Why the Diesel Jeep Gladiator Pickup Tows Less Than the Gas Engine

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator will eventually offer a torquey 3.0-liter turbodiesel. But its max towing capacity will be less than the 7650-lb rating on the 3.6-liter gasser. Here's why.

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Jeep

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is much more than a lengthened Wrangler with a bed slapped on. Jeep engineers worked to turn the JL-generation Wrangler into a true, rugged midsize pickup truck. The specs back that up: At the rig's debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show yesterday, Jeep touted a 7650-lb towing capacity, more than 1000 lbs greater than any Toyota Tacoma and nearly identical to the diesel-powered Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon—and more than double the tow rating of any Wrangler. We spoke with Pete Milosavlevski, chief engineer for the Jeep truck program, to find out what went into achieving that impressive capability.

A gas-powered Gladiator is pictured in this article. - Ed.

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Jeep

It starts with the tires. As Milosavlevski explained, the Gladiator's 33-inch Falken tires support a higher Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) than the BFGoodrichs used on the Wrangler Rubicon. The pickup also uses unique-design 17- and 18-inch cast aluminum wheels rated for higher loads. The rear suspension is a completely new five-link design with forward-facing shocks. The axles are still Dana 44s front and rear, but with thicker axle wall tubes. The Gladiator offers 3.73 or 4.10 final drive ratios (the latter available on the Rubicon), ditching the 3.44 gears available in some base-model Wranglers.

In addition to being longer, the truck's frame is a different construction, with high-strength steel inserts. The Gladiator gets a frame-mounted class 4 trailer hitch with a two-inch receiver and seven-pin trailer connectivity; the pickup's stability control has trailer sway control built in.

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Jeep

The front brakes are identical to Wrangler, but the rears are slightly larger. The Gladiator Rubicon gets new aluminum-body, tw0-inch high performance Fox shock absorbers that, for now at least, are Gladiator only.

"I think our enthusiasts appreciate the Fox name," Milosavlevski told me at the LA Auto Show. "And the performance that the Fox brand can deliver. There are some things they do internally to their shocks that help with high-speed desert running. The Fox shock is great for that."

Cooling, of course, was a major concern. "We changed the front grille openings to allow for more air flow," Milosavlevski told me. "If you do a side-by-side comparison [with Wrangler], it's subtle, but you will be able to see those openings are bigger." His team also added an 800-watt heavy duty cooling fan.

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Jeep

The cooling needs presented a challenge: The 3.o-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine, available on the Gladiator at a later date, will be a powerhouse, cranking out 442 lb-ft of torque. But it won't achieve the full 7650-lb towing capacity of the base Gladiator engine, the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. Simply put, the turbodiesel's charge-air cooler eats up some of the airflow coming through the grille, slightly reducing the effective cooling area. Towing numbers are still being finalized for the diesel Gladiator, but expect its towing capacity to be about 500 pounds lower than the gasser.

As for the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder gas engine that's optional in the Wrangler? Don't expect to see it in the Gladiator, for much the same reason. "For cooling reasons, [the 2.0-liter] had some limitations with trailering capacity," Milosavlevski told me. "It's a high-output engine. It gets very hot. So with our towing capacity that we wanted to hit, we felt it was important to stick with the 3.6 Pentastar."

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