Class: Compact Pickup
Miles driven: 469
Fuel used: 23.8 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 19.7 mpg
Driving mix: 50% city, 50% highway
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B|
|Power and Performance||B-|
|Fit and Finish||B|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||285-hp 3.6-liter|
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 17/22/19 (city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Regular
Base price: $40,395 (not including $1495 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Upgraded interior with leather upholstery ($1495), Trailer Tow Package ($250), Cold Weather Group ($995), Premium LED Lighting Group ($995), 8.4-inch Radio and Premium Audio Group ($1595), Active Safety Group ($895), Adaptive Cruise Control/Forward Collision Warning+ ($795), hardtop headliner ($555), roll-up tonneau cover ($495), automatic transmission ($2000), Trac-Loc rear differential ($595), Remote Proximity Keyless Entry ($495), body-color hardtop ($2295), spray-in bedliner ($495)
Price as tested: $55,840
The great: Off-road capability; one-of-a-kind open-air-convertible capability
The good: Longer wheelbase means ride quality is better than a Jeep Wrangler; broad range of available features
The not so good: Steep pricing gets steeper as options are added; steering feel can demand frequent corrections in highway driving
It’s here at last: a Jeep Wrangler that’s also a pickup truck. Somewhere in bro heaven, cherubs take a hit of their energy drinks and sweetly harmonize in a celestial “Whoa!”
After a few years of promises and anticipation, the Gladiator arrives for the 2020 model year with its front two thirds made of iconic SUV and the remainder from Americans’ favorite homegrown vehicle type. Built this way, it’s a subset of one within the compact-pickup class. It draws its inspiration from the 1981-85 Scrambler, a small-pickup version of the Jeep CJ, an ancestor of today’s Wrangler. It takes its name from the Wagoneer-derived J-series pickup, which was badged Gladiator from 1963 to 1971.
From the Wrangler side of its family tree, the Gladiator inherits a level of off-road capability that others in the class can’t top, at least in line-leading Rubicon form. It’s also technically a convertible, and a 4-door one at that, which is just downright freaky for a truck. See what we mean about “subset of one?”
Though there’s a lot of Wrangler up front and inside, underneath things get quite a bit different. Compared to the 4-door Wrangler, Gladiator has 18.9 additional inches of wheelbase, which leaves room to support the 5-foot-long cargo bed. The forward half of the ladder-type frame is essentially Wrangler, but aft of that is a foundation created specifically for a pickup.
Gladiators come four ways: Sport, Sport S, Overland, and Rubicon. Consumer Guide editors have had the chance to play dirty in Rubicons at a couple of media events, but for this on-road review we had access to a Billet Silver Metallic Overland that started at $41,890 with destination charge, but was extensively optioned to $55,840. Apart from the powerteam and driveline, which we’ll get to shortly, the Overland comes with dual-zone automatic climate control; push-button starting; power windows, locks, and mirrors; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; LED ambient lighting; an infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality; 115-volt AC power outlet; 18-inch alloy wheels; side steps; and chassis skid plates to protect the fuel tank and driveline transfer case.
It took a pair of option packages to get increasingly conventional safety technologies like forward-collision warning, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts, rear parking assistance, and adaptive full-stop cruise control. You’ll also have to dig deeper for the heated leather bucket seats, leather-wrapped shifter and parking-brake handle, heated steering wheel, remote starting, premium audio with 8.4-inch touchscreen and navigation, satellite travel and traffic services, spray-in bedliner, and tonneau cover that were on the test truck.
The only engine available at the Gladiator’s introduction is a 285-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that needs no introduction to Jeep fans. It’s fairly responsive in the pickup, and is strong enough to provide a class-leading 7650-pound towing capacity (in Sports). A 6-speed manual transmission is standard across the board, but CG’s tester had the 8-speed automatic, a $2000 option. It kicked down quickly when bursts of power were needed and otherwise behaved smoothly. A pretty obvious stop/start control is included to help save a little gas. The EPA rates the Gladiator with automatic at 17 mpg in the city, 22 mpg on the highway, and 19 combined. This driver did a little better than that, recording 20.21 mpg in a 235-mile stint that included 50 percent city-type driving.
When the need arises, the front and rear differentials are linked by the lever-controlled Command-Trac part-time 4-wheel-drive system with 2-speed transfer case. A limited-slip rear diff is optional, and was added to the test truck.
Suspension is in the current Wrangler mode, with solid Dana 44 axles at both ends and coil springs all around. In this reviewer’s hands, the Gladiator took a few jolts, but overall this was the best bump absorption and on-road ride he’s ever felt from anything in the Wrangler family. All that wheelbase can’t help but smooth things out. As for handling, the new Jeep pickup is moderately nimble, but it seems to crave a lot of little steering corrections, especially in expressway driving.
The Gladiator cab is a modification of the 4-door-Wrangler body, with the latter’s rear cargo area lopped off. However, passenger space and cabin features are virtually the same. Seats are pretty comfortable and supportive. While front legroom isn’t profuse, second-row passengers up to about 5’-11” shouldn’t feel cramped even if a front-seat passenger tracks his or her seat all the way back. In terms of seat space, a third adult seemingly would fit in the middle of the rear seat, but floor-height cup holders attached to the back of the console in the test vehicle seemed to rule that out. Headroom is ample for all, whether under the soft top or the optional removable 3-piece hardtop that was applied to CG’s test truck. Our editors who’ve driven Gladiators with both tops say things are quieter with the hardtop, but this driver heard some highway-speed wind noise.
Step-in will challenge some passengers even with the external steps. Thick door pillars restrict driver vision to the sides—but this is the only pickup around with a windshield that can be retracted onto the hood.
The test truck had soft-touch surfaces on the dash face and door panels/armrests. For personal-item storage there’s the deep glove box, small console box, net pouches on all doors, and pouches on the backs of the front seats. Open cup holders reside in the console and the optional pull-down center armrest. The divided rear seat cushions flip up to reveal a little box with individual holes to hold the various bolts that need to be removed when taking off the top and doors for the ultimate open-air experience. Another storage bin below the cushions includes adjustable divider panels.
With the new Gladiator, Jeep has delivered a small pickup with a rugged character and genuine capability. We predict that will appeal to bros, yes, but maybe also to regular Joes.
Jeep Gladiator Overland