Jeep Gladiator, Like an Iconic Wrangler – But Better
Truck fans that hunger for the taste of that sweet Jeep nectar is anticipating the 2020 Jeep Gladiator. In over 28 years, this the first Jeep pickup to be sold again. Can it live up to the hype?
The Jeep Gladiator- which is the first Jeep truck since the Comanche left in 1992- is late to the truck game, but the silver lining is that is here now. Chevrolet, Toyota, and Nissan have had pickups in dealers for years, and with Ford coming back into the mix for the 2019 model year with the new-for-America Ranger. The brand came back to the truck world with a vengeance, and its newest Jeep Gladiator- the only mid-size truck with an old-school solid front axle- it looks and feels significantly more modern than anything else in the segment.
WHAT IS IT?
The “JT” is essentially a stretched Jeep Wrangler JL that has altered their carry and tows more weight and threw a bed in the back. It’s body-on-frame, has five-link stable axle suspension in the front and rear, is powered by a 285 horsepower, 260 lb-ft, 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which sends the power through either a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic, comes with a removable top and doors and foldable windshield. Jeep’s marketing team says it has more differences than similarities to the new Wrangler, claiming that half of the JT’s parts are shared with the JL.
The Gladiator saves its cash by sharing components with the truck’s Wrangler roots. Everything from the Gladiator’s B-pillar forward- including the frame- is pulled right from the Wrangler, hence the minor changes in the grille opening for the cooling. The brakes, axle tube thickness on some trims, Rubicon shocks, and the wheels and tires are all pulled from the Wrangler.
The Gladiator has similar counterparts with a Wrangler. It has a bed, and it’s been modified to handle mid-size truckloads. In comparison to the four-door Wrangler, the truck’s frame is 31 inches long, with 19.4 of those inches being the front and rear axles.
The rear suspension- which shares all five suspension links with the new Ram 1500, and it gets stiffer bushings, unique shocks, progressive-rate springs, a one-time shock, thicker axle tube, and a more packed sway bar- the truck is able to manage a 7,650 pound trailer tow rating and a 4×4 mid-size truck payload rating of 1,600 pounds. All of that makes it about six inches longer overall than the Colorado and Tacoma four-door trucks, and with a wheelbase almost 10 inches longer. Its heavier than both by about 400-500 pounds, if it’s being compared to the V6 vehicles.
The powertrain, which is a 3.6-liter Pentastar Upgrade V6, is a reliable engine. The sound it makes gives drivers what they need to know, which is that the truck has enough power to push the truck up highway speeds and help climb steep grades, even if the motor tends to spend some time high in the rev range. The engine is assisted by some great sidekicks, which is the 850RE eight-speed automatic, which is a Chrysler-built and it’s a calibrated version of the ever-present ZF eight-speed design.
Another option is a six-speed manual transmission, which is the same one in the JL. Shifter throws are a medium-length, and it offers a decent clutch pedal which its throws are short and are neither too soft or too stiff. If you’re an enthusiast, this is the manual transmission to get.
The interior is where the Gladiator separates itself from the competition. It has the same cabin as the JL. The quality is high compared to other trucks in the segment that it feels like it’s in a different league.
Yanking the heavy loads with the truck involves getting in, turning the truck on, dropping the shift into drive, and stepping on the gas. The truck doesn’t have any specific tow/ haul mode button available, which alters its shifts (Jeep has said it integrated that into the trans calibration, to keep the switches familiar with the JL). Although there is no trailer brake controller available, there might be one in the future.
The V6 engine and the eight-speed gives the Gladiator the speed it needs. The Sport with the Max Tow Package gets the same 4.10 axle ratio as the Rubicon, which-with the automatic- can tow an impressive 7,000 pounds. The manual transmission on the truck is limited to a maximum of 4,500 pounds.
Getting the trail requires off-roading. Instead of just driving the Rubicon models through the path it can go through the rough terrains. The legs of a Sport and Overland model, both of which has standard all-season tires, connected sway bars, and taller gearing in the transfer case and differentials. With 10 inches of ground clearance, underbody protection for the automatic transmission, and fuel tanks, it means buyers can buy any Gladiator and hammer it out in the sticks.
The Rubicon gets some of the same hardware as the Wrangler Rubicon: a Rock-Trac transfer case with a four-to-one low range ratio instead of the standard 2.72 in the Sport and Overland; 4.10-to-one gearing; an electronically disconnecting sway bar and Dana 44 wide-tracks axles with locking differentials. There is also 33-inch all-terrain tires (Falkens instead of the JL’s BF Goodrich) and rock rails. The truck also adds Fox monotube shocks, a rear steel bumper, and steel bars to protect the box.
Pull the Jeep’s transfer case lever into low range, and it’ll crawl up on anything with a small touch on the gas. Detach the sway bar, and the four tires will grab ahold of anything substantial. If you flick on the lockers, you can let those mud terrains pull you up steep inclines.
The base manual Sport has a starting MSRP of $33,345 (plus destination fee).
If you’re interested in test-driving the Jeep models near Fort Myers, make sure to check them out at the Cape Coral Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM dealership.
Photo Credit: caranddriver.com