Jeep finally brings a pickup truck back to its lineup, and though the Gladiator is based heavily on its Wrangler relative, this is a true pickup intended to take on the mid-size truck market with a vengeance. Off-road specific upgrades, iconic styling, and best-in-class towing highlight FCA's newest addition to the fleet.
The Gladiator's design leaves little doubt that it's largely based on its sibling, the iconic Jeep Wrangler. To some extent, it's almost surprising how little Fiat-Chrysler decided to differentiate the two products, which looks just about exactly like multiple fan renderings that have been proliferated across the web in the last couple of years. Essentially a Wrangler that's got a truck bed and a longer wheelbase, the Gladiator is exactly what it needs to be—namely, an instantly recognizable Jeep that's slightly more utilitarian than the capable, yet limited, Wrangler SUV.
To create the pickup layout, Jeep added 31 inches to the Wrangler's overall length, with much of that figure coming from a 19.4-inch longer wheelbase. The bed is a five-foot unit constructed out of steel. All the exterior design changes that came on the latest JL-generation Wrangler feature on the Gladiator, as well. The smoother front grille, reminiscent of TJ Jeeps from the 1990s and early-2000s, integrated fog lights, and round headlights point to Jeep's history while simultaneously retaining a modern feel.
A hardtop and a soft top configuration are available. The front windshield folds down, with bolts that are loosened from the cabin's interior. The doors can come off, with clearly designated Tox specs for its bolts. Hopefully, the soft top utilizes channels and retainers rather than the outgoing zippers on 2017 and early-2018 Wranglers. The truck bed comes with a three-position tailgate and a removable, roll-up tonneau cover.
Drivetrain & Mechanicals
The Gladiator is a larger machine than the Wrangler, and its capabilities are enhanced in proportion to its greater length and heft. Best-in-class towing is rated at 7,650 pounds, while payload is rated at (also a best-in-class) 1,600 pounds. Part of those impressive figures is thanks to the Gladiator's lengthened wheelbase, and four-wheel-drive being the only option, but part is also thanks to FCA's decision to forego the Wrangler's turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine.
Instead, the Gladiator is motivated y a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 producing 285 horsepower, or a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 producing 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. The gasoline engine if offered with the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic, while the diesel will only be available with the auto trans. The Gladiator will weigh in at around 400 pounds more than a Wrangler, so don't expect mind-numbing acceleration, only capable power in just about every situation. (For context, a Chevy Colorado ZR2 can only tow 5,000 pounds.)
Much like its Wrangler relative, the Gladiator is definitely an off-roading vehicle. Five-link coil suspension is mated to heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles, while Rubicon trim offers lockable wide-track axles, FOX shocks, an electronically disconnecting front sway bar, and 33-inch all terrain tires. Sport and Overland editions will receive Command-Trac four-wheel drive. All that results in an approach angle of 46.3 degrees, a departure angle of 26 degrees, and a breakover angle of 20.38 degrees. Ground clearance measures 11.1 inches, and the Gladiator can ford a stream up to 30 inches deep.
Interior & Tech
Just like the rest of the truck, the Gladiator's interior amenities match the Wrangler's. Two full rows of seats feature spartan details that are nonetheless a serious upgrade over Jeeps of old. An 8.4-inch uConnect infotainment system is compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Jeep also throws in a forward-facing TrailCam off-road camera to help with negotiating tougher obstacles on the trail. And while the Jeep Grand Cherokee focuses on a bit more luxury and the standard Cherokee is for city dwellers, there's no doubt the Gladiator is much more focused on what it can do rather than comfort and convenience.
The Gladiator will come with optional safety features including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning with active braking.A removable Bluetooth wireless speaker even comes along with plenty of interior storage to make those weekends out on the trail as fun as possible.
Pricing & Buying
Pricing for the Gladiator has not been revealed, but the pickup will come in four separate trims: Sport, Sport S, Overland, and Rubicon. A 2018 Wrangler Rubicon starts at $37,445 while checking every options box can easily push the price tag up above $55,000. Given that the Gladiator will receive a few components that the Wrangler technically hasn't received yet, plus the fact that it's a bigger, tougher truck, it seems likely that the pickup will run buyers even a little more at the high end.
Jeep didn't set out to make a Wrangler with a pickup truck shape. The Gladiator is a legitimate mid-size pickup with capability that matches or beats much of its competition. Trucks like the Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado, and Ford Ranger all have lower towing ratings, though their price tags may well be lower, as well. Of course, the Gladiator's off-road focus and manual transmission—not to mention its quintessential Jeep styling—make it just about one of a kind, and exactly the truck that Jeep fans have been waiting all these years to receive.