2020 Jeep Gladiator front three quarter
Image by Wade Thiel

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport 4X4 Review

The New Jeep Pickup Is Worthy of Your Attention

The Off-Road-Ready Truck You Should Buy

Jeep brought back the pickup truck in a big way with the Gladiator at what appears to be the right time. The midsize truck market is an important one and there are plenty of players in it from the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon to the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma. The truck will primarily compete with the off-road-ready versions of its competitors. 

The Gladiator is based on the overall Wrangler design, though it’s not just a Wrangler with a bed. In order to make the Gladiator a true competitor with the rest of the competition, Jeep had to get creative with the vehicle. The chassis is unique, and it’s designed from the start to be a pickup. This means it had to be ready not only for off-roading and hauling duties but towing, too. 

The Jeep has some stiff competition, but the model is unique looking and its numbers make it appear a real winner in this segment. 

My Time With the Vehicle

I wanted to get behind the wheel of the Jeep Gladiator and really get to know this truck so I could tell if it’s really worth what the company’s asking for it. Jeep was nice enough to send me a Sport 4X4 trim level of the pickup and I spent a week with it both on-road and off. 

Over the course of my time with the vehicle, I feel like I got a really clear picture of what this truck is all about. Let’s dive in. 

What Is the Jeep Gladiator Sport 4X4?

2020 Jeep Gladiator front three quarter
Image by Wade Thiel

The Jeep Gladiator is Jeep’s first new pickup truck in about 30 years. In the past Jeep has had Gladiators, Scramblers, and the Comanche pickup, and when it was time to bring back the Jeep truck, the company had a rich history to draw from. 

With the success of the Jeep Wrangler, it only made sense for the company to build what is essentially a Wrangler pickup. However, as mentioned above, the Gladiator is different from the Wrangler even though from the back of the cab to the front of the truck you could mistake it for one. 

2020 Jeep Gladiator off-roading
Image by Wade Thiel

The model that I drove was the Sport 4X4. It is the base trim level. Jeep sells five different trim levels: Sport, Sport S, Overland, North Edition, and Rubicon. As you climb the trim ladder, Jeep adds additional equipment as standard and new options become available, too. In the Rubicon trim level, you get off-road equipment you can’t really find anywhere else.

If you’re an avid hardcore off-roader, you’ll want to buy the Rubicon. If you’re not scaling steep grades or crawling over rocks, the other trim levels still offer some excellent off-road capability, and honestly probably more than you’ll ever need. 

The truck is only sold in one configuration. That’s four doors and four-wheel drive. Many of its competitors offer some options here in terms of cab sizes and bed sizes. Jeep’s simplistic packaging allows it to focus its efforts and cut costs. Seeing as how most folks buying this vehicle would have bought it this way anyway, it makes total sense. 

Strong V6 and Power Filtered Through 8 Gears

2020 Jeep Gladiator grille
Image by Wade Thiel

Behind the iconic seven-slated grille is a familiar engine. It’s the 3.6-liter V6 that FCA puts in various vehicles. The fact that it features here is not a bad thing. The engine is strong, producing 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s plenty of power to move the midsize pickup truck just fine. Zero to 60 mph comes in a little over seven seconds, and the 8-speed automatic transmission in my tester proved to make the engine feel downright peppy. 

Despite this, I’m not a huge fan of the 8-speed automatic transmission Jeep uses. Shifts aren’t always very smooth in the first couple of gears. Gear changes aren’t slow, but unlike other automatics out there, you can feel the gearbox doing its thing. Of course, you can always choose to buy the Gladiator with a manual transmission, which I highly recommend. 

Jeep will offer a diesel 3.0-liter V6 later on. That engine will make 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. It makes a lot of sense in this truck, but I’d expect it to come with a notable upcharge. I wonder if it’s truly worth it. I’d have to drive it to see. 

With the gasoline engine, the truck is rated to tow 7,650 pounds and payload is 1600 pounds. I don’t have towing numbers for the diesel engine, but they will be lower than the gasoline engine’s numbers, surprisingly. 

Classic Styling Inside and Out

2020 Jeep Gladiator front seats
Image by Wade Thiel

The styling of the Gladiator is classic Jeep, though the brand has leaned so hard on its heritage, it’s almost a little corny now. If you love Jeep, you’ll love this truck. I find the little styling Easter Eggs to be too much (like the little jeep painted on the wheels), but I like the overall aesthetic of the vehicle. 

The exterior looks a lot like the Wrangler. You get the seven-slotted grille, round headlights, exterior hood latches, and the same front bumper with exposed tow hooks. The inside is also a lot like the Jeep Wrangler. The dash has the same layout and style with round vents, large buttons and dials, and the excellent Uconnect infotainment system in the center. 

Everywhere you look is undeniably Jeep, and that’s a good thing. My only issue with this is that Jeep feels the need to plaster its logo everywhere it can. The design speaks for itself and Jeep doesn’t have to remind everyone that it’s a Jeep on every surface. 

Just Okay on Safety

2020 Jeep Gladiator front fender
Image by Wade Thiel

To be completely honest, almost all midsize trucks perform similarly on safety standards. They do good but not excellent. From the data that I can see, the Jeep Gladiator is more of the same. 

The truck has not been rated by the IIHS, so we will have to wait and see how the vehicle does there. When it comes to NHTSA crash testing data, the Jeep Gladiator’s test results are not yet finished. The truck received four stars in the frontal crash test and three stars in the rollover crash test. It has not been tested for the side crash, and therefore there’s no overall rating. I would expect the truck to get a four-star rating overall. Good, but not excellent.

With all that said, the Gladiator does offer good safety equipment, there are plenty of airbags, a good backup camera, trailer sway control, stability control, and electronic roll stabilization. The truck that I tested also had the company’s ParkSense rear parking system, blind-spot and cross-path detection, and adaptive cruise control with stop. The last things mentioned were not standard equipment. 

How Big Is the Jeep Gladiator?

2020 Jeep Gladiator rear three quarter
Image by Wade Thiel

The Jeep Gladiator isn’t a small truck. It fits into the midsize truck segment but it’s about as big as the largest versions of the other trucks it competes with, and that means it’s really pretty large overall. It feels that way on the road. 

Long and Tall

In terms of length, every Gladiator measures 218 inches. That’s longer than the competition. For example, the Toyota Tacoma in double cab short bed form measures just over 212 inches. A short bed is a five-foot bed like the Jeep Gladiator has. It’s only once you upgrade to the long bed (the 6th bed) in the Tacoma that you get longer than the Gladiator. The same can be said for the other competitors in this segment.

The Gladiator’s overall height is higher, too. It measures 75 inches high. The others are only about 70 and one half inches high. This is partly due to the Gladiator’s superior ride height. The truck’s ground clearance is 10 inches. Which is higher than all other competitors. The highest of which is the Tacoma at about nine and a half inches.

Most trucks have less than nine inches of ride height. The rest of the Gladiator’s higher roofline has to do with its overall shape and the fact that it has more headroom than its competitors. The headroom is between about 41 inches and 43, depending on the roof type. 

An Appropriate Midsize Interior

2020 Jeep Gladiator front seats
Image by Wade Thiel

When you look at the size of the interior, you’ll notice that the Jeep Gladiator does really well. It offers 41.2 inches of legroom up front and 38.3 inches of legroom in the rear. When I first got in the truck, I thought the interior felt small, but I think that’s just because the truck looks and feels so large overall. When you compare the numbers to the competition, you’ll notice that the Gladiator does rather well. 

The Tacoma beats the Gladiator on legroom but offers less in the rear seats. The same can be said of the Ford Ranger. The Chevrolet Colorado is more of the same story. Jeep offers more rear-seat legroom, and enough front-seat legroom to satisfy most folks. Pair that with the superior headroom, and the Gladiator is better suited for large people. 

A Comparable Bed to the Competition

2020 Jeep Gladiator bed
Image by Wade Thiel

In terms of the cargo area, the bed of the Gladiator measures five feet. This is the equivalent to a short bed in the competition’s midsize trucks. If you need more space, you’ll have to go with a vehicle that isn’t a Jeep. There is no option to upgrade to a larger-sized bed. 

With that said, most jobs can be done with a five-foot bed. You can, for example, haul some dirt bikes, if you need to, though the tailgate will have to remain down. It would also be a fine bed for mulch, stone, or most other hauling needs. 

I should also note there is good storage inside the cabin, there are compartments under and behind the rear seats, but the hardtop that my tester came with required a bag for storage purposes. There is no storage space for the panels, though I suppose you could bag them and then place them in the truck bed, as they would easily fit back there. 

Does the Jeep Gladiator Work?

2020 Jeep Gladiator front three quarter
Image by Wade Thiel

Yes, the Jeep Gladiator fulfills its mission. It’s both a good on-road truck and a good off-roader. I had a chance to take the Jeep Gladiator to Badlands Off-Road Park in Attica, Indiana, for a day. 

The drive over to the park was enjoyable. The Gladiator performs admirably on the highway. You sit up high and can see well. The Gladiator doesn’t have the closed-in feeling that many other vehicles do these days, and the optional adaptive cruise control functioned flawlessly and keeps you relaxed and comfortable. On the country roads around the off-road park, the Gladiator requires more steering input than some other trucks in its segment would. It bounces a lot more, too. The ride is not as refined as some of its competitors. 

If you plan on never off-roading your truck or hardly ever doing so, then you’d likely be happier with a more street-focused truck like the Ford Ranger or the Chevrolet Colorado. 

2020 Jeep Gladiator off-roading
Image by Wade Thiel

Off-road, the Jeep Gladiator is a dream. Its high ride height offers good visibility, and the approach and departure angles allow you to take on terrain more extreme than you might have imagined. At the off-road park, I drove the truck over sandy dunes, down a creek bed, over rocks, and through tight and muddy wooded trails. It never once hesitated, and at one point I even pulled out a friend of mine who got his Toyota Tacoma stuck in the mud using a tow strap. The Gladiator just feels at home off the pavement. 

The 4X4 system is easy to use and engage, and the suspension really shines on rough terrain. It bounces and bounds over rough terrain, but it’s not horribly jostling or violent as I’ve experienced in other pickup trucks. 

It’s important to note that the model I had was the base Sport 4X4. It came with a long list of options but none of those were off-road related. Even in base form, the Gladiator is a killer off-road truck. 

Does the Jeep Gladiator Justify Its Price?

2020 Jeep Gladiator off-roading
Image by Wade Thiel

So, now we come to the part of the review where I discuss price. All I’d really heard of the Gladiator before driving it was that it was expensive, and it is. My tester came with a price tag of $50,540. My jaw dropped when I saw that for a base trim level truck, but that’s with a long list of options you don’t have to own. 

The base price of the Gladiator is $33,545, That is about $2,000 more than the base four-door Wrangler. It’s also considerably more than the base price of any of the competing trucks. However, those competing trucks are offered in different cab configurations in their base form. Once you compare four-door trucks to four-door trucks, you see that the price gap closes a little bit. When you add a four-wheel-drive system into the equation, it closes even more. Add a comparable engine option, and you’re looking at a very similar price. 

When you spec the competition to match the Jeep Gladiator’s standard equipment, you’ll find that the truck is actually quite competitively priced. It justifies its price quite well. Just don’t go too crazy adding options or you’ll be at a $50,000 midsize truck before you know it. 

What’s the Verdict on the Jeep Gladiator?

2020 Jeep Gladiator rear three quarter
Image by Wade Thiel

I’m not going to lie, when the Gladiator came to me, I was skeptical of it. I’d seen the high-dollar figures and expected Jeep to be doing a money grab here. 

But the truck is genuinely one of the best midsize pickups out there. I think it has far more capabilities than most people will ever truly need. That said, there’s no denying that Jeep has looked at the market and built a truck with Wrangler-like qualities that is better than the competition off-road, good on-road, and well-positioned in just about every other way. My main criticism of it is that it feels big on the road and honestly is big overall. My gripes are less with the truck itself and more with the fact that midsize trucks, in general, are getting to be huge. 

Would I buy a Gladiator? Yes, but only if I needed a truck this size that I really wanted to off-road. I find Ford’s Ranger and Chevrolet’s Colorado to be better pickups on the road, and if I never really planned to off-road my truck, I’d buy one of those. Another option would be the Honda Ridgeline, though I have significant issues with the Ridgeline, including the fact that it’s starting MSRP is actually higher than the Gladiator’s price tag.

Jeep finally has a new pickup truck in its lineup, and it’s a great vehicle. If you’re a fan of Jeep’s brand image and its off-road prowess or have off-roading ambitions but need a truck you can use for basically everything I recommend this pickup. 

Specifications

  • Base Price: $33,545
  • Price as Tested: $50,540
  • Drive Type: 4X4
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Power Output: 285 and 260 lb-ft of torque
  • EPA: 17 mpg city / 22 mpg highway / 19 mpg combined
  • Optional Equipment: Customer Preferred Package 24S: 17-inch x 7.5-inch tech silver aluminum wheels, power windows with front 1-touch down, power tailgate lock, speed-sensitive power locks, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, security alarm, leather-wrapped steering wheel, deep tint sunscreen windows, automatic headlamps, sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, normal duty plus suspension; 7.0-inch Radio Group: Uconnect 4 with 7.0-inch touchscreen display, Google Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, air-conditioning with automatic temperature control, reconfigurable cluster with a 7.0-inch display, Sirius XM; Convenience Group: universal garage door opener; Cold Weather Group: heated front seats, heated steering wheel, remote-start system; Max Tow Package with 4.10 Axle Ratio, 245/75R17 all-terrain tires, heavy-duty Dana 44 wide front and rear axles, class IV receiver hitch, trailer hitch zoom, daytime running lights, heavy-duty engine cooling; Jeep Active Safety Group: ParkSense rear park-assist system, blind-spot and cross-path detection, LED tail lamps; Adaptive Cruise Control/Forward Collision Warning+: adaptive cruise control with stop, full-speed forward collision warning plus; Hardtop Headliner; Cargo Management Group with Trail Rail System: truck bed 115-volt AC outlet, lockable rear underseat storage bin, 400W inverter; Roll-Up Tonneau Cover; 8-Speed Automatic 850-RS Transmission: Selec-Speed control, transmission skid plate; Black Freedom Top 3-piece hard top: rear sliding window, rear window defroster, Freedom Panel storave bag; Alpine Premium Audio System; Spray-In Bedliner

 

The Breakdown
The Jeep Gladiator is an excellent off-road pickup and a good on-road truck, making it one of the best options out there that you can buy.
Overall
The Good
Fantastic Off-Road Capabilites
Strong Engine Options
Available Manual Transmission
Jeep Personality
Excellent Performance Numbers
The Bad
Only One Configuration Offered
High Starting Price and Can Get Really Expensive
Feels Big and Is
Some Corny Jeep Styling Elements
Not as Smooth On-Road as Competition
4.6