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