2020 Jeep Gladiator First Review
- Best-in-class towing capacity for the mid-sized truck segment
- Iconic Jeep styling with true convertible capability
- Legendary Jeep off-road credentials
- Lightweight, high-strength steel and aluminum body-on-frame construction
- Additional durability for work truck functionality
- Priced starting at $33,545 for the base Gladiator Sport model
The long-awaited 2020 Jeep Gladiator, the mid-sized Jeep pickup truck with best-in-class towing capacity and a starting price of $33,545 is here. And we have one question, is it more than just a Wrangler with a truck bed on the back of it?
What’s the 2020 Jeep Gladiator’s towing and payload capacity?
We’ve been waiting for a Jeep Truck since the Jeep Comanche made its flash-in-the-pan appearance that ended back during the Bush administration – that’s the first Bush administration.
Finally here, the folks at Jeep definitely have something unique-looking on their hands, but this is also a highly capable tool. Gladiator’s body-on-frame construction uses a new lightweight high-strength steel frame, and it’s plenty tough.
According to press materials, towing capacity maxes out at 7,650 pounds and the Jeep Gladiator can carry a payload of 1,600 pounds. That’s 150 more pounds of towing than the competing Ford Ranger, and almost 800 pounds more than the Toyota Tacoma, a best-in-class number for sure. The Nissan Frontier carries a payload about 100 pounds less, but the Ford Ranger claims to be able to hold up to 1,860 pounds, so they may have some arm wrestling to do with the blue oval.
We managed to tow a boat and trailer that totaled around 6,000 pounds with little problem. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator more than handled its task. Power felt steady even up steeper inclines, its low-range torque really proving its working capability. The Gladiator sports a wider grille than its Wrangler cousin. A larger grille equals more intake, which equals better cooling, hence ability to tow more.
Is the Jeep Gladiator’s truck bed legit?
This isn’t just a truck bed for looks, the Gladiator comes with serious work-truck cred that’s ready for tough tasks. The 5-foot bed is constructed of high-strength steel, no composites. It’s tough. Lighting inside the box comes standard, so you can see what you’re doing. Four heavy-duty tie downs, two that are fixed and two that pivot, also come standard. An available covered external power source, spray-in bed liner, and optional customizable cargo management systems are extra.
The damped tailgate has a thoughtful 3-position feature. In addition to being open and closed, it has a half-way position fixed by the tailgate cables, so the driver can more easily haul longer loads such as sheets of plywood, drywall or 2x4s that extend past the bed. Bonus points because as a 5-foot 5-inch person I can actually touch the bottom of the truck’s bed when standing on the side of it.
How does the Gladiator perform off-road?
Jeep’s legendary off-road credentials are the boulders over which competitive vehicles high center. When you think of what a Wrangler’s able to do, there’s nothing that compares, and a lot of that capability crosses over to the Gladiator.
On the Sport and Overland models Jeep’s Command-Trac 4x4 system comes standard and features a 2-speed transfer case and heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles. In order to make it more robust for truck duty, those axles come wrapped in tubes 10mm thicker than the ones on the Wrangler.
The Rubicon, yes, of course there is a Rubicon Gladiator, comes standard with the Rock-Trac 4x4 system, which includes those beefy Dana 44 axles but also locking differentials and an electronic sway-bar disconnect feature for better articulation to get over tougher terrain.
The available low torque on both systems is as good as you’ve come to expect on the Wrangler, but especially on the Rubicon. If you’ve never driven one and you’re into doing any kind of off-roading, it’s really something you should try.
The big question was does it translate to a truck that’s 31-inches longer than the 4-door Wrangler and has a wheelbase 19.4-inches longer. Most of the terrain we drove over didn’t seem possible, at first blush, but the Gladiator got down to business. Turns in 4L are never graceful on any vehicle, and in the longer-wheelbase Gladiator the sideways crabbing you get as the front and rear wheels fight each other, becomes more pronounced. However, between the grip of the tires and its stout torque, even the manual Rubicon made easy work of large obstacles. Foot-deep mud? Not a problem with Falken mud tires. The Gladiator has a ground clearance of 11.1-inches and can ford up to 30 inches of water.
What other helpful off-road features does the Gladiator have?
Whichever trim you choose, skid plates come standard as well as front and rear tow hooks, presumably for getting everyone else out of trouble. The Rubicon’s front bumper is winch-ready. Speaking of, if adding more after-market equipment is interesting to you, you’re in luck. Mopar’s got 200 products coming for the Gladiator to customize your rig. Are you not entertained? Sorry, couldn’t help it.
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator comes optional with Selec-Speed control, which is a sort of cruise control for off-road allowing for speeds between 1-5 miles an hour without the driver having to work the brake or the throttle. While I’m not generally a fan of those systems, on loose downhill descents it read the terrain accurately, preventing a lot of slip in the wheels.
A front off-road camera is also available, which we love, but they never take the place of getting out and seeing obstacles for yourself, so safety first when off-roading!
V6 power now, diesel later
Initially, there’s a single engine option available for the Gladiator, a 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 285 hp and 260 lb-ft torque and is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. An 8-speed automatic transmission is available if you choose. Coming later will be a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 that makes 260 hp and 442 lb-ft torque. The 8-speed automatic will be the diesel engine’s only transmission.
The Gladiator’s great off-road, but what about the ride on the road?
There’s a 5-link coil suspension system at both front and back, both have different control arm set ups, with dampers working for a smoother ride on pavement. Its rear suspension is the same excellent one that’s on the redesigned 2019 Ram 1500. Using that same geometry improves the breakover angle on the Gladiator with its longer wheelbase. We love how that system smooths out the Ram’s ride, and it offers the same cushiony comfort for the Gladiator.
No, it’s never going to feel like a Bentley, but the on-road driving experience of Jeeps keeps getting better and better. It’s easy going on the highway without a ton of vibration. The Overland and Sport come standard with 32-inch Bridgestone tires, but the Rubicon comes with 33-inch tires with those Falken all-terrain or mud tires that produce a more discernable vibration. There is a bit of road noise inside the cabin, but even that gets better with every Jeep generation.
All the Gladiator’s off-road capability also comes with available on-road safety features like blind-spot warnings, rear cross-traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning in both the Active and Adaptive safety packages.
Jeep’s UConnect system is intuitive and simple to use -- easily one of the best on the market. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes standard on vehicles equipped with the 7- or 8.4-inch screen. The 7-inch screen is optional on Sport and standard on Overland and Rubicon. The 8.4-inch screen is optional on Overland and Rubicon.
What else comes on the Sport and Overland trim levels?
Additionally, the base Gladiator Sport trim comes with trailer sway control, in-bed cargo lighting, 17-inch steel wheels (all-terrain tires are an option), the Sunrider folding soft top with the sunroof, LED interior lighting, push-button start, a 5-inch display, cloth seats and lockable rear and behind seat storage in the passenger area.
The Sport S trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, power door and tailgate locks, power windows, remote keyless entry, automatic headlamps, leather wrapped steering wheel, tinted windows and illuminated sun visors.
Move up to the Overland and you get power-heated side mirrors, side steps so it’s easier to get into your truck, a vehicle theft alarm protecting the doors and tailgate, the universal garage door opener, and 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires. On the interior you’re treated to dual-zone climate control, that larger 7-inch display screen, and a 115-volt outlet in the center console. There are two more USB and two additional USB-C ports for all your electronics as well. Options include a body-colored hard top, LED lighting and leather-trimmed seats.
Are there any 2020 Jeep Gladiator special editions?
Jeep is also offering a special Launch Edition Gladiator, a fully-loaded Rubicon with body-colored hard top and fender flares and black leather seats with red stitching, in addition to other special badging, additional interior accents and 17-inch mid gloss black wheels with all-terrain Falken tires.
Available in five colors including Billet Silver Metallic and Firecracker Red, all Launch Edition Gladiators will wear an aluminum tailgate badge reading “One of 4,190,” the total limited run number Jeep will produce. The number 419 carries significance to the model as that’s the Toledo, OH, area code and a nod to where both Gladiator and Wrangler are assembled.
The Launch Edition Gladiator will only be offered for pre-order on one day, April 4, Jeep 4x4 day, through an online concierge experience. Pricing on the Launch Edition of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator starts at $60,815 plus $1,495 destination charge.
The Jeep Gladiator is serious eye candy
When we first saw this thing in person the initial reaction was wow, it’s just massively big. We still think that, but it’s also so arresting and so unique looking and we’re huge fans of stuff that’s different. It’s got two soft top and one hard top option. Both can be removed. This is a full-on convertible truck. Let that sink in for a second.
Its doors are easier than ever to take off. There’s even a special tool kit for that under the left rear passenger seat with instructions easier to figure out than a one-legged Ikea table. The front windshield folds down for that authentic off-road experience. We have a feeling this is going to be one of those vehicles we always turn to look at.
The interior looks and feels familiar to the latest Jeep Wrangler JK generation, with the similar center stack and console. The circle gauges and air vents evoke Jeeps of the past, which is a nice historical touch. It’s rugged inside, and has some comfortable leather wrapped surfaces, but doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a problem when it gets dirty. Notice we said when.
There are some great storage options in the rear, both under and behind the seats. It’s got three seat configurations, regular for passengers, stadium seating when seat cushions are up, and the backs go flat as well. Behind the rear right seat hides an optional wireless speaker for when you want to play romantic music during sunsets. Bravo.
How much will the Gladiator cost and what kind of gas mileage does it get?
There is a $10,000 spread in base price from the entry level 2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport at $33,545 to the rugged Rubicon at $43,545. In between buyers can opt for a Sport S at $36,745 and the Overland, which starts at $40,395. Delivery is $1,495 extra.
The EPA estimates the 3.6-liter with equipped with the automatic transmission will get 17 city and 22 highway miles per gallon, while the manual transmission takes a hit in stop and go traffic with 16 mpg but enjoys better numbers on the highway with 23 mpg.
With the limited number of midsize truck options out there today the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is a unique breath of fresh air. But is it a proper truck in its own right and not just a Wrangler with a bed strapped onto the back? Well, yes and no, because it’s both! Believe us, that yes is the highest compliment you could offer this legitimate work truck. It’s that off-road capable.
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator doesn’t look like anything else in the segment, but it’s true to the Jeep brand. And like its cousin the Wrangler, it’s capable plus, only now you can do real work in it then head out right after to play. No second vehicle required.