2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland Review - The Happy Wanderer

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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Fast Facts

2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland Fast Facts

3.6-liter V8 (285 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm; 260 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
17 city / 22 highway / 19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
13.7 city, 10.7 highway, 12.3 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$40,395 (U.S) / $51,545 (Canada)
As Tested
$55,840 (U.S.) / $64,605 (Canada)
Prices include $1,495 destination charge in the United States and $1,995 to $2,595 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 jeep gladiator overland review the happy wanderer

Jeep’s Gladiator pickup truck was one of 2019’s most anticipated vehicles. Fast-forward nearly a year, and it’s an award winner.

There’s no doubt it’s a capable off-roader, which is part of its appeal — and a part of why it’s an award-winning pickup. I’ve experienced it off-road, and so has contributor Chris Chin.

Thing is, most truck owners won’t taking it off-road that often, if at all. What’s it like to live with the Gladiator in urban and suburban settings? That is the key question.

In a word: Interesting.

The on-road abilities of midsize trucks run the gamut from Accord-on-stilts Honda Ridgeline to the off-road-oriented Chevrolet Colorado Bison and Gladiator. Some trucks suffer more than others on-road as a trade-off for their off-road prowess, and the Gladiator suffers the most.

That shouldn’t come to a shock to anyone who read our first-drive or who has driven a Wrangler. But it’s a reminder that if you sign up for the Gladiator experience, you’re getting a cool-looking rig that, while capable of amazing things off-road, also requires your full attention while behind the wheel.

Jeep sent me an Overland trim Gladiator with the 285-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 and the eight-speed automatic transmission.

Part of the reason I arrange loans for vehicles I’ve driven on press launches is to see how my initial conclusions hold months later in a different environment. In the case of the Jeep, they were pretty spot-on.

[Get Jeep Gladiator pricing here!]

I wrote that the Gladiator wasn’t exactly swift on road, and it isn’t. I wrote that the steering needs frequent correcting on the highway, and it does. I didn’t have a chance to take this Gladiator off-road, but the launch event proved it was more than capable in that area. The trade-off is the lack of on-road dynamics that I experienced.

Yeah, it wanders on the freeway, though one gets the sense it’s happy to do so, as if the freeway is just a means to an end – the end being an off-road park.

The lack of alacrity in acceleration is tolerable, if merely that, around town. The ride is a tad choppy and truck-like but not offensively so. Brakes are on the soft side.

I wrote in my first drive that the Gladiator drives a bit like a Wrangler with a bed, and I stand by that. Thing is, for Jeep buyers, that’s not really a bad thing.

So, fine, it’s no great shakes on-road. There’s other trucks in the segment that perform better at that type of duty. The Gladiator is meant to boulder-bash, but it will coddle you while doing so, especially if you put down enough dough.

The cabin is nice enough, and familiar enough to Jeep buyers. It’s comfy and spacious enough, although a bit loud, thanks to the removable hardtop.

Options, some of which were part of packages, included leather seats, leather wrapping for the shift knob and parking-brake handle, a rear console with armrest, heated front seats and steering wheel, remote start, UConnect infotainment, navigation, premium audio, and satellite radio.

Other options included LED lighting all around, a tow package, blind-spot alert, rear cross-path detection, park assist, forward-collision warning plus, advanced cruise control, advanced brake assist, transmission skid plate (comes with the auto), anti-spin rear differential, and spray-in bedliner.

A roll-on tonneau cover is quite handy (and easy to work even with a broken finger), and there’s an option for a headliner with the hardtop. A body-colored three-piece hardtop costs a bit above two grand.

Standard four-wheel-drive goodies include the 4×4 system itself, a skid plate for the transfer case, 18-inch wheels and all-season tires, heavy-duty front and rear axles, 3.73 rear-axle ratio, skid plate for the fuel tank, and electronic roll mitigation.

Here’s the thing about trucks: Lots of buyers never take them into the gnarly stuff. They buy trucks to use the bed, or to tow a little, or simply to look cool. The Gladiator definitely achieves that last point – it looks rugged as hell.

The price you pay for looking cool or being ready for the trail is that you sacrifice on-road ride. To which most Gladiator buyers will say, so what? It’s a price they’ll be willing to pay.

So, too, will the high sticker price. My truck rang the bells at over $55K with options. It started at “just” $40K.

Yeah, this rig is geared to be used off-road. Yeah, it suffers on road because of that. And yeah, that’s exactly the point.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 33 comments
  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Feb 10, 2020

    “It’s a Jeep thing; you wouldn’t get it.” Replace the word "Jeep" with "sadomasochism". You overpay for a vehicle that doesn't do anything particularly well and is notoriously unreliable. Any real off-road ability requires another $5-10k in modifications.

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Feb 13, 2020

    When I drove a Gladiator, I didn't notice anything about the driving experience itself, except it was kind of slow. I guess because I've owned several 4x4 live axled fullsized pickups in the past, I didn't feel it needed anymore real attention as to where it's going than I did anytime I'm driving. My main complaint was the $55K price tag on the side window. It seemed like one of those dealer add on stickers that always made me laugh. The Gladiator just seems insanely priced. For even $45K, I can buy a hell of a nice full sized pickup with close to 400 HP that will be far more comfortable in the long run.

  • Funky D Wholeheartedly agree that the Patriot was a total automotive abomination. I drove a rental from Florida to Tennessee and it was a brutal ride. The undersized engine simply wheezed and huffed without any heft whatsoever. The tiny 13-gallon fuel tank was just ridiculous on that size vehicle! It was so bad that I had to peel myself out of the thing when we reached our destination. Made a RAV4 feel absolutely cavernous by comparison!Never drove a Renegade but I have no problem taking your collective description of it at face value.
  • Wolfwagen This is really sketchy. He bought the car from a Guy in PA and had it shipped to Utah and Louisiana but it still has the PA plate on it? Racing harness and removable steering wheel? Blew up the tranny? OF COURSE IT WAS RACED!
  • El scotto William Clay (Billy) Ford likes Mustangs. However, I think Ford only offers V-8s in Mustangs and F series trucks.I could see Ford just offering V-8s in Superduty trucks and Mustang GTs. Ecoboost for the rest of you!With all that said, I could see an all-electric Shelby Super Snake putting out 1966 BHP through all four wheels. The fastest Mustang evah!
  • Wolfwagen I knew a woman who had one these and she loved it. She was divorced and lived alone. She wasn't a big traveler and used it to commute to the train (3-5 miles) and run around town. Thats what this type of car is good for.
  • Theflyersfan Other Elises in this era are selling for double, if not more. It's looking like their value has started to increase as more are crashed and they get rarer. I love these cars. This or the Exige are quite possibly the perfect weekend car for me. For years I was looking to get one but at the time couldn't take the financial plunge, and having street parking...not a chance. And now that things have lined up to where it's good to get one, values increase or the ones a little more reasonable are a little sketchy. First, how many owners? There's the comment of never tracked by the last two owners. But this car is 18 years old with 19,000 miles. Even as a weekend toy, this car would have been driven more than 1,000 miles a year. The supercharger issues are a major red flag. With so few miles, and superchargers being pretty reliable, questions need to be asked. Not having the airbag equipped steering wheel - the car came from Pittsburg(h) (check spelling in ad please) - that part of PA has vehicle inspection and I'm wondering how it passed and got registered when a major part of federally mandated safety equipment was removed. Slid someone some extra cash to have it pass? I'd want that back, even if it means some extra wear and tear on the body getting in and out. Maybe the seller is being up front and he's selling the car at a deep discount due to the divorce and recent moves and just wants to part with it. But I'd have to find out how much to fix or replace the supercharger, get some original parts back because Lotus has it pretty much sorted out when it left the factory and I'd want that feel back, and have the transmission and anything else damaged by aggressive driving and missed shifts. The description in the ad should make a buyer pause without really having a teardown of the car.And just like S2000s and Supras and Integra Type-Rs and RX-7s, finding a good one that hasn't been crudely modded or damaged due to these mods is getting harder and harder... Go back in time, stop The Fast and Furious franchise from ever starting, and maybe we could have saved a few of these cars.