If you're one of the unique souls who often find noodles along the Rubicon path in a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited while dragging a terrain trailer, yes, these exist-boy, Jeep has just got the thing for you. Enter the 2020 Jeep Gladiator (maybe you've heard of this?), The first Jeep pickup truck of more than 25 years.
We mean it. It really is. We've run it. Don't just drive it, remember. Oh no. We ran it. Mud. Rocks. Angles. Four low. Locked diffs. Did we mention angles? What about fear? Off-roading is like that, a small niche in the car universe that has perverse angles, ridiculous articulations and unimaginable need for grips that rearrange our perspective on life every time we change a real transfer bag. It is also fantastic. And in a truck like this there is no need for a trailer. Beds, baby: they are not just for sleeping.
Anyway, about this gladiator's thing. It's a real truck. And with real truck, we mean the type with a riser frame topped by a cab and a separate loading bed. That type with two live axles. It's just not the monstrously big type. That's what they call an intermediate size, which means almost nothing since there are no medium sized trucks. Call the Jeep you want, but know it's not as big as a Ford F-1
Four trimmer are available: Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon. Each Gladiator at the launch will be powered by Fiat Chrysler Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6, rated at 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but the ZF's eight-speed automatic transmission is optional across the board. A turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V-6 that is good for 260 horses and 442 lb-ft, paired exclusively with eight-speed automatic, comes in 2020.
A simple, solid formula
Jeep is concerned that its bread is smeared with anachronism of pin shafts, but it is unfortunately a Jeep thing, which gives the Wrangler series and the Gladiator with usable resilient articulation and highest off-road capability. However, these shafts necessarily load the truck with recirculating ball steering, which went from almost all other production cars, about 30 years ago. And that means the gladiator is not blessed with laser-precise steering.
Pair it with the fact that its heavy shafts force it to make a dynamic tango on certain surfaces, and you have a recipe for a modern Conestoga wagon. Sure, other, more modern suspensions may not dance so much on washboard terrain, but the truth is that if you're a truck person, there's probably nothing going to do. These are components of the gladiator's personality, but hardly true degradations. We noticed them, surely, but in light of Gladiator's second virtue, they would not persuade us to avoid it. And if you are thinking of buying a gladiator, we will not convince you otherwise. After all, nobody really needs a convertible truck with a windshield that folds flat. But we suspect many people want one.
Gladiator is not fast. We know this because we have driven two of them: a Rubicon, top trim level and head of the Jeep's off-road armada, and an Overland, which sets one step down the Gladiator trim tower. The overland tester needed 7.2 seconds to turn 60 mph. It's off the pace of the rest of the mid-size truck field for at least half a second. There is not much for oscillation – 0.75 g around our ski trail, but again the rest of these trucks are not. In addition, if you measure life's success by how fast Jeep accelerates or how well it gets, it may be time to visit Xanax. Also, we only know things that will cleanse the retentivity of your veins: What about a day that pervades mud and bulldozing over rocks in a topless Jeep pickup?
Our off-roading experience in the Gladiator combined both rocks and mud during the start of an epic winter low pressure system in Northern California. The relentless deluge transformed Jeep's prospective rock crawl course into a sloppy failure, one in which Gladiators found themselves sliding sideways of rocks that never posed a problem in the dry conditions that the course was designed for. Despite the demolition, Rubicon, with its locked differentials and disconnected anti-roll bars (standard price of this trim), moved from mountain to river without renouncing its dignity. In fact, it didn't bother that everything was covered in slop.
Jeep's Selec-Speed Control, a kind of low-speed cruise control, managed speed in creep situations and can be trimmed in 1 mph increments using shifters manual port. Helping Rubicon through the muck was the optional 33-inch Falken Wildpeak Mud Terrain tire. All-terrain Wildpeaks of the same diameter are standard. It should be noted that the Gladiator's enormous 137.3-inch wheelbase will be a debt in specific terrain and parking garages, but what is another cut of the wheel among off-road faithful?
Built for trucks
] Gladiators are rated to tow up to 7650 pounds, but to beat that number you need the sport trim level equipped with the Max Tow package. Rubicons are good for 7000 pounds when equipped with automatic transmission. An overland or sports trim with manual gearbox (and no rope package) is good to yank just 4,000 pounds. We drove a Rubicon hitched to a 6,000-pound boat trailer and could say this: It was slow. And sometimes loud. And you are probably aware that you are moving some weight, but it behaved well enough, pulled the dinghy and trailer with stability and confidence.
Equipment Sport with the Max Tow package upgrades it to the tougher Dana 44 shafts used in the Rubicon, which are 1.5 inches wider than the standard Gladiator shafts and have an additional 10 mm pipe thickness versus Dana 44 used on the JL Wrangler. They also come with a lower 4.10: 1 last run than 3.73: 1 gear in other trimmer. In Rubicon, the wider position is covered with wider and higher fenders. Sports and Overland trims can be equipped with a collision-limited differential on the back.
Also, the five-foot bed is relatively useful. Load capacity ranges from 1105 to 1600 pounds, depending on fuel configuration and trim. The tailgate itself is rated to hold 1800 pounds, despite what exceeds the truck's full payload capacity, and it is a bumper stage that can support 500 pounds.
Within, the Gladiator is a blend of modern design and necessary function, including a waterproof starter button for when you forget your car is a roadster. Infotainment touchscreens come in either 7.0 or 8.4 inch sizes. Large secondary controls include volume and fan speed adjust buttons. The 60/40 split rear seats are flat and the seat bottom folds up. When both are deployed to settle down, there is more hind leg than in any other mid-sized car.
If a convertible truck with a pair of fixed axles is your trick bag, you know they start at $ 35,040 and will be available about the time you read this. Gladiator Rubicons start at $ 45,040. They may seem like precious prices because, well, they are. Witness our test car is $ 55,485 last tally. But Jeeps – even this truck – are lifestyle cars, the nice people buy with passion rather than purpose. That the Gladiator brings the added benefit of real payload capacity and a heavier towing position than a Wrangler will surely justify the cost increase among the believers in the Jeep. Well, that, and they don't need a terrain car.