2020 Jeep Gladiator Preview

2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz Senior Editor
November 28, 2018

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator fulfills a long-awaited promise as the first Wrangler-based pickup truck.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup truck has been a long time coming. For decades, Jeep has teased us with the idea of a Wrangler-based pickup trucks. At the 2018 LA Auto Show, America's off-road brand finally delivered on its promise—in a big way.

Both literally and figuratively, the Gladiator is a big truck with big tire tracks to fill. For Jeep, it expands the Wrangler lineup in a new direction. For parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Gladiator squares off against a burgeoning market of mid-size trucks such as the Chevy Colorado, Ford Ranger, and Toyota Tacoma. Available in Sport, Overland, and Rubicon trim levels, the Gladiator goes on sale during the second quarter of 2019. 

There's no disguising the Gladiator's origins. It's a Wrangler from the rear seats forward. Instead of a cargo area protected from the elements by a roof, the Gladiator has a five-foot steel bed that can be dressed up with a bedliner, a power outlet, a tonneau cover, or even a cargo divider. The Gladiator takes the Wrangler's separate ladder frame and stretches it by more than 19 inches between the wheels with another foot tacked on behind the rear wheels. That's not good for breakover or departure angles, which suffer compared to the Wrangler—but it's great for hauling cargo.

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At 218 inches from bumper to bumper, the crew-cab-only Gladiator is slightly longer than a Chevrolet Colorado crew cab. 

Under the Gladiator's hood sits Jeep's familiar 3.6-liter V-6, rated here at 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Power shuttles to all four wheels via either a 6-speed manual transmission or an 8-speed automatic transmission. Sometime in 2020, Jeep said that it will offer a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 rated at 220 hp and a hefty 442 lb-ft of torque tied to an 8-speed automatic as an option. The Gladiator doesn't get the turbo-4 offered in the Wrangler.

With the automatic transmission and an optional tow package, the gas V-6 is rated to tow as much as 7,650 pounds. Order carefully, however, as manual transmission models top out at 4,500 pounds. Payload capacity is similarly variable, ranging from around 1,100 to as much as 1,600 pounds.

The part-time four-wheel-drive transfer case features a low range but isn't suitable for use on dry pavement like the one that's optional on the Wrangler. 

Unlike other pickup trucks with rear leaf springs and independent front suspensions, Gladiators use Dana 44 differentials and solid axles suspended by coil springs. Gladiator Rubicons swap in wider axles, locking differentials, a beefier transfer case with a unique crawl ratio, and automatically disconnecting sway bars for better articulation off-road. The Gladiator Rubicon rides on 33-inch tires, but 35-inch rubber will fit under its bulkier fender flares. Jeep even ensured that the spare tire well under the bed is wide enough to handle a 35-inch backup tire. 

2020 Jeep Gladiator comfort and features

Inside, the Gladiator is much the same as the Wrangler in most respects—even down to rear-seat legroom. The rear bench flips upward to reveal small storage bins and its backrest can fold flat as well. The Gladiator's standard fabric top flops back for open-air driving. An optional hardtop made from composite materials features removable panels or can be pulled off entirely. Like the Wrangler, the Gladiator's doors are removable with an included Torx screwdriver and its windshield can be folded flat. All Gladiators can be carefully hosed out after a day of mud-plugging. 

Gladiator Sports are basic with roll-up windows and a 5.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, although air conditioning is (finally) standard fare. Options include a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, power windows, heated seats, alloy wheels, and an Alpine audio system. A removable Bluetooth speaker is optional, too. 

Much of those features are standard on the Gladiator Overland, a trim level that's new to Jeep's body-on-frame off-roaders. The Overland isn't exactly lavish, but it can be optioned up with a larger 8.4-inch touchscreen, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings, leather upholstery, and a body-color three-piece removable hardtop.

The Gladiator Rubicon builds on the Sport with a few comfort features and a slew of off-road goodies such as larger tires, a taller suspension, locking differentials, automatic sway bar disconnects, and wider axles. It promises to give the Chevy Colorado ZR2 a serious run for its money.

Jeep has not announced pricing for the 2020 Gladiator. 

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