Sunday, October 4, 2020


It didn’t take long for the 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup truck to make an impression.

First shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show in late fall of 2018 and launched the following spring of 2019 as Jeep’s first truck since 1992, the Gladiator earned 2020 North American Truck of the Year honors at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

But that’s not what my neighbor called it when it showed up in my driveway recently.

To him the truck done up in “punk’n Orange” that showed up in my driveway was the “Great Pumpkin,” which, considering the rapid approach of Halloween, might be considered appropriate.

He did not intend this as a compliment, however. But he never had the opportunity to get behind its wheel either!

The Gladiator is offered in five trim levels starting with the base Sport and continuing with the Sport S, Overland, Mojave, and Rubicon, all featuring a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine and 6-speed manual transmission as standard with an 8-speed automatic available as an option. A 2-speed transfer case is standard in all Gladiators.

Altitude and High Altitude packages are available to add premium amenities to further expand the lineup. 

The engine is rated at 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and drinks regular fuel at the rate of 17 miles per gallon city, 22 highway, and 19 combined.

This review is based on the Mojave trim that began arriving in showrooms last spring and earns the company’s first “Desert Rated” badging. It is tailored for high-speed off-roading with special shocks and bumpers and other refinements to handle sandy environments. The “Trail Rated” Rubicon is aimed to handle more traditional off-roading challenges with its own specific 2-speed transfer case.
The Gladiator looks like a Wrangler with a pickup truck bed at the rear instead of a smaller, enclosed stowage area, and they do share some common characteristics. They have a removable top and doors for an open air driving/riding experience, and the buttons to raise and lower the windows are under the controls for the A/C and audio in the middle of the center stack.

But there are differences as well, such as in engine choices (the Wrangler is offered with a V6 or turbo-4 gas engine and also diesel; the Gladiator gets only the the V6, though a diesel model will be included in the 2021 fleet), towing capacity (7,650 pounds for the Gladiator, up to 3,500 for the Wrangler), and, obviously, size.

Unlike most pickup trucks that can be had with various size beds for hauling, the Gladiator comes with a standard 60.3-inch box, which gives it a length of 218 inches. The 4-door Wrangler is 188.4 inches long

Though functional and accommodating to the kind of abuse it likely would get from off-roading adventures with removable drain plugs and carpeting to hose out the cabin, the Gladiator’s interior also is a bit more refined that the Wrangler’s Spartan cabin.

That isn’t to say it’s the fanciest pickup on the market today, but the Gladiator’s cabin just has a more upscale ambiance. A dual zone climate control system with dual zone cabin air filter is standard on the three upper trims (Overland, Mojave, Rubicon), LED interior lighting is standard, and premium cloth seats are standard on Mojave and Rubion models with leather optional.

Remote keyless entry is also standard on the upper three trims, and all trims get push-button start. And eight-speaker sound system is standard and an upgrade to a premium system with nine Alpine speakers is optional. Handsfree Bluetooth communications is standard on all tri

The other key difference between the Gladiator and Wrangler is the matter of price. MSRP for the Gladiator starts at $33,545 to $28,295 for the Wrangler, though the top end is very similar ($43,875 for the Gladiator, $42,195 for the Wrangler.

My test Gladiator came with a lot of extras, however, that widened that margin considerably with a final bottom line of $61,505, including $1,495 for the destination charge.

What I liked about the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave:
I rarely get the opportunity for any serious off-road trekking, but I do like to know I have the ability to do it if I want, and you can’t get any more serious than a Jeep. I like that you can remove the top (though with having it for just a week I didn’t) for an open-air driving experience.

What I didn’t like about the Jeep Gladiator Mojave: You have to pay close attention when driving on expressways to keep it in line. The starting MSRP seems reasonable by today’s standards when $40,000 is the new $30,000, but with a final bottom line topping the $60,000 mark, my test Mojave is in luxury territory price-wise. Of course, maybe you can live without 8-speed automatic transmission with Selec-Speed control and transmission skid plate ($2,000) or the infotainment package that includes premium audio and navigation ($1,695) or the premium LED lighting group ($1,045) or the heavy duty rock slider ($1,050). But I would advise you at least go with the active safety group ($995) that includes rear park assist and blind spot warning as well as the features like adaptive cruise control and full-speed forward collision warning ($795).

Would I guy the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave? There’s not a whole lot of opportunity for desert tracking in South Florida, so I would say “no” to the Mojave but would look at other trims. There is really no other truck quite like this one. Even the metallic punk’n orange color, which I find off-putting on many vehicles, works here (despite what my neighbor had to say about it).

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