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Jeep shoppers get pickup-truck option

The Gladiator offers "solid around-town performance, great rough-surface ride, feels tough and upscale, nice cabin, unique looks."
The Gladiator offers "solid around-town performance, great rough-surface ride, feels tough and upscale, nice cabin, unique looks." - Justin Pritchard

My Instant Pot is my favourite kitchen appliance, because it’s a single device with many functions, which saves me time and space. 

In my house, it’s the best tool for just about anything I’m up to in the kitchen. As a product, the Jeep Gladiator is conceived along similar lines. 

It’s a pickup truck. It’s a Jeep Wrangler. It’ll chew through mother nature’s worst winter driving with ease, but it’s also a convertible. More than a truck or a toy for its owner, the Jeep Gladiator is intended to be its driver’s go-to: a tool they’ll enjoy using every day. This approach makes Jeep a lot of money.

Now, with Gladiator, Jeep shoppers also have a pickup-truck option.

It amounts to a stretched-out version of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited wearing a truck bed on the back, instead of a cargo area. The five-foot box and stretch wheelbase make it about 2.5 feet longer than the Wrangler Unlimited.

My Overland-grade tester boasted an upscale interior, plenty of approachable tech, and a firey-hot heated steering wheel that pre-warms with the remote start on cold mornings.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator 4x4 is powered by a 285 horsepower, 3.6-litre V6 engine worked by an eight-speed automatic transmission. - Justin Pritchard
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator 4x4 is powered by a 285 horsepower, 3.6-litre V6 engine worked by an eight-speed automatic transmission. - Justin Pritchard

The drive is highly familiar: Like its siblings, Gladiator feels more tough than refined, more capable than precise. It’s a truck, remember; and like its siblings, truck-based construction beneath puts the emphasis on durability and all-terrain performance. 

The latest Wrangler generation feels better than ever on the road more travelled, and that’s carried over to the Gladiator. The highway and around-town ride are friendlier, and Gladiator’s longer wheelbase keeps things a touch calmer on very rough roads and undulating highways.  

The rough-surface ride quality is also terrific.

“Didn’t hurt. Didn’t hurt.”

This plays in my head while travelling the pothole-covered city roads in my locale. Road and trail surfaces that coax noise and harshness readily from many a crossover see Gladiator remain unphased. The suspension is quiet under fire, isolates you nicely from the worst of the abuse, and gives you a pure and truck-like feel that’s tough and rugged.

If your roads are in lousy shape, or you frequently hit the trails, you’ll find Gladiator to be a stress-free and a fairly comfortable drive as pickups go. Be sure to check out the Ford Ranger FX-4, for the same reason. 

"The drive is highly familiar: Like its siblings, Gladiator feels more tough than refined, more capable than precise. It’s a truck, remember; and like its siblings, truck-based construction beneath puts the emphasis on durability and all-terrain performance." - Justin Pritchard
"The drive is highly familiar: Like its siblings, Gladiator feels more tough than refined, more capable than precise. It’s a truck, remember; and like its siblings, truck-based construction beneath puts the emphasis on durability and all-terrain performance." - Justin Pritchard

Gladiator’s 3.6-litre V6 and eight-speed automatic are a smooth team, offering up more-than-you-need performance in most situations and an available six-speed manual transmission if that’s your game.

With the automatic, my tester’s mileage clocked in at 12.3L/100 km combined. Not bad for a nearly 300 HP truck, but certainly no Prius. Thankfully, it’s responsive in traffic, and has good brake pedal feel.

Entry and exit will require a truck-like hop or drop for some, though my tester’s running boards helped ease access for smaller passengers. It’s a taller hop in, and a more upright driving position than a usual crossover.

I noted no space-related issues for four average-sized adults during shorter trips, but the adult-friendly rear seat is your only option for transporting temperature-sensitive cargo that you don’t want to leave in the box.

A final note: The $895 LED headlight upgrade is money well spent, with top-notch illumination that’s easy to appreciate after dark.

Complete with options, my tester clocked in a little north of $61,000. You’ve got plenty of great choices for that sort of money and, if its size, specs and price match your lifestyle, you’ll probably find Gladiator to be one of the coolest. 

The specs

Model: 2020 Jeep Gladiator
Engine: 3.6L V6, 285 horsepower
Drivetrain: 4x4 
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Features: LED headlights, blind-spot monitoring, heated seats, heated steering wheel, removable roof, keyless entry and ignition, navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, automatic climate control
What’s hot: solid around-town performance, great rough-surface ride, feels tough and upscale, nice cabin, unique looks
What’s not: pricey, likes fuel, limited handling and precision, highway noise
Price as tested: $61,340

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