The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is a big deal. This midsize pickup truck looks like a Wrangler, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this is nothing more than a Wrangler with a truck bed slapped on the back. Jeep built the Gladiator to handle your truck and off-road needs combined.
It’s an incredibly capable vehicle boasting a maximum payload of 1,600 pounds and tow rating of up to 7,650 pounds with features designed to make your workday easier. There is under-rail bed lighting so you can see what’s in the bed at night, integrated tie-downs for securing that load, and a power-locking tailgate with three stopping positions to accommodate longer cargo.
That’s the truck part, but there’s also the Jeep part. This includes a choice of two 4×4 systems with the top Rubicon trim getting an electronically locking front and rear differential. The Gladiator has front skid plates, front and rear tow hooks, 11.1 inches of ground clearance, and the ability to ford up to 30 inches of water. If you want to head out for an off-road adventure in this midsize pickup, then you’re all set.
But how does it work for a good old-fashioned road trip?
Like the Wrangler, this isn’t some ultra-smooth luxury cruiser that coddles its passengers in luxury. It doesn’t have seats that are nine thousand ways adjustable with massage. It doesn’t have leather interiors softer than a baby’s butt. Even with the top in place, the Gladiator isn’t as quiet as a truck with a fixed roof. If that’s what you’re looking for, then move along.
That’s not to say it isn’t comfortable. There’s plenty of room for five passengers with ample shoulder room for three adults in the back. The front seats are heavily bolstered for holding you in place when you’re off-roading, but not so tight they make you feel squished after a few hours behind the wheel.
This is an interior that’s comfortable and spacious, but with a more rugged feel. Its available leather trims look and feel great, but aren’t so delicate you’ll panic the first time they get splashed with a little mud. It’s ready for mud and if you take off the doors and roof, feel free to let that mud get everywhere. The Gladiator can take it.
The added benefit to that rugged interior is it’s equally ready to handle what passengers can dish out on a road trip. That giant soda you got at the last rest stop, you know, the one with the loose lid that fell off so you and the Gladiator are now wearing it? Cleaning it up is not a problem.
Same goes for the random snack bits that don’t make it into your mouth. The beauty of this interior is, despite its comfort and good looks, it’s tough enough to stand up to what people do to it daily. On a road trip with kids along for the ride, you won’t cringe when you see the mess they’re making.
It also has plenty of room for your stuff, whether it’s in the bed or inside the Gladiator. The rear seats can be locked in place to create a storage area or you can fold them down flat to hold even more cargo. You also won’t have any trouble finding what’s back there if you arrive at your destination late and bleary-eyed thanks to LED lights on the quarter panel trims.
Fuel economy matters when you’re on a road trip and the Gladiator sits pretty much even with other vehicles in its class. Power comes from a 3.6-liter V6 with 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It gets an EPA-estimated 17 mpg in the city, 22 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined with the automatic. Choose the 6-speed manual and the numbers shuffle to 16 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined. It requires some budgeting, but it won’t empty your wallet.
It’s plenty responsive and gets up to highway speeds quickly. The Gladiator never struggles to merge into heavy traffic and easily delivers the extra power needed to pass slower vehicles. It handles well without feeling sloppy during quick maneuvers, so you stay in control. It’s more like driving an SUV than a truck, which makes it easier for long-distance highway road trips.
There’s also the Uconnect infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s easy to use with a minimal learning curve and includes two USB ports up front. While a 5-inch screen is standard, the 7-inch or 8.4-inch screen found on higher trims is more useable. You’ll also find plenty of spots to stow smartphones right on the center console.
Finally, don’t underestimate the pure joy of driving with the top off and feeling the open air on your face. Road trips can get long and boring, but a little fresh air and sunshine make the trip a lot more fun.
We popped off the two panels on our hard top and it provided a refreshing break. It’s so quick to manage it can be done in less time than it takes to fill-up the gas tank. It’s just as easy to reinstall if the weather suddenly turns and yes, it can be done by one person without any help.
You can buy a 2020 Jeep Gladiator right now and have one in time for for your summer road trip. Pricing starts at $33,545 for base trims and tops out at $43,545 for the Gladiator Rubicon.