More than a Wran­gler with a bed, it’s a le­git pickup

Motor Trend - - Contents - Alisa Prid­dle

This month’s hot metal

How do you make Mo­tortrend’s 2019 SUV of the Year even bet­ter? Give it a match­ing pickup. En­ter the Gla­di­a­tor.

Loy­al­ists have clam­ored for a res­ur­rec­tion of the pickup since the 1986–92 Co­manche’s demise. The team’s mis­sion was to de­velop a com­pet­i­tive mid­size pickup with the look and ca­pa­bil­ity of a Wran­gler. It took longer to bring to mar­ket, but the re­sult­ing crew cab truck is de­serv­ing of the name, said Tim Ku­niskis, head of Jeep in North Amer­ica.

To be clear, this is not a Scram­bler. Past Scram­blers were Wran­glers with an af­ter­thought of a bed grafted on, whereas the orig­i­nal ’60s Gla­di­a­tor was a proper pickup.

Built in the same Toledo, Ohio, com­plex as the Wran­gler, the Gla­di­a­tor’s frame is 31 inches longer than a Wran­gler Un­lim­ited’s, and the wheel­base is 19.4 inches longer. It has a full 5-foot bed and is 400 pounds heav­ier.

The 2020 Gla­di­a­tor goes on sale in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2019, en­ter­ing a mid­size pickup seg­ment that had been all but squeezed out by its full-size cousins. But the Chevro­let Colorado and GMC Canyon in­jected new life into the seg­ment long dom­i­nated by the Toy­ota Ta­coma, and now Ford is bring­ing back the Ranger in early 2019, so this should be fun.

Like the Wran­gler, the Gla­di­a­tor can cross the Ru­bi­con. The roof and doors come off, and the wind­shield folds down. Free­dom reigns.

The Gla­di­a­tor shares al­most half its parts with the Wran­gler, in­clud­ing hood, doors, fend­ers, and pow­er­trains. It goes on sale with the 285-hp, 260-lb-ft 3.6-liter Pen­tas­tar V-6 with stop/start and a six-speed man­ual. Most buy­ers will opt for the eight-speed au­to­matic. The next-gen­er­a­tion 3.0-liter Ecodiesel tur­bocharged V-6 engine with stop/start will be avail­able in 2020 with the eight-speed, throw­ing 260 hp and 442 lb-ft. The 2.0-liter turbo-four won’t be avail­able at launch, nor will a hy­brid, but we ex­pect both even­tu­ally.

Ca­pa­bil­ity? This truck can tow 7,650 pounds and has a pay­load of 1,600 pounds. The Ru­bi­con adds a for­ward-fac­ing cam­era—and washer—to see ob­sta­cles less than 2 feet in front of the bumper. The short front over­hang al­lows for a 43.6-de­gree ap­proach an­gle to go with a 26-de­gree de­par­ture an­gle. It has 11.1 inches of ground clear­ance and can ford 30 inches of wa­ter.

En­gi­neers think five-link coil-sprung live axles at the front and rear, with strate­gic place­ment of the shocks and con­trol arms, will mit­i­gate any shake and pro­vide a com­fort­able ride.

The back seat is roomy, and the seats fold down, lock in place for se­cure stor­age be­hind them, or fold up to ac­cess more stor­age. A sep­a­rate bin holds the bolts for the roof and doors.

There are two hard tops and a soft top that folds like an ac­cor­dion. An op­tional ton­neau cover rolls tightly so it doesn’t have to be re­moved. In­side are blank switches to run ac­ces­sories, slots to hold your phones, Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto, and touch­screens as large as 8.4 inches.

This Gla­di­a­tor is ready to fight for pickup supremacy.

The Gla­di­a­tor has years of pent-up de­mand, crazys­trong brand loy­alty, a known name­plate for Jeep geeks, and styling cribbed from the most rec­og­nized ve­hi­cle in the world.

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