My Thoughts Exactly: 2020 Jeep Gladiator

Let me get this off my chest…"do you like…movies about gladiators?"

Ah, yes, the comic relief of Airplane! Of Peter Graves playing Captain Clarence Oveur with lines that are considered absolutely horrendous today. But, back in 1980 – even today – we laughed.

But, what does that have to do with the new 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup truck? This truck is not a joke and can be a real hoot to drive. It’s been a very long time since Jeep sold a pickup truck, even with Ram as the primary purveyor of the segment for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

However, the Jeep faithful asked for it. And, they got it. Just as they wanted. A truck where you can do the "Jeep Wave"…and get one in return!

From the onset, FCA developed the Gladiator from the Wrangler. They stretched the frame, made it tougher for higher payload and trailer capacities, but kept the best part of the truck intact – the signature Wrangler cab. The body of the JL Wrangler is cut off just before the C-pillar. That’s where the cab is enclosed. The five-foot long box takes over from that point to finish off with a nod to the Wrangler out back.

The result is a 19-inch wheelbase stretch to accommodate the box. Overall, the Gladiator is 30 inches longer than the Wrangler four-door. There is a mix of things to consider here. You normally do not see a running board on a Wrangler. You do on this Wrangler Overland tester. Rear seat access was fine in the Wrangler Unlimited four-door. On the Gladiator, the doors were cut smaller, and the latch is exposed which might make entering and exiting a bit of a challenge for some.

Perhaps the coolest thing about the Gladiator is that you can remove the doors and the roof – just like in a Wrangler. When is the last time you saw a pickup without its roof and doors?

Step inside and you will find that there is no difference between the Wrangler and the Gladiator. It is the latest in Jeep interior design that is both modern and rugged. The modern parts are what’s in front of you – a couple of analog dials and FCA’s wide TFT screen for all of the information you need, plus the UConnect 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen. There are plenty of switchgear all over the cabin from the left of the driver down into the center console. Oh, and to control the transfer case, you have a lever – not a knob or a button.

Two large soft leather seats provided reasonable front occupancy. For a person with a tall torso – me – I have to mind my head on the roll bar above. I could scrunch lower, but my hip with scream. Somehow I was able to manage everything with grace and ease. Rear seat room is fine for average-size adults or children, however.

A 285-horsepower Pentastar V6 offers standard grunt for this Gladiator. It is quite powerful and it certainly feels that it can handle the 1,600-pund payload and 7,650-pound maximum towing capacity. An eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels through a part-time two-speed transfer case. Great grunt actually delivered decent fuel economy. I averaged 21.7 MPG in my care.

That extra 19 inches of wheelbase translated into a solid ride. The suspension absorbs rougher surfaces and bumps quite well. When it comes to handling, it holds it own by being as stable as possible. The longer length helps a lot here. I also found the steering quite soft with some play at the wheel. The turning radius is very good for a mid-size pickup and tight maneuvers are no problem. Braking is good with solid pedal feel and good stopping power.

The Jeep Gladiator lineup starts at $33,545 for the Sport model. My Overland tester had a sticker price of $55,840. That is a lot of money for a mid-size pickup truck.

But, think of the fun you could have in a Jeep Gladiator! That is the real measurement of what this truck is all about. The off-road legacy of the Wrangler with a longer wheelbase and a five-foot bed is the kind of package that fits within the lifestyles of the Jeep faithful.

Remember, you asked for this. And, no, it's name is Gladiator.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

All photos by Randy Stern

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