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2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon vs. 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2: Which is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Chris O'Neill July 2019

Editor's note: You may want to read more of Autotrader's model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2020 Jeep Gladiator review, and the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado review.

There are five vehicles sold new today in the United States that come with locking front and rear differentials. Two of them are midsize pickups -- the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and the all-new Jeep Gladiator (for anyone interested, the other three are the Jeep Wrangler, the Ram 2500 Power Wagon and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class). Naturally, the ZR2 and the Gladiator (particularly in top-of-the-line Rubicon trim) are two of the most off-road ready midsize pickups on sale today. To help you decide which one might be better for your future off-road exploits, we'll compare the two in a number of categories below.

The base price of a Gladiator Rubicon with a manual transmission is $45,040 once you've factored in destination costs, and exceeds $62,000 once fully optioned with an automatic transmission, a body-colored hardtop, leather seats, a trail camera and more. A Chevy Colorado ZR2 starts at about $42,000 for a basic V6 engine and extended cab, while a fully-loaded diesel crew cab with the Bison package and additional options comes in at about $54,000, before any manufacturer or dealer incentives.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon vs. 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 powertrains

Powertrains

Both of these trucks come standard with 4-wheel drive. Once the Gladiator's optional diesel engine is formally released to the public, both vehicles will also offer buyers their choice of either a gas-powered or a diesel engine. Colorado's gas engine is a 3.6-liter V6 making 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic is the only available transmission. With the gas engine, the ZR2 returns 16 miles per gallon in the city, 18 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in combined driving. Buyers can also opt for a small 4-cylinder turbodiesel. Output for the diesel comes in at only 181 hp, but the engine does make 369 lb-ft of torque. While it offers the low-end grunt that many diesel buyers crave, the Colorado's diesel is a dog on the highway, and buyers will likely find the V6 to be easier to live with day-to-day. The EPA rates the Colorado ZR2 diesel at 18 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.

The Gladiator launches with just a gas powertrain, which is also a 3.6-liter V6, but in this case puts out 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Buyers can choose from an 8-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual, which is often preferred by off-roaders. With the auto, the EPA rates the Gladiator at 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined. Manual figures are about the same. The Gladiator's diesel is scheduled to debut in 2020 -- this is as specific as Jeep has gotten about an official on-sale date. The engine will be a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6, and power output will be considerably greater than the Colorado's diesel, with ratings of 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy figures for the Gladiator diesel have not yet been released. See the 2020 Jeep Gladiator models for sale near you

While one incentive to opt for the diesel in a regular Colorado is for increased towing capacity, Chevrolet limits the ZR2's tow rating to 5,000 pounds, regardless of engine choice. A Gladiator Rubicon is rated to tow up to 7,000 pounds, making it the most capable off-road pickup on sale in this regard. Jeep has said that the diesel Gladiator will not offer greater towing capacity than the gas-powered model. See the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado models for sale near you

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon vs. 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 configurations

Configurations

The ZR2 is sold in both extended and crew cab body styles. Extended cab models get a 6-foot bed, while crew cabs come with a shorter 5-foot bed. Jeep opted to focus on the most popular midsize truck body style in designing the Gladiator, and it's offered only as a crew cab with room for five and a 5-foot bed around back. Every Gladiator also has removable doors, a removable roof (available in both soft- and hard-top designs) and a windshield that folds down with the removal of a few bolts, making it unlike any other truck on the road.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon vs. 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 off-road

Off-Road

The basic Jeep Gladiator comes with solid axles front and rear and excellent approach and departure angles. Building off of this, the Rubicon trim adds tougher Dana 44 axles, locking front and rear differentials, an electronically disconnecting front sway bar, a Fox suspension, all-terrain tires, higher clearance fenders, rock rails for the rocker panels and rear bed corners, a 4WD transfer case with lower gearing than on lesser models, skid plates, recovery hooks and some additional stylistic elements.

The Colorado ZR2 comes in two different variations: the standard ZR2 and the ZR2 Bison, which offers added protection. The basic ZR2 comes with an off-road oriented suspension developed by Multimatic known as DSSV, or Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve, which performs well off-road and gives the truck a 2-in lift. The ZR2's track is also 3.5 inches wider than that of the normal Colorado. Additionally, the ZR2 comes with locking front and rear differentials, hill descent control, a unique front bumper, aluminum skid plates protecting the engine and transfer case, unique wheels wearing 31-in Goodyear Duratrec all-terrain tires, rock rails, a unique hood, wider fender flares and a few additional stylistic elements.

The ZR2's available Bison package, which was co-developed with American Expedition Vehicles, comes with five underbody skid plates -- all of which are made of steel -- covering the front and rear differentials, oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case. Additionally, the Bison has a steel, winch-compatible front bumper with unique fog lights, a steel rear bumper with knock-out plates for aftermarket lighting, steel protection for the rear bumper corners, thicker fender flares than the normal ZR2, unique wheels, AEV branding, and a few additional styling elements. The Bison is often advertised with a snorkel, but this is a dealer-installed option compatible with any Colorado.

Either one of these trucks is equipped to handle just about any off-road scenario, but the Gladiator Rubicon is better suited to low-speed off-roading, while the ZR2 is more set up for bombing across the desert at high speeds. This is mainly due to their respective front suspension setups. The Gladiator's solid front axle allows for greater travel and more articulation, resulting in increased traction and stability in the rough stuff, making it better suited for uneven, technical terrain. The ZR2, along with every other midsize pickup on sale today, uses an independent front suspension. This doesn't offer quite the degree of articulation as a rigid axle, but does offer greater stability at speed, not to mention better handling and ride quality on-road. For context here, note that purpose-built rock-crawlers almost always use a solid front axle, while competitive trophy trucks use an independent front suspension.

Finally, for anyone looking to modify their vehicle, you'll find that there's more aftermarket support out there for the Gladiator, especially given that it shares the majority of its components with the Wrangler, which is immensely customizable. The Colorado is relatively new to the market and therefore lacks the aftermarket options of the Gladiator and the Wrangler.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon vs. 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 safety

Safety

Both of these vehicles lag behind segment leaders like the Toyota Tacoma and the Ford Ranger with regard to active safety features. The Gladiator offers automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with parking sensors, and rear cross-traffic alert. This assortment leaves a little to be desired, but is miles ahead of what's available on the Colorado. The ZR2 comes only with forward-collision warning, which isn't even capable of applying the brakes. Pathetic, frankly, here in 2019.

The Colorado performs admirably in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, but misses out on a Top Safety Pick designation for its lack of active crash mitigation technology and headlights that fail to live up to the standards set by the IIHS. Crash test results for the Gladiator have yet to be released.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon vs. 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 tech

Technology & Infotainment

The Gladiator Rubicon and the Colorado ZR2 both offer great infotainment systems, although the ZR2's comes standard, while the Gladiator Rubicon's is optional. Every Colorado ZR2 comes with an 8.0-in center infotainment screen running Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system. The Gladiator Rubicon comes standard with a 7.0-in screen, or an optional 8.4-in screen, both of which run the latest version of parent-company Chrysler's UConnect system. Both the ZR2's and the Gladiator's infotainment systems are generally regarded as being pretty good, and come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, along with 4G LTE with Wi-Fi capability. Both are available with a premium audio system: Bose in the ZR2, Alpine in the Gladiator.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon vs. 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 interior

Interior

While both of these trucks offer great off-road capability, the Gladiator has a much nicer interior than the Colorado. Given that it's based on the new Wrangler, which was redesigned just last year, the Gladiator's interior is fun and modern while also offering a retro flair. Circular air vents, colored surfaces, and a tasteful use of bare metal hardware all serve to give the traditionally minimalist Wrangler and Gladiator interior a dosage of upscale flair.

The Colorado, on the other hand, has an interior that harkens back to the dark ages of GM, with cheap materials and uninspired design. This is due in part to the fact that despite going on sale here in the U.S. in 2015, the Colorado has been on sale in other markets throughout the world since way back in 2012, meaning that it is now in its eighth model year, and is due for a redesign. The Colorado's interior is dominated by swaths of hard black plastic. It also uses an old-school metal key and ignition cylinder -- a part so cheap that it feels straight out of the 1990s. Sure, trucks don't have to be fancy in order to get the job done, but the Colorado's weak interior does not inspire confidence or give the impression of value.

Reliability

Either of these trucks should have acceptable reliability. The Toyota Tacoma is generally regarded as the dependability leader in this segment, and offers industry-leading resale value. Expect to see great resale value from a Gladiator Rubicon as well, given the vehicle's uniqueness. Five, 10, 20 years from now, an off-road truck that can be turned into a beach buggy will still be cool and therefore will command a premium on the used market. ZR2 buyers should see better-than-average resale value as well, given their vehicle's off-road capability, although expect the Gladiator to hold its value better still. Both trucks are offered with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Conclusions

No matter which one you choose, either of these trucks is going to be a ton of fun off-road. Both offer capable suspensions, good underbody protection, and locking front and rear differentials -- a rarity in the off-road space today. As it's an all-new vehicle, the Gladiator Rubicon offers a level of quality and refinement not present in the ZR2, which often comes off as a simple work truck done up with off-road parts. On top of that, the Gladiator comes with a removable roof and doors, which ups the ante even further. All of this comes at a cost though, and a Gladiator Rubicon costs $10,000 to $12,000 more than a comparably-equipped Colorado ZR2. The ZR2 does offer buyers more choice, offering two different cab configurations and an optional diesel engine that you can buy right now. While the Gladiator's diesel engine is on its way, we aren't sure yet when it will actually become available.

When it comes down to it, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator offers more: more refinement, more capability and more configurability, but all of that comes at a cost, as the Gladiator costs considerably more than the ZR2, which earns points for being one of the more reasonably-priced off-road trucks on sale today. Find a Jeep Gladiator for sale or Find a Chevrolet Colorado for sale

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon vs. 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2: Which is Better? - Autotrader