You can make the argument that smallish or midsize pickup trucks are approaching the same size as big pickups used to be a generation or two ago. And you can be even more forceful in insisting that the main reason Fiat went after the tattered remains of Chrysler – after Daimler-Benz had a go-round trying to revive it – was to get the Jeep nameplate. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is proof positive that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is serious about both venerating the Jeep’s long legacy and profiting from its ownership. Make no mistake; the Gladiator may just be going on sale, but it’s already positioned to make more noise in the marketplace than most of its 2020 competition, regardless of manufacturer or market segment. The Gladiator is just that cool.
First off, this is not just a Wrangler with a cargo bed. The Gladiator was crafted from the outset to be a midsize pickup with urban comfort but nearly unchallengable off-road, or no-road, capabilities if you’re ready to try them out. Order the upscale Rubicon variant (the Overland is more basic) and you can have a forward-facing camera that will clearly show you boulders or other obstacles that may be in your path. The rig’s towing capacity is a brawny 7,600 pounds. And unlike every other vehicle in its class, you can remove all four doors if you want, and even lower the windshield. This thing can literally be a boulevardier and live wild like something out of The Defiant Ones all in the same afternoon.
With mostly aluminum body panels, the Gladiator rides on a full frame with skid rails running its entire length. Power comes from the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6; a diesel V-6 is expected to join the option list in 2020, start-stop engine technology is standard. A six-speed manual transmission is likewise standard (Yesss!), with an eight-speed automatic optional. Prices are expected to start in the mid-30s. You may remember that Jeep once made a CJ pickup variant, the Scrambler, back in the early 1980s. Smaller pickups are now back in a big way. Witness the revived Ford Ranger. Heck, even FCA is working to reintroduce a new interpretation of the Dodge Dakota formula. The Gladiator’s different. This is proudly, strongly, unmistakably a Jeep.