2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup truck front

Jeep is building on the success of its Wrangler SUV by creating the Gladiator pickup truck. This model has been long anticipated by Jeep enthusiasts who fondly recall past off-road-ready trucks from the storied brand, such as the Comanche and Scrambler.

The Gladiator’s arrival comes at a time when truck sales are hot and the midsized pickup truck market is expanding, with the return of the Ford Ranger.

Like the Wrangler, the Gladiator will be distinguished by its off-road ability, its removable hard and soft tops, and the brand allure.

We got a chance to see the new Jeep Gladiator at the 2018 LA Auto Show. Here’s what we learned.

2020 Jeep Gladiator

What it competes with: Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma
What it looks like: A Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with a pickup truck bed.
Powertrains: 285-hp, 3.6-liter, six-cylinder engine; 260-hp, 3.0-liter, six-cylinder diesel engine. Six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions; four-wheel drive.
Estimated price: $34,000
On-sale date: Spring 2019

Outside

The automaker has teased this modern interpretation of a Jeep pickup for years with the memorable 2005 Gladiator concept and last-generation Wrangler conversions. The final product is no surprise; it looks like a Wrangler with an extended cargo area. The character line on the doors carries through to the bed, giving it an integrated feel. However, oddly, the second-row doors retain the angled rear edge like on the Wrangler, where the cutout serves to wrap the door around the rear wheel arch. With the truck, the rear axle is moved back and this angle is not needed. Most crew-cab pickup trucks have a squared-off, second-row door.

The truck is available with a removable soft top, a black hard top, or a body-colored hard top, depending on the trim level. The soft top has a removable rear window, and the hard tops have a manual sliding rear window.

The tailgate is damped, so it lowers slowly, and it can be stopped in three positions. The 5-foot bed has tie-down anchors and under-rail lighting. It can be outfitted with an optional spray-in bed liner, a bed divider, a 115-volt power outlet, and a cargo cover. There is room for storing up to a 35-inch tire beneath the bed, addressing the needs of owners who significantly modify their truck.  

2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup truck

Inside the Cabin

The cabin essentially carries over from the Wrangler. It is far from luxurious, but it looks rugged and ready for adventure. As noted on the Wrangler we tested, a Sahara trim, we appreciate touches like the burly gear selector with a red trigger release and a classic Jeep image on top, the chrome-rimmed dash vents, and the grippy rubber knobs. But some plastic is hard, there are some flimsy elements, and there isn’t a driver’s left footrest to help remain planted when rollicking on trails.

The instrument cluster has either a 3.5- or 7-inch LED screen that can display a range of information, warnings, and entertainment details. Base models are fitted with a 5-inch center touch screen, with the Uconnect infotainment system bringing a 7- or 8.4-inch screen. We are fond of this system for its ease of use.

The Gladiator features new rear seats that can fold up to reveal a storage bin and fold forward to create a flat surface to stow large items. 

What Drives It

The Gladiator can be had with a choice of a 3.6-liter V6 or a 3.0-liter turbo diesel engine. The Wrangler’s turbo four-cylinder will not be offered.

The standard engine for the Gladiator is the gasoline-fueled V6, which produces 285 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. The diesel engine will join the lineup in 2020, with 260 hp and 442 pound-feet of torque. That added twist of power should aid off-roading, especially in a built-up truck, as well as help with towing. Maximum tow capacity is 7,650 pounds.

As with the the Wrangler, there are numerous configurations for axles and axle ratios, enabling buyers to configure the truck for their needs, be it everyday driver or serious off-roader.

Maximum payload capacity is 1,600 pounds.  

Safety & Driver-Assist Systems

Jeep lists the availability of several advanced safety and driver-assist features, including forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines. The Wrangler currently makes such features available only on the higher trims. 

A clever forward-facing camera is available on the Rubicon version to help navigate challenging trails.  

CR’s Take

The Gladiator builds on the Wrangler’s character and virtues, creating a unique vehicle with rock-solid off-road credentials and robust aftermarket support for customization. However, we fully expect the Wrangler’s shortcomings, such as awkward access, excessive wind noise, rough ride, and paltry fuel economy, to carry forward as well. Based on our satisfaction surveys, Wrangler buyers know what they are getting and enjoy the experience. The same is likely to be true for this long-awaited pickup truck.  

2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup truck rear