2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland Review - The Happy Wanderer

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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]

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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.

  • Dukeisduke I still think the name Bzzzzzzzzzzt! would have been better.
  • Dukeisduke I subscribed to both Road & Track and Car and Driver for over 25 years, but it's been close to 20 years since I dropped both. I tried their digital versions with their reader software (can't remember the name now), but it wasn't the same. I let it lapse after a year.From what I've seen of R&T's print version, it's turned into more of a lifestyle thing like The Robb Report. I haven't seen an issue of C/D in a while.I enjoyed both magazines a lot when I was subscribing. R&T for the road tests (especially the April Fools road tests), used car reviews, historical articles, and columns like Peter Egan's Side Glances and Dennis Simanitis's Technical Correspondence. And C/D for the road tests and pithy commentary, and columns like Gordon Baxter's, and Jean Shepherd's (that goes way back to the early '70s).
  • Steve Biro It takes very clever or amusing content for me to sit through a video vehicle review. And most do not include that.Tim, you wrote :"Niche titles aren't dying because of a lack of interest from enthusiasts, but because of broader changes in the economics of media, at least in this author's opinion."You're right about the broader changes in economics. But the truth is that there IS a lack of interest from enthusiasts. Part of it is demographics. Young people coming up are generally not car and truck fans. That doesn't mean there are no young enthusiasts but the numbers are much smaller. And even those who consider themselves enthusiasts seem to have mixed feelings. Just take a look at Jalopnik.And then we come to the real problem: The vast majority of new vehicles coming out today are not interesting to enthusiasts, are not fun to drive and/or are just not affordable.You can argue that EVs are technically interesting and should create enthusiasm. But the truth is they are not fun to drive, don't work well enough yet for most people and are very expensive.EVs on the race track? Have you ever been to a Formula E race? Please.And even if we set EVs aside, the electronic nannies that are being forced on us pretty much preclude a satisfying driving experience in any brand-new vehicle, regardless of propulsion system. Sure, many consumers who view cars as transportation appliances may welcome this technology. But they are not enthusiasts. I don't know about you, but I and most car fans I know don't want smart phones on wheels.There is simply not that much of interest to write about. Car and Driver and Road & Track are dipping deeper into nostalgia and their archives as a result. R&T is big on sponsoring road trips for enthusiasts - which is a great idea. But only people with money to burn need apply.And then there is the problem of quality in automotive writing. As more experienced people are let go and more money is cut from publications, the quality and length of pieces keeps going down, leading to the inevitable self-fulfilling prophecy.Even the output on this site is sharply reduced from its peak. And the number of responses to posts seems a small fraction of what it used to be. This is my first comment since the site was recently relaunched. I don't expect to be making many in the future.Frankly Tim - and it gives me no pleasure to write this - but your post makes me feel as though the people running this site have run out of ideas and TTAC's days may be numbered.Cutbacks in automotive journalism are upsetting. But, until there is something exciting and fun to write about, they are going to continue. Perhaps automotive enthusiasm really was a 20th century phenomenon..
  • THX1136 I think that the good ole interwebs is at least partially to blame. When folks can get content for free, what is the motivation to pay to read? I'm guilty of this big time. Gotta pay to read!? Forget it! I'll go somewhere else or do without. And since a majority of folks have that portable PC disguised as a phone in their pocket, no need for print. The amount of info easily available is the other factor the web brings to bear. It's perhaps harder now to stand out. Standing out is necessary to continued success.In an industry I've been interested (and participated) in, the one magazine (Mix) I subscribed to has become a shadow of it's former self (200 pgs now down to 75). I like print for the reasons mentioned by another earlier. I can 'access' it in a non-linear fashion and it's easily portable for me. (Don't own a smarty pants phone and don't plan to at the moment.)I would agree with others: useful comparison reviews, unique content not easily available other places, occasional ringers (Baruth, Sajeev, et al) - it would be attractive to me anyway. I enjoy Corey, Matt and Murilee and hope they continue to contribute here.
  • Daniel J I wish auto journos would do more comparisons. They do some but many are just from notes from a previous review compared to a new review. I see where journos go out to a location and test drive and review a vehicle on location but that does absolutely nothing for me without any comparison to similar cars. I also wish more journos spent more time on seat comfort. I guess that doesn't matter much when many journos seem to be smaller folks where comfort isn't as important. Ergonomics are usually just glossed over unless there is something very specific about the ergonomics that tick the journo off. I honestly get more from most youtube reviews than I ever do about reviews written on a page.