From the first spy shots on our website to the announcement of a Jeep truck, pickup enthusiasts and other off-roaders were jumping up and down. The Gladiator is the first Jeep truck in a long time, and the design clearly takes its clues from the popular Wrangler. Can this truck roll on its own four wheels or is it reliant on its relationship to the Wrangler in order to drive sales?
Here’s an interesting fact about the Gladiator’s popularity. When the pandemic struck and car sales plummeted for every brand, the Gladiator was one shining spot for Jeep. In fact, any brand would have been happy to claim its 174-percent second quarter rise in sales. This truck is selling well, but is it really just a novelty?
As you probably know, the Ford Ranger recently returned as a contestant in the midsize truck rivalry. It had about a year to establish its own popularity before the Gladiator rolled onto the scene. You can just look at the two side by side and see the difference that personality makes. The Gladiator design is so distinctive that any onlooker would notice the difference even both trucks were a neutral white.
A white Gladiator seems unlikely, however. Color is a major part of the Jeep look. These Gladiators come in all sorts of colors that seem a bit wild for a truck. It won’t take a spy shot to spot them on the highway. Lime greens, bright orange, and neon yellow will really stand out especially if the driver takes the truck into the wilderness.
This is definitely a matter of taste. Someday these trucks will be used jeeps, waiting for new owners at a dealership. Will their unusual look and color make them easier or harder to sell? Time will tell.
Although many will assume the cabin is the same as the Wrangler Unlimited, the Gladiator’s seating area is actually more spacious. This makes sense because this Jeep has an extra 20 inches between the front and rear wheels. In fact, the large cabin rivals the cabin in the Honda Ridgeline. The two have similar bed space as well. Of course, the Gladiator doesn’t have the Ridgeline’s handy in-bed trunk. That’s a Honda exclusive.
If you know the Wrangler, you know it runs on a proven V6 engine. The Gladiator is given that same engine and it can do a lot with 285 horsepower. Between this capability and its tough build, the Jeep truck can tow as much as 7,650 pounds. That puts it at the front of its class. Among 4×4 midsize trucks, its maximum payload of 1,700 pounds is also a class leader.
The standard manual transmission will appeal to many Jeep diehards, but there is a high-tech eight-speed automatic. Four-wheel drive is standard, making this truck once again different from its rivals. To get the maximum four-wheel capability, buyers will have to upgrade to the Rubicon.
Nobody is going to beat the two-door Wrangler at maneuverability. However, the Gladiator is built to give it a try. Longer than either the Wrangler or Wrangler Unlimited, the Jeep truck has a wider turning circle. This will limit capability in some situations on the trail.
Is it enough to make a buyer reject this ride? It will only make a difference if someone is wishy-washy on having a pickup. They may turn back to the Wrangler. A true pickup enthusiast is not going to be dissuaded by a few inches.
The verdict of this reviewer is that the Gladiator can live up to the hype. Can it sustain its popularity? Well, the Wrangler nameplate has been in action since 1986. So, it’s certainly possible.