After more than a quarter-century, a pickup model is finally returning to the Jeep brand. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator debuted last Wednesday at the 2018 LA Auto Show, and it surprised with class-leading towing and 4x4 payload figures to go with its Jeep-worthy off-road capabilities, Wrangler-inspired aesthetic and surprisingly full complement of tech features.
Not only did Fiat Chrysler Automobiles show off the Gladiator in trail-spec Rubicon form and less-expensive trims, it even-- around $8,000 worth of added toys. Jeep Wranglers are among the most-frequently personalized vehicles in the marketplace, so this strategy seems like a particularly smart bed.
We like what we see, and judging by the amount of clicks and eyeballs the Gladiator generated at the show for Roadshow and countless other websites, you like it, too.
Versus today's Wrangler Unlimited four-door SUV model, the Gladiator's new frame is stretched 31 inches with a wheelbase that's 19.4 inches longer. The suspension consists of a lateral and four longitudinal control arms up front shared with the Wrangler, while the rear rides on a five-link coil suspension exclusive to the Jeep pickup for improved on-road ride comfort.
Want to see how the Gladiator compares to midsize trucks from Chevy, Ford, Nissan and Toyota?
At launch, the Gladiator will be powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 making 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive on all trim levels. An eight-speed automatic is optional. Jeep claims it'll offer class-leading tow capacity of up to 7,650 pounds and 4x4 payload of up to 1,600 pounds.
Those interested in a little more grunt may want to holdout until the 2020 calendar year when a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel is slated to join the lineup offering 260 horses and a muscular 442 pound-feet of twist. Unlike the gas engine, the diesel will only be offered with an eight-speed automatic.
Being a Jeep, the Gladiator offers all the necessary hardware to tackle off-road expeditions ranging from a pair of 4x4 systems, Dana 44 axles, electric front- and rear-axle lockers, a limited-slip and skid plates. Rubicon models dial things up a notch with 4.10 axles, improved suspension articulation and travel, Fox shocks, electronic disconnecting sway bars, steel rear bumper and protective cab and cargo bed rails and 33-inch tires. The Rubicon can run up to 35-inch rubber with no lift, be equipped with a forward camera capable of showing anything that's less than two feet in front of the truck and be outfitted with a front, winch-ready steel bumper.
The Gladiator features an approach angle of 43.6 degrees, breakover angle of 20.3 degrees, departure angle of 26 degrees, 11.1 inches of ground clearance and is capable of fording up to 30 inches of water. Despite that extra-long wheelbase, there's still plenty of off-road capability here.
From a design standpoint, the Wrangler-design inspiration is clear, with the circular headlights, seven-slot grille and square taillights. The Wrangler's open-air capabilities also make the jump over to the Gladiator with the removable aluminum doors, soft or available hardtops and fold-down windshield.
Out back is a five-foot steel bed featuring integrated tie downs, under-rail bed lighting available with a spray-in bed liner, 115-volt three-prong plug and tonneau cover. The sides of the bed box have been left low on purpose for easy reach in to load or unload items. The damped, three-position tailgate in the middle setting matches up with the tops of the rear wheel housing and enables the Gladiator to carry 20 sheets of 4x8 plywood or drywall flat. The Gladiator may not be as capacious as something like aor , but there's still significant utility on offer.
Heading inside, the heritage-inspired layout boasts a horizontal dash with trapezoidal end, plenty of storage cubbies, rubberized touch points and real metal plated trim pieces. For a more premium feel, Overland models receive wrapped instrument panels with accent stitching.
Rear seating space mirrors the Wrangler Unlimited for segment-leading legroom with seats that can be folded to provide a flat load surface and access to secure storage areas behind the seatbacks. Folding the rear seat cushions up uncovers an open storage bin with dedicated compartments to safely hold bolts when the doors or top are removed and the windshield when folded. A lockable storage bin with removable dividers is available as an option.
Spearheading infotainment is the fourth-generation Uconnect system with either a 5-, 7- or 8.4-inch touchscreen depending on trim level. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities are standard with navigation coming with the 8.4-inch display.
For increased safety, the Gladiator will offer adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and a backup camera with dynamic grid lines.
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup truck goes on sale during the second quarter of 2019 and be available in Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon trim levels. We hope to have a drive of it soon.