That’s right, Gladiator. Not Scrambler. The Jeep pickup has finally arrived, debuting at the Los Angeles auto show, and as you’d expect, it looks very much like a Wrangler. Indeed, it is essentially a Wrangler from the (fold-down) windshield forward. But Jeep is keen to let everyone know that it’s more than just a Wrangler with a long frame and a short top.
"Gladiator is a dedicated pickup," says Tim Kuniskis, now head of Jeep brand North America. "[Customers] are looking for real pickup trucks."
It’s an important distinction for Jeep, which wants to attract Wrangler-philes and go toe-to-toe in the expanding midsize truck segment.
The Gladiator does real truck stuff. Towing capacity with the 3.6-liter V6, the only engine offered at launch, is 7650 pounds, just shy of the diesel Colorado/Canyon and trouncing the Tacoma. Payload is 1650 pounds. Hitting those numbers required Jeep to significantly beef up the Wrangler’s frame and increase engine cooling. That, along with a 20-inch longer wheelbase, pads the Gladiator’s curb weight by some 400 pounds compared to a four-door Wrangler with similar equipment. A V6-powered, two-door Wrangler hit 0 to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds in R&T testing, so expect a Gladiator, which has the same 285-hp output, to clock in at … not fast.
A 3.0-liter diesel, due in 2020, should get off the line more quickly, with 442 pound-feet of torque. It will, however, have a lower towing rating, says chief engineer Pete Milosavlevski, because the turbo diesel is harder to cool. The gas V6 can be paired with either an eight-speed auto or six-speed manual, as in the Wrangler; the diesel will be auto-only. The 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder gas engine, optional on the Wrangler, will not be available on the Gladiator.
The Gladiator's folding soft top works much like that of the Wrangler, as does the hardtop with T-top-style removable panels over the front seats. The doors come off as easily as they do on the Wrangler, and yes, the windshield folds down. It's the most open-air experience you can get in a modern truck.
The Gladiator is, no doubt, much brawnier than Jeep's last two pickups: the CJ-based Scrambler of yore, which ended production with the introduction of the first Wrangler in 1987, and the Cherokee-based Comanche, which left the scene in 1992. The Gladiator name dates back to a much earlier product, Jeep's full-size pickup that shared its frame with the Wagoneer and was built from 1962 to 1988 (though the Gladiator name was dropped after '71).
Since the mid-'90s, Jeep has tortured us with a seemingly endless stream of pickup truck concepts. Yet the conditions for a Wrangler-based pickup have ripened only recently. Small, body-on-frame trucks dwindled in variety and overall sales through much of the early aughts as customers shifted to crossovers. Conventional industry wisdom held that the folks who truly wanted real truck capability would spring for full-sizers, which tend to reap bigger profits for automakers and be more helpful in meeting federal fuel economy standards—the larger a vehicle’s footprint, the lower its fuel economy target.
Two things helped lay the groundwork for the Gladiator. First, as part of a 2006 redesign, Jeep introduced the four-door Wrangler Unlimited. It proved a family-sized Wrangler could still do Wrangler things, and brought in a ton of new buyers—today, the four-door accounts for 80 percent of the model’s sales. Second, the folks at FCA saw the success of the second-gen Chevy Colorado, redesigned for 2015, which proved that smaller trucks still had mainstream appeal—so long as they weren’t too small.
Which brings us back to the Gladiator. It’s not small. With a four-door cab and five-foot bed—the only configuration offered—the pickup stretches more than four feet longer than a two-door Wrangler. Four trim levels are offered: Sport, Sport S, Overland (a luxury model analogous to the Wrangler Sahara) and Rubicon.
The rub here is that the Wrangler’s relatively compact footprint is a boon off-road. Yet Jeep assures us the Gladiator still does real-deal Jeep things. Four-wheel drive is standard, and the Gladiator retains solid axles both front and rear, although the suspension in back has different geometry to minimize bed shake. The top-of-the-line Rubicon comes with all the off-road trimmings: Dana electronic locking differentials front and rear, a front anti-roll bar disconnect, transfer case with a 4:1 low range, and 33-inch tires. It also rides on Fox dampers that aren't (yet) offered on the Wrangler. It’ll ford through 30-inches of water. Approach angle, 43.6 degrees, is similar to the Wrangler; departure angle is shallower at 27 degrees. Rock rails on the Rubicon extend to the front of the bed, so at least you won’t damage much on the way down. The Gladiator Rubicon offers a front-facing camera, mounted in the grille, to help you spot off-road obstacles, a feature not available on Wrangler. For those seeking more capability, Mopar will be ready with some 200 accessories.
All in all, Jeep thinks the Gladiator will do everything its more established competitors can when it comes to hauling and towing, off-road stuff the others can't match. Jeep's folks never mentioned any competitors by name, but when we asked whether their calculations included the Colorado ZR2, Milosavlevski smiled and said, "absolutely."
We won’t be able to verify to any of that until we get time behind the wheel next year. Until then, we can only attest to the fact that a Wrangler-based pickup looks as rad as we always thought it would. Call it whatever you want, the Gladiator’s a no brainer.
We published leaked images and info on the Jeep Gladiator before its debut on 11/14 with the headline This Is the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Pickup, Completely Undisguised. We have left the original post below:
We've seen a lot of renderings, sketches, and speculative images, but this is different. The folks at seem to have gotten their hands on official promotional photos of the long-awaited Wrangler-based pickup. And we think it looks damn good.
Recently, the folks at the forum presented evidence that the new-for-2020 Jeep pickup would be named Gladiator, rather than the previously-rumored "Scrambler" name. The forum, which has been a consistent and reliable source of Jeep rumors for the past year or more, even went so far as to rename itself, ditching "Jeep Scrambler Forum" for "Jeep Gladiator Forum."
The folks at the forum further that, while not surprising, confirm that the Gladiator means serious business. According to their inside sources, the JL Gladiator will offer the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 (with eight-speed auto or six-speed stick) or the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 (auto only, available in 2020). It'll tow up to 7650 lbs and carry up to 1600 lbs payload, both "best in class," and offer the same transfer cases, axles, optional electronic diff lockers and electronic front sway bar disconnect that are available on the JL Wrangler.
The images leaked by the Gladiator Forum are purported to be official promotional images from Fiat Chrysler's media site, which were briefly uploaded and made public before being taken down—though not quick enough to avoid being noticed. Looking closely, we see that the Gladiator pickup appears to be available in both Rubicon and Sahara trim, with either a hard top or folding soft top, though it seems the pickup will only be available in four-door body style. The pickup bed measures five feet, with integrated power source and cargo tie-downs, and judging by what we see here, the doors will be removable and the windshield will fold down, exactly like the JL Wrangler.
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator will make its debut in the end of November at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. We'll be there to bring you all the details and info when this long-awaited vehicle makes its official debut.