We went out to Sacramento, California last week to drive the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator. We had a lot of preconceived notions in mind, and we got a few questions from readers ahead of time. Of those, we picked out 5 things that you might not know about Jeep’s new midsize truck:
1. Its Not Just a Wrangler with a Bed
It looks that way, for sure, and that’s on purpose, but the Gladiator has a lot of differences from the JL. The five-link rear suspension, for example, shares more with the RAM 1500 than the Wrangler, and it results in a pretty amazingly compliant ride.
The traditional seven-slat grille looks — for all intents and purposes — like a Jeep Wrangler, but it’s actually opened up quite a bit to offer better cooling, which is one of the components that results in a 7,650-pound tow rating in the Sport S trim.
In the 1980s, when Jeep introduced the CJ-8 “Scrambler,” that was more along the lines of what would be considered a “Wrangler with a bed,” but using a CJ as a base. Every single Jeep person we talked to made a point to avoid the Scrambler connection, though. This is a very capable midsize truck that’s going to take on the midsize stalwart at Toyota by not just offering better towing and competitive pricing, but better off-road performance in every trim, along with the fun that only a topless Gladiator can provide.
2. The Turning Circle Isn’t as Noticeable as You’d Think
Our initial concern with the Gladiator was the wheelbase. On one hand, it helped provide a better ride, but the flipside is that a long wheelbase means a bigger turning circle, and that’s bad news, especially on the trail.
The numbers definitely gave us pause: The Gladiator gets 19.4 additional inches in wheelbase over the four-door Jeep Wrangler. That equates to a 44.5 foot turning circle. That means nothing until you put it into some context: An F-150 Crew Cab with a short box has a turning circle of 47.8 feet, and it was one of the least maneuverable vehicles we have ever driven. Parking it in a traditionally busy parking lot requires multiple attempts. A U-turn in one shot? Forget it.
That’s not great news for the Gladiator. Yet it’s still competitive. The shortbed Tacoma is better at 40, but the longbed trucks are 44 feet. The Ranger Crew Cab is better at 42.
We took the Gladiator through some substantial offroad trails, including a really tight left turn around a ginormous boulder and it wasn’t as ungainly as the number might suggest. Parking it didn’t present a huge issue, either, so maybe our original fears were unfounded.
3. When You Match Equipment, The Gladiator is Less Expensive Than the Wrangler
We boarded the plane from Boston to Sacramento convinced that the only trim worth having is the full-on, off-road Rubicon. That’s largely true in the Wrangler, because the Rubicon trim includes a lot of equipment that would be prohibitively expensive to purchase on the aftermarket, if you could even buy it (see: dashboard-disconnectable front sway bar).
But the major expense in the Wrangler Rubicon would be the Dana 44 axles. Most people are not going to buy a brand new Wrangler and rip out the Dana 30 (front) and Dana 35 (rear) axles to swap in a full set of Dana 44s, making the step up to the Rubicon kind of a no-brainer.
In the Gladiator, though, Dana 44s are standard in every trim. We can tell you exactly how much of a win that is for the Sport and Sport S trims especially, when the price for the Sport starts at $33,545.
Just about every article you read is going to suggest that for the few grand over the price of a Wrangler 4-door, you get a bed. That’s wrong. A crate Dana 44 axle from Mopar will run you $2,117.50, and the rear is $2,064.25. A Wrangler Unlimited Sport starts at $31,545. So for two thousand bucks, you about $4,200 worth of axles and the bed is thrown in for free.
You can opt for the wide-track axles from the Rubicon in that trim. Granted, you don’t get the front and rear lockers, but that’s a lot less of an aftermarket investment than the Dana 44s are.
4. The Sport S is Probably The Trim To Get
The Sport S — which has the greatest towing capacity of all the trims — is $36,745. For the extra dough, you get:
- 17-Inch Tech Silver Aluminum Wheels
- Power Windows, Power Heated Mirrors and Power Locking Doors and Tailgate
- Remote Keyless Entry
It also makes a few other options available, including:
- Available Uconnect 4 with 7-Inch Touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Integration
- Available 115-Volt Power Outlet in Truck Bed
- Available Industry-Exclusive Removable Bluetooth® Speaker
For sure, the power outlet in the bed and that nifty removable Bluetooth speaker are pretty sweet options, and we’re guessing they’re not super expensive. You’ll probably be in the $39,000 range with those three checked off the list, which is still a pretty attractive price.
5. It’s a Thoughtful Design
Wranglers are obviously rough-and-tumble rides. It’s always surprising to read complaints at places like Consumer Reports that say “It’s noisy!” or “It has a stiff ride!” Yeah, did you look at it before you bought it?
So what’s surprising is how thoughtfully designed it is. There are little touches everywhere that make this truck a lot more pleasant to live with. For example, if you roll the window down, the inner door panel is designed as a lift point, making it much easier to lift the doors off when you want to leave them in the garage.
What do you do with all those bolts from the hardtop and doors? Up until now, you put them in a ziploc bag and lost them in the garage. Now there’s a handy box with a dedicated place to store them all. The Bluetooth speaker is a really well designed unit that’s waterproof, charged from a docking station, and protected by the Gladiator’s warranty. There’s literally no other speaker like it.
We’ll just flat out say it: We’re absolutely lit up about the Gladiator. You’re going to see these things everywhere in a year.