By on February 10, 2020

2020 Jeep Gladiator

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.

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.

2020 Jeep Gladiator

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.

2020 Jeep Gladiator

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.

2020 Jeep Gladiator

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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33 Comments on “2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland Review – The Happy Wanderer...”

  • avatar

    I greatly like the idea of a convertible truck and IMO this is the best looking midsize offering. However that engine is disappointing in this application (and the diesel option is big bucks) and if I owned one it would be off pavement about 1% of the time and “off roading” 0% of the time.

    So seems like a big sacrifice for style and a removable roof.

    • 0 avatar

      The Wrangler I drove had the same drivetrain – it’s no stoplight warrior, but it didn’t feel underpowered at all to me. In a tall vehicle like this, the sensation of speed is always a bit duller.

      Overall, I found myself a bit charmed by it – not enough to buy one, but if you’re looking for a car with a real roadgoing flavor, a Wrangler has it in abundance.

      • 0 avatar

        I have to agree with you. I had a 4dr Wrangler with the new Turbo 4 as a rental last summer, and I thought is was a bit of a rocketship for what it was. Certainly ZERO complaints in the go department. I also found it remarkably refined on the road, for a Jeep. It definitely did not wander…

        I’d imagine the V6 in an even heavier Gladiator would not be as quick, but I can’t imagine it isn’t quicker than it has any actual need of being. It’s a TRUCK, not a sports car.

        I actually would buy one, if I had any reason to at all. But ace of base spec with a stickshift for <$33K not a $55K pile of ridiculousness. I feel like I probably *should* buy one simply because they actually offer it with a stick, and should be rewarded for that. But I'd keep it in Maine and drive it 2K a year, so that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to do. Maybe if there is a deeply discounted leftover that a dealer REALLY wants to move…

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I found with my JK Wrangler the SuperChips tuner did wonders to get the drivability to a place that I could live with. Granted this was 08′, so it was much slower than the current version.

  • avatar

    I would imagine ride would be better than the 4 door due to the extended wheelbase. The JK I rode in recently on 33” tires was a pleasant ride, though a little tippy from the slight lift.

    My biggest problem with the Gladiator is the cost, the base model looks exceedingly bare and plain Jane, which is fine, but it’s still $33k for that no frills truck. The truck in this review is depressingly painted and seems mid trim, yet is $55k. It’s hard to make the case for this when your still stuck with a V6 and only 3.73 gearing.

    The V8 H3T could be has for about $7,000 over the $29k base truck, Jeep needs to offer a V8 for a better value proposition at the higher end.

    • 0 avatar

      I will say though, sales numbers on the gladiator are impressive.

    • 0 avatar

      Actual demand for a V8 Wrangler-style Jeep among actual Jeep buyers: Zero, more or less.

      People who want the thing you’re talking about buy a Grand Cherokee and don’t pretend they’re driving a Wrangler, I think.

      As you note, it sure ain’t stopping them from selling nicely, as far as I can tell; GCBC doesn’t even have data yet, but I’ve seen them on the street more than once already, which suggests they’re doing just fine.

      (Y’all are aware you can get other colors of paint if you want, right? The charge for the “fancy” paint is $195.

      I mean, I have zero desire to own one, but let’s keep this realistic, shall we?)

      • 0 avatar

        “ Actual demand for a V8 Wrangler-style Jeep among actual Jeep buyers: Zero, more or less.”

        Where exactly did you pull this from? I see this as a common complaint on Jeep forums, hell there’s 3 companies that specialize in retrofitting V8s into Wranglers and have already done many JLs. It’s also a common reason on Hummer forums why they won’t buy Wranglers/Gladiators.
        The Grand Cherokee appeals to different consumers entirely.

      • 0 avatar

        “Actual demand for a V8 Wrangler-style Jeep among actual Jeep buyers: Zero, more or less.”

        This is what people said for years about a Wrangler truck and mid-sized trucks in general.

    • 0 avatar

      FCA once said that the Hemi fits physically under the Wrangler’s hood, but doesn’t leave enough room for the vehicle to pass crash tests.

      • 0 avatar

        I think it could be made to pass, remember at the introduction of the aluminum F150 Ford tried to cheat the safety rating by not reinforcing the extended cab models, the (then revised) rating went from a 3 star to a 5 star by adding a $4 brace under the floor pan.

        All it takes is some ingenious engineering.

        Adding the e-assist Hemi would turn the money printing press up to 11

      • 0 avatar

        That might have been the case with the JK but the JL was just introduced in 2018, so if it still can’t take the V8 then that was a conscious engineering decision by FCA.

        • 0 avatar

          There is only so much room for the V8 and 8 speed. In the Jeep Wrangler, that space requirement is exceeded by the length of the drivetrain.

          Don’t know on the Gladiator, but they may not have wanted to certify it for the first year or so. The 6.4l engine would certainly make it go.

  • avatar

    As much as I like the Gladiator unless you just want a lifestyle pick-up truck you can do so much better with your $55K then this. People who need a midsize p-u know this

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “if you sign up for the Gladiator experience, you’re getting a cool-looking rig”

    My wife doesn’t care about cars–at all! Yet this past weekend, she noticed, for the first time, a new “Jeep-truck thing” in the supermarket parking lot. She remarked that it looked “really cool.”

    This is analogous to one of us noticing a new brand of maxi-pad on the market. I think Jeep hit a home run!

  • avatar

    I tried a Wrangler out a few weeks ago and pretty much concur with what Tim’s saying. It was like nothing I’d ever driven before. The ride isn’t bad at all (at least in the base version I drove), and I was pleasantly surprised how quick it was in traffic, but you constantly have to point it in the right direction. But there’s no mistaking this car’s roadgoing personality – at a time when even heavy duty trucks drive like bulked-up Malibus, the Wrangler is almost defiantly “un-car.” It’s a very distinctive roadgoing personality – not for me, mind you, but fun.

    • 0 avatar

      “ The ride isn’t bad at all (at least in the base version I drove)”

      People don’t pay attention but the rim size matters a lot, lots of side wall means a pretty decent ride even on a harsher suspension. 20 inch rims on 31 inch tires? Hell no.

  • avatar

    Here’s another example of how styling is 100% subjective. I can almost get behind the Wrangler, if its capabilities are your thing, but I find this thing to be plug ugly. It reminds me of the Metro that looked like a hatchback with a conventional trunk grafted on as a cynical ploy to appease those who, at the time, preferred sedans.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree 100%. The 4 door Wrangler is awkward enough, this thing is atrocious.

    • 0 avatar

      The Gladiator is awful looking, I agree. But some of the bed toppers out there (and undoubtedly coming in the future) really change the way it looks, and for the better. But then you sort of just have a Wrangler Unlimited I guess……..

      I keep trying to figure out a way to have the Gladiator become a decontented farm / cabin / ranch truck sort of like the original Land Rovers. When I do I’ll let ya’ll know.

  • avatar

    For somebody who’s not already part of the Jeep fan base, or seeking to project a very specific image, it seems to me like either of the following would be a better deal:

    1) A moderately-equipped Ram 1500 4×4 Hemi, if you’re OK with a bigger vehicle
    2) A cheaper midsize truck from another maker, if size is a constraint

    The pricing is kind of unreal on these, especially in the higher trim levels.

  • avatar

    Thanks for confirming why this is off my future mid-sizer list: too expensive and poor ride quality. My buddy had a Wrangler and it was literally the worse riding vehicle I have ever been in. Bouncy and loud sums it up. I’m sure the longer wheelbase in the Gladiator helps but its Jeep bones can’t be overcome that easily. My current midsizer (’02 V8 Dakota Quad Cab) is purely a tow vehicle (in flat Florida) – I don’t off road so no Jeep-ness required or wanted here. I like the size and style of the Gladiator but not enough to deal with the downsides.

    • 0 avatar

      Any Wrangler-based product is a very specialized item. It’s great offroad but marginal on road because of the basic suspension design. As the owner of a Dakota myself, I agree that it would not work for me either. Which is why the next FCA Dakota size truck is the one which will truly compete with the rest of the pack..cheaper too.

  • avatar

    So I’ll preface this with the fact that I -love- the Gladiator as a vehicle. Styling is subjective but honestly I love the pure function over form appearance. It’s easily the -best- mid-size pickup with a functional yet fairly appealing interior, awesome configurability, and you don’t gotta tell me taking the doors and roof off isn’t every pickup owner’s dream. And it’s got a stick.

    But spec’d out with the minimum luxuries and equipment you’d want in 2020 (hard top, bedliner, rear diff, towing, CarPlay, adaptive cruise) you’re looking at a nearly $6k premium over a similarly equipped competitor’s off road truck with the Gladiator coming in around $42k. That’s a -huge- difference and a lot of coin. (Yeah, ‘its a truck not a mall crawler’ but look, after 35k screw your ‘purism’ , this is my -only- vehicle and it’s gonna be both all terrain and mall terrain.)

    If you look around the parking lots and see who’s coughing up the extra $6k for the gladiator, it’s very clearly “Daddy’s Money.”

  • avatar

    I like these, a lot. But I can’t get past the price for one thing (Always a problem with the Wrangler for me). Sounds like the lazy driving dynamics that make it good off-road make it a bit less fun than I think it will be. Having read a few of Mr. Healys reviews, I know his vehicular tastes are close to my own.

    I love the idea of a convertible midsize truck, apparently more Ridgeline like than Wrangler like.

    As far as lethargic, I wonder if the upcoming turbo 4 or the diesel would feel more responsive? I know our 296hp Sienna SE doesn’t feel strong at all unless its in “Power” mode because it has power peaks like the Pentastar in a heavy vehicle (and Toyota’s ECO programming is very intrusive.)

  • avatar

    A caveat or two:

    1) I get that anyone can drive whatever gives them pleasure,

    2) That saying, “It’s a Jeep thing; you wouldn’t get it.” That describes me to a tee. I don’t get it.

    My wife and I were at an RV show a couple of weekends ago and a local dealer had a Wrangler there. It was an Unlimited Sport S. I have to admit that it’s looks pretty cool but then I looked at the price. North of $53,000 CDN. Ouch. That’s a lot of money to buy all that off-road prowess that almost no one will ever use. I recall that back when the four-door Jeep was brought back it seems the average buyer was a woman who had moved from a minivan.

    It seems like some people are spending a lot of money for capability they’ll never use. More power to them though. That’s precisely what 84 month financing is for.

  • avatar

    The one I want is a straight forward Sport S with ultimate tow package and auto which would have a retail of $35k and I think I could get it right now for $31. No special tops or other crap. Convertible with extra engine cooling and heavy duty axles- that would be a lot of fun to drive around and I wouldn’t be as afraid to beat it up.

  • avatar

    “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.

  • avatar

    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 4×4 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.

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