For the last two months, I’ve been “that guy” with a lifted 4×4 truck that did nothing but drive it around paved roads. Over 2,000 miles have been put on my 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon as a mall crawler — but finally, an opportunity was presented to stress test my brand-new Jeep pickup truck. This little adventure also helped me validate the reasons I wanted to buy my Gladiator in the first place.
Since I’m overflowing with hoopties, I gladly accepted the Midwest Dream Car Collection’s offer to display my 1994 Jeep Wrangler that was modified to be a screen accurate Jurassic Park Jeep. While it’s perfectly capable of making the 2-hour trek to Manhattan, Kansas, I needed a way to get home — so I decided to try towing with my Gladiator for the first time. Offering best in class towing capacity at 7,000 pounds, I was well under the limit with my 3,000-lb Wrangler and 1,600-lb aluminum trailer — and it made for a fantastic Instagram photo opportunity.
The styling of the Gladiator is one of my favorite parts of the truck, as they pulled off the retro-modern look really well, in my opinion. The boxy shape with the big fender flares give it great proportions, and unlike most modern trucks and SUVs that bare no resemblance to previous generations, my 1994 Wrangler and 2020 Jeep complement each other really well. The Gladiator looks like a natural evolution of the original 1940’s product.
Towing was certainly more labored than my old full-sized GMC Sierra, but I expected this, since I had traded it for a 285-horsepower V6 midsize pickup. The only gripe I have while towing is with the transmission, as the 8-speed gearbox will hold itself screaming near redline in fourth gear forever if you allow it to. I found myself having to manually shift the truck constantly to stop this — but otherwise, towing felt reasonably stable and easy. Once I got the Jurassic Park Wrangler delivered to the museum, and lost the trailer, the real fun could start.
Thankfully, the Gladiator’s adherence to Jeep heritage extends well past the styling, as underneath is a beefy frame with a solid front axle — and I really like this old-school approach to the build. Even the 4×4 shift lever still exists, which is a relief considering all other Jeep models, and just about every other 4×4, have abandoned this in favor of electronic switches. Feeling the lever manually engage the 4×4, or low range, is really satisfying, and finally, I had the opportunity to do this at Tuttle Creek, a nearby offroad park.
While the Gladiator is a dinosaur in a lot of good ways, it’s no slouch in the technology department either. Features like a forward-facing, self-cleaning trail cam come in really handy, and the aircraft style pitch and roll gauges are a fun touch as well. Since I was on this trail alone, and without a winch, I wasn’t going to try anything too challenging — but the Gladiator made everything seem so easy. Even when I got a bit braver, and tried one of the more challenging hills, the Gladiator lived up to its name with very little drama.
After my short off-roading adventure, I returned home with a very dirty Gladiator, fully satisfied that purchasing this rig was the right decision. While it doesn’t have the comfort and power of the larger luxury trucks, it makes up for it in personality and fun. The little Easter egg design elements found throughout the truck, along with the overall construction, clearly shows this was a truck made by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. Maybe I could have waited, and not been suckered into buying the very expensive launch edition model — but I don’t find myself regretting this purchase in the slightest. Find a Jeep Gladiator for sale
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