I recently had the chance to drive the new 2020 Jeep Gladiator, which is the pickup version of the Jeep Wrangler. Jeep has given this truck a new name, Gladiator, to distinguish it a bit from the Wrangler, but we all know it for what it is: the Wrangler pickup. The long-awaited, deeply desired, constantly-asked-about Wrangler pickup. And now it’s here.
And it’s here with surprisingly reasonable pricing. The base model, called the Gladiator Sport, starts from $35,000 with destination (which, by the way, is a hefty $1,495). The more upscale Gladiator Overland starts from $42,000 with shipping, while the off-roader Gladiator Rubicon is $45,000 with shipping. The Gladiator’s top rival is probably the Toyota Tacoma, which starts from around $27,000 — but when you consider the fact that all Gladiators are 4-wheel drive, and all have four full-sized doors, and all have a big V6, the comparative Tacoma actually starts from $33,300 — meaning the Gladiator isn’t really as expensive as you might think. In fact, the Gladiator Rubicon is actually cheaper than the Tacoma TRD Pro, which starts from $46,600 with shipping.
The Jeep is also a bit better than the Tacoma right off the bat, because every Gladiator is a convertible. Yes, it’s true: you can get two tops for the Gladiator, a hardtop or a soft top, but every single one is a convertible. The hardtop removes in two sections: there are two easy-to-remove panels up front can be taken off anytime, while the rear section comes off with some tools (that are included with your Gladiator purchase). The soft top comes off in two major steps: the rear window area is in three pieces and comes off in a few seconds, while the upper bit can be pushed back and rest above the rear crossbar. Both offer fully open-air driving experiences.
Of course, the other thing the Gladiator offers is the off-road capabilities of a Wrangler with the addition of some truck hardware — or, mostly, anyway. In reality, the Gladiator isn’t quite as capable as a Wrangler due to its larger size. The departure angle of just 26 degrees is a big step down from the Wrangler’s amazing 37-degree departure angle, and the breaker angle (20.3 degrees) is down from the Wrangler’s 28 degrees. But such is life if you want a pickup, with a truck pickup bed, rather than an SUV.
And, yes, the Gladiator has a truck pickup bed. It’s a 5-foot bed, the industry standard for 4-door compact trucks, and it’s a real bed you can do real stuff with. Jeep told me the Gladiator’s bed will carry "94 percent of motorcycles currently on the market." With that said, it’s not a long bed, and it’s not offered in a long bed — and you can’t get the Gladiator with two doors, either. That will turn off some shoppers, but Jeep says too bad: 80 percent of midsize truck sales are 4-door models, and Jeep wanted to attack that meaty part of the market.
So how does it drive? A lot like a Wrangler, actually, which won’t surprise anyone. There’s no doubt the Gladiator is slower than a new JL Jeep Wrangler, which is disappointing (though not surprising) since the Wrangler isn’t exactly spry. But the Gladiator’s 3.6-liter V6 (285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft) just isn’t enough to move its relatively large mass in a way anyone would call "fast." It also lumbers around corners without feeling as nimble as the Wrangler, again a bit of a disappointment since the Wrangler isn’t, well, nimble. But these are trade-offs you make for a pickup bed, and they’re trade-offs you shouldn’t be surprised to make. They also don’t detract much from the driving experience, and it’s not like you were buying a Wrangler for track or drag strip use anyway.
Overall, the Gladiator is an excellent take on a Wrangler pickup truck, and I’m highly impressed with the execution. Yes, some shoppers will want a 2-door, and others will want a long bed, and still others will want an ultra-cheap version to haul stuff around. But the majority of shoppers want four doors, off-road capabilities and, well, a Jeep pickup. And Jeep has delivered exactly that with no nasty surprises and a few exciting ones. If you’re in the market, expect high demand, few discounts, and lots of eager shoppers competing for the early models. Find a Jeep Gladiator for sale