2021 Jeep Gladiator

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Brian Wong Brian Wong West Coast Editor
March 23, 2021

Buying tip

The Gladiator’s newly available turbodiesel ups the truck’s performance, while also improving fuel economy.

features & specs

80th Anniversary 4x4
California Edition 4x4
Freedom 4x4
17 city / 22 hwy
16 city / 23 hwy
16 city / 23 hwy

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator, for better or worse, is a Wrangler with a bed. Nothing else will satisfy those who seek exactly that, but competitors are more comfortable and more affordable.

What kind of car is the 2021 Jeep Gladiator? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator is a mid-size pickup truck, but that doesn’t paint a full picture of its capabilities or intent. Think of it as a Wrangler with a bed, complete with the signature boxy styling and off-road chops. It competes with other mid-size trucks like the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, and Toyota Tacoma.

Is the 2021 Jeep Gladiator a good car?

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The 2021 Gladiator doesn’t offer great value, features, or on-road performance, and competitors offer more flexible bed and cabin options. That being said, the Gladiator does stand apart from alternatives in this segment for its capabilities off-road and cool factor. 

On our scale, we award it 4.8 out of 10 points because its shortcomings will turn off some buyers. But we can also see why this is the right choice for some buyers in this segment, especially those frequently venturing off the beaten path. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Jeep Gladiator?

The Gladiator finally adds another engine option for 2021, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 that joins that standard gasoline V-6. It produces 260 hp and a robust 442 lb-ft of torque, which is 25 fewer hp than the gas engine, but its 162 more lb-ft of torque provides some benefits. The turbodiesel is offered on three of the Gladiator’s four trim levels (Sport, Overland, and Rubicon) as a $4,000 option, and only comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the 3.73 rear axle.

Full-time four-wheel drive is now available on all Gladiator models, expanding the off-road capabilities of the Sport in particular. 

Jeep will also offer a pair of special-edition Gladiators: an 80th Anniversary Edition which celebrates the Wrangler’s eight decades and a Willys model. The 80th Anniversary Edition features 18-inch wheels with a gray finish, gray accents, berber floor mats, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, and exterior badging. The Willys is more functionally minded, going beyond the decals and 17-inch wheels to add a limited-slip rear differential, rock rails, and 32-inch mud-terrain tires to the Sport S based special edition.

The Overland is now available with a helpful forward facing off-road camera, while the Sport adds LED headlight and fog lights as options.

How much does the 2021 Jeep Gladiator cost?

The Gladiator starts at $35,060 for Sport models, but that price can nearly double once you get up to the off-road oriented trims and tack on the options. 

Where is the Jeep Gladiator made?

The Gladiator is built in Toledo, Ohio.


2021 Jeep Gladiator


If you like the Wrangler’s styling, which we do, you will like the 2021 Jeep Gladiator. It completely matches the truck’s ethos and we rate it at a 7 out of 10.

Is the Jeep Gladiator a good-looking car?

There’s an appealing congruence between the Gladiator’s styling and its purpose. The ruggedness of its look points at its prodigious off-road capabilities, with the boxiness and awkward lines feeling purposeful when you think about what the Gladiator can do. Is it a beautiful vehicle? Not in the traditional sense, but there’s something about it that appeals visually.

The Gladiator is only offered in one cab and bed configuration: four doors with a five-foot bed. The front half of the Gladiator looks almost exactly like a Wrangler, just with slightly wider front grille slits (seven of them of course) and the rear wheels pushed back some. It rides on a wheelbase that’s around 19 inches longer than the Wrangler, and there’s also some extra bed hanging off the rear that stretches out the proportions some.

There are two roof options: a black cloth top that is very easy to fold back to open up to make the Gladiator a quasi-convertible, or an available composite hard top with black or body colored panels. Both roofs can be removed, along with the doors, and the windshield can be folded down as well providing an open-air experience that other pickups don’t offer.

Inside, the Gladiator’s dashboard is lifted from the Wrangler JL. A disappointing 5.0-inch radio display comes standard, though larger 7.0-inch and 8.4-inch displays are available. None of the Gladiators feel luxurious inside, even though leather upholstery is optional on the Overland and up.

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2021 Jeep Gladiator


The Gladiator’s excellent off-road performance is matched by its poor on-road performance and nets the pickup a 5 out of 10 overall.

Is the Jeep Gladiator AWD?

Oh you bet it is. Part-time four-wheel drive comes standard on all models, with a full-time four-wheel drive system now optional on all trim levels. The Rubicon gets its own rock-crawling oriented four-wheel drive system standard with a two-speed transfer case and a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio.

How fast is the Jeep Gladiator?

The Gladiator isn’t built for speed, it’s built to perform off-road and that’s a job it does with delight. It is really more at home in dirt or mud than on pavement, and that focus on one aspect of performance while putting on-road comfort on the backburner nets a middling performance rating.

The standard engine is a 285 hp, 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 260 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard for all Gladiator models, with an 8-speed automatic available as a $2,000 option on all trims. The important addition for 2021 is a new 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 that makes 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque and is only available with its own 8-speed transmission. That does make the addition of the turbodiesel an expensive proposition, the automatic costs $2,000 and then the engine itself another $4,000.

Even with the improved fuel economy, that price gap doesn’t make the turbodiesel an economical proposition but it does improve performance in some key areas. All of that torque pours on at just 1,400 rpm and that gives the Gladiator some added quickness on the road. Off-road, the engine shines even more. Jeep did a great job tuning the Gladiator’s throttle response with that engine, it’s easy to find the exact amount of power you need to get over an obstacle and the additional torque means that in sand, it easily keeps the wheels churning through the soft stuff to maintain momentum. It’s a bit noisier, but a good trade-off for the bump up in performance. 

The Gladiator’s added length improves its highway ride over the Wrangler, but not by too much. Stretching out the wheelbase makes it a bit more stable, but still has a tendency to float at speed and you’ll be making frequent small steering corrections. Competitors in this class, especially the Honda Ridgeline, are more composed for day-to-day drive driving. 

Though each of the Gladiator’s trims are at worst good off-road, the Mojave and the Rubicon take things to the next level. The Mojave is set up for sand running, with added ground clearance, Fox internal bypass shocks, and 33-inch all-terrain tires. The Rubicon takes things slower, with a more robust transfer case, Fox monotube shocks, automatic sway bar disconnects, and locking front/rear differentials, mechanical additions that enhance its rock crawling abilities. Both trucks excel at their given roles, giving the Gladiator the best capability in this class in both scenarios. 

Tow rating maxes out at 7,650 pounds with the Sport trim level and the trailering package added, along with the 8-speed automatic. Other trim levels tow between 4,000 and 7,000 pounds, with the higher figures coming with the automatic transmission. Payload ratings range from 1,075 to 1,700 pounds, so if loading up the bed or towing are important to you then picking the right trim/powertrain combination will be important. 

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2021 Jeep Gladiator

Comfort & Quality

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator’s cabin has good passenger space, but it is loud in any form and lacks some of the latest creature comforts. It earns a middling 5 out of 10 points.

The Gladiator’s interior is in essence the same as the Wrangler, but its lengthened wheelbase does result in three-inches of added leg room for rear-seat passengers. This gives the Gladiator a pretty sizable back seat for taller passengers, though the bench is a bit thin so shoulder room will be at a premium if there are three adults sitting side-by-side. Front and rear seats are comfortable enough, but don’t look for power adjustments for any of the seats.

Climbing up into the Gladiator might be tough, especially for children. It’s quite a step up to get up into the cabin and is exacerbated on the Mojave and Rubicon models with their larger tires, and this makes the load-in height for the truck bed high as well. 

With both the soft- and hard-tops, road and tire noise (and engine noise in the case of the diesel) are constant companions. None of them are quiet and having a conversation between front and rear passengers will be challenging. 

Other trucks in this class offer multiple bed lengths, but the Gladiator is only offered with a 5-foot bed that features a spray-in bedliner, roll-up cover, and 115-volt power outlet as options. The tailgate itself is made of aluminum, making it light enough to easily be opened and closed. 

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2021 Jeep Gladiator


The 2021 Jeep Gladiator does not offer many safety features, and a poor rollover rating from the NHTSA drops it down to a score of 4.

The NHTSA has limited crash test scores for the Gladiator, giving it a four-star rating for front crashes but no overall rating and the IIHS has not tested the Gladiator at all. If ratings are released, the safety score could change.

How safe is the Jeep Gladiator?

The 2021 Gladiator doesn’t offer much when it comes to standard safety features, only providing a rearview camera and four airbags. There aren’t even side curtain airbags, since both tops are removable. To get additional safety technology means adding one or both safety options packages, one with rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitors, and LED taillights. On top of that, a second safety package adds automatic forward emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. With competitors making many of these features standard now on their trucks (like the Honda Ridgeline and Toyota Tacoma), it’s disappointing to see them so limited on the Gladiator. 

One feature we do like is the optional forward-facing trail cam, which comes with adaptive guidelines that show where the front wheels are headed. It even comes with a spray nozzle to wash the camera off if (when) it gets dirty.

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2021 Jeep Gladiator


The 2021 Gladiator is not well equipped in base form, and its higher trim levels do not offer good value.

We rate the Gladiator at a 5 out of 10, dinging it points for its sparse base Sport trim and overall value, but giving points back for the pair of optional infotainment systems and a solid warranty. The standard 5.0-inch screen is small and doesn’t offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, you must upgrade to the 7.0- or 8.4-inch screens to add those technologies.

The Gladiator Sport starts at $35,060 including destination charges but it will be rare to see one without any options. The automatic transmission adds $2,000 to the price right away; power windows and locks cost extra, too.

More will opt for the Overland, which starts at right around $42,000 and adds those power features, 18-inch wheels, side steps for easier access, and the 7.0-inch touchscreen. 

The two off-road oriented trims jack up the price even further. Both the Mojave and Rubicon start at $45,390, tacking on all of the off-road goodies we mentioned earlier but still featuring a rather bare interior that has to be punched up by options packages. If you want heated seats and a heated steering wheel, that requires a package. As do the larger screen and any additional safety technology. 

2021 Gladiators do come with three years of standard maintenance without a mileage restriction (three oil changes and tire rotations over that period), and a 3-year/36,000 mile basic warranty along with a 6-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Which Jeep Gladiator should I buy?

For those who plan to stick to pavement, start with the Overland and build from there. And for those who plan to be off-road frequently, it’s hard to pass up on the Mojave or the Rubicon.

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Jeep Gladiator?

Very expensive, a fully optioned Rubicon can reach nearly $65,000, and that’s without adding on any of the long catalog of available Mopar accessories.

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2021 Jeep Gladiator

Fuel Economy

The turbodiesel does have better fuel economy, but the gas engine still tops out at only 19 combined mpg.

Is the Jeep Gladiator good on gas?

The boxy Gladiator doesn’t look aerodynamic and its fuel economy ratings would confirm that, we rate it at 3 out of 10. 

Gas models are rated at 17 city, 22 highway, 19 combined mpg with the automatic and 16/23/19 with the manual transmission. 

Turbodiesel models get much better ratings: 22/28/24 mpg for most trim levels, except for the Rubicon with that engine which gets 21/27/24 mpg. 

Both engines come with stop/start—to help save fuel by preventing unnecessary idling—that does a good job staying out of the way, which is as much as you can ask from these systems.

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MSRP based on 80th Anniversary 4x4
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Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 5
Safety 4
Features 5
Fuel Economy 3
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