Jeep is back in the pickup market with the 2020 Gladiator. This new challenger in the fast-growing midsize segment is Jeep’s first pickup since the 1992 Comanche.
Tim Kuniskis, head of Jeep Brand North America, says the 2020 Gladiator isn’t a conventional pickup. It’s a 4x4 for “restless adventurers” needing more than a truck bed. “This is a brand that has adapted to the market by adopting consumers who aren’t looking for vehicles, transportation or appliances. They’re looking for Jeeps, and we’ve done it by feeding the aspirations of the active, fulfilling the fantasies of modern commuters and delivering the tool of choice for the mundane-fearing millennials.”
The Gladiator is scheduled to arrive in dealerships in the second quarter of 2019. It will be available in Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon trim levels. Jeep hasn’t announced Gladiator pricing, but since it has a Wrangler-plus build, the starting price should be north of Wrangler Sport’s $33,040, likely between $35,000 and $40,000.
Like Wrangler, Gladiator’s standard engine is the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. It produces 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The V-6’s broad torque band is engineered to “focus” on low-end torque, which produces grunt needed for demanding off-roading. It teams with engine stop/start technology that can be deactivated with the push of a button. The standard transmission mate is a six-speed manual, and an eight-speed automatic is optional. A 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 with an eight-speed transmission will be available in 2020.
Gladiator has a 7,650-pound towing max and 1,600-pound payload capacity for its 5-foot steel bed. Cargo is loaded through a wide opening, facilitated by a damped, power-locking aluminum tailgate with three-position stops. An available Trail Rail Cargo Management System boosts storage options.
Showing off its ultimate example of Jeep capability, an extreme-off-road-ready Gladiator Rubicon rolled onto the stage during a recent auto show, climbing a stack of boulders in the process. Its aluminum doors were removed, aluminum-frame windshield folded and Sunrider soft top dropped for a complete open-air experience. Gladiators also are available with two hardtops.
“What you have here is the most-capable midsize truck ever,” said Kuniskis. “It’s a bold statement, but backed up by some serious hardware.”
The list of Rubicon off-road enhancements include: Dana 44 axles with 4:10 gears; Rock-Trac 4x4 system with a 4:1 crawl ratio; proprietary Fox Shocks; Tru-Lock electronic front/rear lockers and limited-slip differential; electronic-disconnecting sway bar; high-clearance fenders; 33-inch off-road tires; steel rock rails protecting the cab and bed; heavy-duty steel rear bumper; functional vented aluminum hood; skid plates; and available off-road performance pages app and forward-facing trail camera.
“We’ve also added something that Jeep has never done before,” said Kuniskis, “a high-speed off-road calibration that allows you to keep the front sway bar connected, unlock the front differential while electronically locking the rear, giving you the ultimate in high-speed traction in dirt and sand.”
While trekking through the rough stuff, passengers benefit from a comfortable interior with a design that’s sophisticated, but maintains old-school character. The narrow, horizontal dash features circular HVAC vents and simple circular gauges with platinum chrome bezels. Seats are cloth or leather, depending on the trim level, with accent stitching, and adjustable side bolsters and lumbar supports. A Cold Weather Group package, offered on selected models, provides the luxury of heated front seats and heated steering wheel.
Rear-seat design focuses on functionality and storage for off-roaders who carry a variety of gear. Security is provided with lockable seats that keep items stored behind safe while the owners are out exploring with the doors and roof open.
In the stadium position, with cushions folded up, under-seat storage bins are exposed. Divided in a 60/40-split configuration like the seats, cushions can be folded to gain access to the 40 side, 60 side or both. Bins can be compartmentalized in up to five sections to accommodate various-sized items. Bins are available with lockable lids, using the same key that locks the glovebox and center console.
While navigating the wilderness, passengers keep in touch with the civilized world via advanced fourth-generation Uconnect infotainment systems. Uconnect technology provides navigation, communications and entertainment with 5-inch, 7-inch and 8.4NAV systems. New Apple CarPlay and Android Auto features are standard on 7.0 and 8.4NAV versions.
Kuniskis said Gladiator has sophisticated technology, and rugged design and capability that appeal to consumers shopping the midsize-pickup segment. “This segment has doubled in the last four years,” he said. “The buyers who are fueling this growth are looking for much more than fashion statements. They’re looking for real trucks and serious hardware that delivers.”