm; width, 1,875 mm; wheelbase, 3,486 mm; weight, 2,137 kg