If you thought Jeep’s new pickup truck would be a novelty item for Jeep fans to claim they had a pickup truck, you thought wrong. Everything we know so far about the new 2020 Jeep Gladiator is that it’s a functional beast with impressive numbers and the legendary Jeep off-road capabilities attached.
It made a big splash last month at the Los Angeles Auto Show, drawing eyeballs of enthusiasts and journalists alike. CNET said the Gladiator “ruled the” show as the new competitor to the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, and Nissan Frontier.
Midsize pickup trucks went through a down period recently with sales dropping and models being discontinued, but those days seem to be behind us. Jeep is banking on it with the Gladiator, which they hope to be the most functional and sought-after combatant in this resurgent segment.
“This is the all new Jeep Gladiator Rubicon,” said Tim Kuniskis, North American Head of Jeep Brand. “Whether buttoned up or opened up, what you have right here is the most capable midsize truck ever.”
Here’s their “director’s cut” from the Los Angeles Auto Show:
With best-in-class 7650-lb towing capacity, it will instantly be a consideration of those who need to pull larger loads but who are not crazy about driving around in a full-sized pickup truck. In Jeep’s promotional material, they used a great image that highlighted this capacity by hauling a nice-sized boat behind the new Gladiator.
Imagine trying to haul this in a Ranger.
Once you add the 1600-lb payload capacity to the towing-capacity, the first question that comes to mind is what’s underneath the hood? The standard engine is the 3.6L Pentastar V6, one of the most popular engines found in Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles. It delivers 285-hp to go along with 260-lb-ft of torque, which is plenty for most uses. But the real star of the lineup will be the 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 made popular in the Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 when it’s finally released. It offers a modest 260-hp but makes towing a breeze with an incredible 442-lb-ft of torque.
The question mark surrounding the Gladiator will be the functionality of its 5-ft bed. This is the knock that some are clinging onto as reasons to be skeptical of the usability of the vehicle as an actual truck because the one-size offering is the smallest size available, tying the Ford Ranger’s, Nissan Frontier’s, and Toyota Tacoma’s minimum bed size. But all other midsize trucks offer extended beds that give them an extra foot or more, while the Gladiator will launch with just the single size.
That missing foot may be a deal-breaker for some midsize truck buyers, but Jeep is hoping there won’t be many. Even if there are, Jeep hopes its infamous off-road abilities will sway them back towards the Gladiator. They aren’t shy about highlighting this in their early promotional material, claiming the Jeep Gladiator is “the most off-road capable midsize truck ever.”
They don’t need to backup this claim very much given their reputation, but in case anyone wants proof, they need only to look at the heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles to go along with their renowned 4×4 system that operates in both high and low range. The off-road gear available for the Gladiator include lockable wide track axles, an electronic disconnecting front sway bar, FOX shocks, and 33-inch all-terrain tires. The star of their off-road offerings will be the forward-facing “TrailCam” that gives a ground-level view so off-roading enthusiasts can avoid obstacles more easily.
Last but not least, there’s the one aspect of a Jeep that nobody else has ever successfully duplicated. Those who want to be “one with nature” as they explore the landscape can do so with the wind flowing from every direction. As with their standard Wrangers, the Gladiator will be an open-air vehicle.
Roll down the windows. Take off the top and the back. Roam around with the world available from every angle. If that isn’t a selling point, the Tacoma might be a better option for “city folks.”
I’ve owned two other Jeeps in the past and have been quite satisfied with both. This is probably going to be my third, barring glaring deficiencies or massively negative reviews. When March rolls around, I’ll be rolling off to my nearest Jeep dealer.