By on November 3, 2020

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport S

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport S Fast Facts

3.6-liter V6 (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: $33,545 (U.S) / $49,840 (Canada)

As Tested: $50,540 (U.S.) / $60,595 (Canada)

Prices include $1,495 destination charge in the United States and $1,995 (up to $2,695) for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Jeep loves to talk about its off-road heritage. And it has the goods to back the claims of boulder-bashing prowess that it makes.

That said, most utility vehicles spend most of their time on pavement. And sometimes, the tradeoffs made for off-road capability aren’t worth it.

Enter the Jeep Gladiator Sport. Jeep will never say this trim level of the truck is meant for city dwellers, but it worked well in my urban neighborhood. If you need to jump dunes and crawl through the jungle, you can drop a lot of coin on the Rubicon or Mojave. If you just think the Gladiator looks cool, and need a small truck to occasionally haul stuff, and you never plan to set foot on the ACTUAL Rubicon, the Sport might just suit your needs.

You might even save a bit of dough if you’re judicious with the option boxes. And even in a more basic form, the Gladiator can still handle some tough truckin’ off-road.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport S

Overall, the Gladiator Sport experience is the same I’ve become familiar with by now – this truck was the third Gladiator I’ve been loaned, and I attended the launch – but with some improvements. The big change was the steering tweaks I mentioned in my Mojave review. Jeep engineers heard the whine in reviews like this one and fixed the steering to reduce play and wander.

It’s still truckish, and still needs more attention that is normal in the year 2020, but it’s far less obnoxious than before. The improvement is noticeable and makes driving around the city far more pleasant.

Otherwise, the Gladiator still feels slow to get rolling, still rides stiffly, and still feels like a Wrangler with a bed, for better or for worse. It’s louder and harsher than the competition, too.

All these things are to be somewhat expected, though, and depending on one’s perspective, they aren’t flaws so much as willing tradeoffs you make. Features, not bugs, so to speak.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport S

You don’t buy the Gladiator if you want a car-like truck. In that case, you buy a Honda Ridgeline. You don’t buy a Gladiator if you want a balanced truck that can juggle the on-road and the off-road. In that case, you buy a Ford Ranger or Toyota Tacoma. No, you buy the Gladiator either because “Wrangler, but truck” speaks to you or because you want a bargain off-roader. And you live with the tradeoffs of that choice.

The Gladiator is a bit like certain sports cars in that regard. Some sports cars can be daily driven quite easily without much sacrifice. Others penalize you at the pump, or have no real rear seat, or no cargo space, or ride so stiffly your chiropractor is on speed dial. Some exhibit all of those flaws. But you buy them because they look cool and are fun to drive.

This Jeep has the former down pat – even when the Gladiator annoys, you glance back at it when you’re walking away, and think “damn that truck looks cool.” Then you remember that driving it is only fun on the fire roads.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport S

It would certainly help if Jeep could coax more power out of the venerable Pentastar 3.6-liter V6. On paper, 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque don’t sound bad, but the engine is still being asked to motivate over 4,500 pounds. Not to mention that peak torque doesn’t come on boil until 4,400 rpm. To get full twist, you’ll need to be digging into the throttle often, thus sucking down unleaded at a faster rate. Not that you’re not already going to be familiar with the local gas-station cashiers – the fuel economy is rated at 17 mpg city/19 mpg highway/22 mpg combined.

Stiff, truckish ride; heavy, distant steering that requires constant correction; harsh engine noise signaling fury but not much urgency in acceleration; yup, that’s the Wrangler experience. And as I’ve written before about this truck, that’s the plan.

As a reviewer, it’s a weird headspace to be in – dinging a vehicle for subpar on-road driving dynamics while understanding that a) it’s a tradeoff to allow the truck to shine off-road and b) those subpar dynamics are, if not actively desired by buyers, they are least accepted with little or no complaint.

Use cases are a thing, after all.

User-friendliness and intended use aside, the Gladiator still turns my head. I still notice them in traffic. It is arguably the coolest looking mid-size truck on the market. And the inside is no letdown. Jeep set about fixing terrible Wrangler interiors when it brought the latest-gen Wrangler to market, and that carries over to the Gladiator – the cockpit looks nice, and like most current FCA interiors, the use of large knobs, large fonts, and UConnect infotainment makes most switchgear easy to use and read at a glance.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport S

I mentioned earlier that the Sport trim could be a Gladiator value. It can, but one must be judicious with options. Perhaps too judicious – start adding popular comfort and convenience features and the pricing adds up fast. That’s how they get ya.

Indeed, the Sport S I tested started at a reasonable $33,545. That gets you, among other things, a rearview camera, part-time four-wheel drive, heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles, a 3.73 axle ratio,  17-inch wheels, all-season tires, skid plates for the fuel tank and transfer case, seven- and four-pin wiring harness, electronic sway control, and electronic roll mitigation.

Now it gets a bit confusing – the Monroney says that the truck is a Sport and the Customer Preferred Package 24S is a $3,200 option, but this package is necessary to turn a Sport into a Sport S. It adds power windows, aluminum wheels, power tailgate lock, heated sideview mirrors, remote keyless entry, alarm, leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic headlights, sun visors, a heavier-duty suspension, and other goodies. The 7.0-inch screen infotainment system with UConnect, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, air conditioning with automatic temp control, and satellite radio adds $995.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport S

A universal garage-door opener adds $395, and a $995 Cold Weather Group adds heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and remote-start system (automatic transmission only). A tow package adds a 4.10 axle ratio, all-terrain tires, wide versions of the heavy-duty Dana axles, class IV receiver hitch, trailer hitch zoom, DRLs, and heavy-duty engine cooling for $1,095. Another package adds rear cross-path detection, blind-spot monitoring, LED taillamps, and rear park-assist for $995. Adaptive cruise control and full-speed forward-collision warning plus add $795, a hardtop headliner adds $555, and a cargo-management system that includes a trail-rail system, 115-volt in-bed AC outlet, 400W inverter, and lockable underseat rear storage is $895.

The eight-speed automatic transmission costs $2,000, and a roll-up tonneau cover is $595. The three-piece black hardtop with rear sliding window, rear window defroster, and storage bag is $1,195. Alpine audio cost $1,295 and a spray-in bedliner rang the bell at $495.

With $1,495 for destination, we have a $50,540 truck. One that started at $33K and change. Even factoring in the $3,200 for the Sport, that’s a lot of cheddar added to the base price.

And much of what’s added is stuff most buyers would want and/or need. Maybe you don’t tow. Maybe you can sacrifice some of the driver-assistance goodies (I could do without ACC, which I rarely use except for testing purposes, though losing the collision warning is tough. We all let our attention drift sometimes). Maybe you don’t need the heavier-duty off-road stuff, or if you live in the Sunbelt, the cold-weather goodies.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport S

Me? I’d want the hardtop, tonneau cover, bedliner, and the nicer audio/larger infotainment screen on top of the S package. Plus, given that I live in the Snow Belt, I’d select the cold-weather gear. And since I drive on freeways a lot, I’d pony up for blind-spot monitoring. I’d also pick the headliner, and I might go for the in-bed outlet because it’s fun to tailgate, once we’re allowed to attend events again

Selecting the nicer UConnect system automatically adds some of these options, but I still would save some dough by not selecting the max tow package, ACC, or the heavier-duty off-road stuff. I’d also save $2K by rowing my own.

That does get you a decently equipped truck around $40K. Although adding the heavier-duty four-wheel-drive stuff will force you to buy the slushbox.

If you pick and choose your options wisely, you can have a decently priced urban runabout Gladiator, especially if you don’t mind rowing your own. But will have to give up some off-road and towing ability.

The choice is yours. As is the overall tradeoff that the Gladiator asks of you – will you sacrifice some on-road dynamics for off-road prowess and cool looks?

It’s up to you. Choose wisely.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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44 Comments on “2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport S Review – Poised for Urban Life...”

  • avatar

    I really wanted to love these. Convertible and pickup? Sure. The second I sat in one reminded me why Wranglers never appealed to me. If most people were honest about their truck needs and not wants, Ridgeline would fly off Honda lots.

    My Ridgeline suits me, I know they aren’t for everyone, just like Wrangler/Gladiator aren’t for me. But my Ridgeline is equipped with everything you could possibly want (moonroof, heated seats and steering wheel, in bed audio system) and I can drive it for hours on the highway and not hate it with much better economy to boot. In RTLE trim, it was 43k US on the sticker. Optioning a Sport to 50k and still looking like it’s 33k was a big problem for me with the Gladiator. With the minimum to make it livable personally, it was still 40k quickly. Granted, you’ll not lose too much to depreciation on Gladiator, but neither does Ridgeline. Ridgeline just looks goofy, I’ll admit it, especially from the front quarter view.

    • 0 avatar

      Ridgeline owner here as well, gen 1, and I also think they’re the perfect utility vehicle. I just wish you can plop the gen 2 drivetrain into the gen 1 body…and along with all the modern safety features.

  • avatar

    Around where I am people love their Jeeps and they love their P-U trucks, but they sure as hell don’t love this. $50K gets you a really nice Chevy, Ford or Ram truck and that’s what people buy when they want a good truck

    The Gladiator is nice looking, but it just doesn’t seem to appeal to people who are into trucks or Jeeps

    • 0 avatar

      This pretty much sums it up.

      You don’t even need to spend $50K to get a nice 1/2 ton, you could spend $40 and have $10K left over for a decent old Jeep or a SxS to take off road.

      • 0 avatar

        The base manual trans $33K model? Respectable.

        Adding enough options to hit $50K on a truck that still says “Sport S” on it? Ain’t no effin’ way.

        If I was to buy one of these I’d keep the manual trans, add the hardtop, make sure I had a rear limited slip, add towing package. Sadly I’d probably still be close to $40K and still have a tiny infotainment screen.

      • 0 avatar

        Not everyone wants a full size truck so this would compete with the Ranger and Colorado. Not that those are much different in price to a full size.

        They sell well around here but people here like Jeeps in general and there were a lot of AEV conversions sold before. People also like open air in the summer time. Something the other trucks cannot do.
        For me, I am glad there are choices in the world.

    • 0 avatar

      Here in new England they seem popular with Keep guys. Not as much pickup guys. See quite a few of them mostly high trim versions.

  • avatar

    About 3 weeks ago I went wheeling at my local off road park with a few friends. Our group was my Jeep WJ with 3″ lift on 31.5″ tires, a friend’s stock 4Runner on 32″ tires, and an ex-coworker in a 2″ lifted TJ on 33″ tires. Our plan was to do some green and blue trails, and make a fun day of it. We met a guy there in a bone-stock Gladiator optioned pretty much the same as above…Sport, manual trans, street tires, etc… He showed up to wheel, but didn’t have a group and you can’t wheel alone, so we welcomed him into our group.

    I have to give it to the guy, despite the “new-ness” of the vehicle he was not afraid to beat on it, and man did he have to! The massive wheel base and bed overhang were giant hindrances on the trail, and the vehicle got dragged over tons of stuff even on the green trails which tend to be stock-Wrangler-friendly. I wound up pulling the guy out of a mud pit also, but that was more due to tires. All-in-all, the very shape of these things make them a pretty poor choice for offroad adventures unless you plan to spend a lot of money on lifting them. After 35k just to buy the vehicle, I certainly wouldn’t have the stomach to put more cash into modifications.

    • 0 avatar

      Depends on what offroading you do. I agree working around trees on tight trails wheelbase is an issue I used to wheel with guy who owned full-size trucks. Fine in the mudpit or logging road pain in the ass on tight trails. The biggest trend in offroading is ovrerlanding and the Gladiator works fine in that roll.

      • 0 avatar

        If you wheel in a full sized pickup you can’t worry about the body. My son’s F150 with 8 inch lift can go basically anywhere the Wrangler Unlimited guys can go but he doesn’t have a straight panel on the entire truck. It’s going to take damage.

        • 0 avatar

          Kind of. I used to wheel my Ramcharger, and yes lots of body damage. But there were times I made it places my friends in reg cab long beds couldn’t like pivoting between a rock and tree or on trails basically only wranglers and ATVs travel. I don’t really see that as a negative just designed for different things. And yes a lift negates alot of break over and overhang issues but at some loss of stability. A friend once rolled his 4runner with a 6 inch lift and 35’s on a side hill that my Ramcharger with a 2″ lift and 32’s was fine on. Again not a knock you just can’t build a single vehicle for every scenario. That said for a dedicated trail vehicle nothing was really better then my old samurai at least for the trails we have in New England.

  • avatar

    I just looked it up. For the Jeep’s base of $33k, you can get a crew cab, short bed, 4×4, V-6, SR5 trim Tacoma. $45k gets you the TRD Pro trim.

    I guess if you *really* like the look of the Gladiator, buy one. Me, I’d take the Tacoma ten times out of ten.

  • avatar

    I rented a Sport courtesy of AVIS a couple of time. Drove one about a thousand miles. Oddly much more comfortable than the frankly terrible Tacoma’s I’ve rented. I was surprised at how quiet the Gladiator was and how comfortable it was on the highway, I was expecting far worse. I wanted one. To me it’s a $30k vehicle and since you can’t buy one for that much (hard top is a must have), I won’t be buying one. I also thought is was pretty quick. Power was more than adequate in my opinion, but I don’t really care about 0-60 in 3 seconds – no one does really. They come with highway tires, you’ll destroy the ride with off-road tires.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    My wife is NOT interested in anything automotive–at ALL. I can detail her vehicle and she won’t even notice…though filling the gas tank for her does sometimes get noticed. In short, she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about cars.

    That said, on two separate occassions, she told me she saw some “Jeep thing, but a truck” and that it “looked really cool.”

    I was gobsmacked. I have loved this woman for 26 years, and have NEVER known her to even notice cars, much less think one “looked really cool.”

    I believe the “looked really cool” thing is the ONLY thing which sells these rigs. –I am far too practical to be seduced by looks alone, but not everybody is like me.

  • avatar

    As a three-time Wrangler owner (currently own a 2019 Rubicon two-door, previously owned a 1994 and a 2006), I couldn’t be less interested in actually owning the Gladiator. Its length and rear overhang work against it. I would need to lift it and put it on 37’s to get near the stock capability of my small two door Jeep, and even then I don’t think I’d have as good a breakover angle and I definitely wouldn’t be able to maneuver it as well. Having said that I understand some of its appeal. Where else can you get a truck with manual transmission, a convertible or removable roof, removable doors, and get those things on the highest trims?

    They’re crazy expensive, but that’s mostly the option packages. I compared my Rubicon to an equivalent 2006 Rubicon and the increase wasn’t as bad as I expected:
    My 2019 Rubicon (two doors, only options were LED headlights, body-colored fenders and steel bumpers) – just shy of $40k
    2006 Rubicon (two doors, no additional options) – $27.9k
    My Rubicon cost about $31k in 2006 dollars, or $3,100 more than a 2006-equivalent Rubicon. The 2019 is leaps and bounds ahead of the 2006 in every possible respect, with the exception of “ease of working on it when it breaks.” Definitely more than $3,100 better.

    The point is that for both Wranglers and Gladiators, while they’re expensive, they don’t have to be if you don’t go crazy with the options and they’re not that much more than when they were two-door only, bare-bones off-roaders like in the early 00’s. The Gladiators on dealer lots are very optioned-out, especially the Rubicon trims, and often push north of $55k. That’s insane!

  • avatar

    “3.6-liter V8”?

  • avatar

    I’m not a Jeep enthusiast but I really liked these until I started seeing them in person where IMO they just seem ill-proportioned and unattractive especially from any rear angle.

  • avatar

    Having owned a Wrangler, I would note that for whatever reason it, and not another, fancy-pants aero-styled SUV makes you WANT to do things you’d be afraid to do in one of those others. Your rural in-laws have a steep berm up to the road that forces you to ask family members to move their vehicles so you can get out? Not with the Jeep. Just hit 4WD, steer onto the slope and climb up to the road without putting any family members off their TV-cushioned duffs while you’re the one going out to get their phone-ordered meals. (Believe me, I did that more than once and even THEY were surprised at how easy that old Wrangler Unlimited made it look!)

    In my opinion, as a true WORKING truck, the Gladiator has it all over the others simply because it not only looks the part, it performs as well. Maybe it can’t tow 11,000 pounds but then, how many dirt-road WORKING trucks even try? Those heavy-duty trucks aren’t meant for off-road work and only rarely even get off of hard surfaces until the last hundred feet or so at the job site. With a true Jeep you don’t just ride the roads, you WANT to ride the trails and the closest vehicle to that sort today that’s not a Jeep is the bloomin new Bronco–and it’s not a truck, it’s an SUV.

    One thing: If the Gladiator had been truly available just 9 months sooner, odds are I’d be driving the Gladiator now and NOT a Chevy.

  • avatar

    Having not driven this or a recent Tacoma.

    I think I’d probably have to go with a Tacoma vs this. If you’re not going for the capability the Jeep offers in other trims, I’d have to say a Tacoma (or any of the other midsizers might make more sense). But Tacoma specifically as it and the Jeep are likely similar in their insane resale value.

    Plus I can’t get over the bizarre styling on the Jeep. I pretty much like to love every Jeep model style wise. But this still just looks a little to pieced together.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with you there. I keep reading reviews that mention how cool it looks. I don’t see it.

      Then again, it’s a Jeep thing and I don’t understand nor do I have any desire for this Jeep.

      I will admit that color is kind of cool though.

  • avatar

    I’ve had 3 Wranglers (’12, ’16, ’18 JKU) and was always looking for one of these when renting weekly. Finally snagged one of these on the Emerald Aisle a few weeks after driving a Ranger. The Ranger had not impressed. To me it was very very trucky on the road. The Gladiator (V6) impressed with a much better ride. Much better. As others have pointed out, most of us don’t need a 3 second 0-60 time and every electronic nanny available. Some of what this Sport S was optioned with can be found on other trims (Sahara specifically). If you can exercise a little self-control, you can have a great everyday Wrangler or Gladiator at a decent price. And 3 years on it’ll still hold more of it’s value than anything else.

  • avatar

    Either Jeeps are selling like crazy, or the factory is way behind due to COVID or whatever, because my local dealer who usually has a BIG inventory is nearly out.

  • avatar

    > …and think “damn that truck looks cool.”

    More like awkward. The shape and size of the rear doors just looks off, and the bed looks like it was tacked on with no thought of a design. And for $50k, this looks too much like a base Wrangler, they should have least thrown in some rock rails or running boards so you are not staring at that body pinch weld every time you walk up to it.

  • avatar

    My assessment is this is a great truck. Not great for my uses. 20 years ago it would have greater appeal. New Willys trim that slots between Sport and Sport S would be my choice if I was buying a Gladiator with goal of not spending Rubicon / Mojave level of Gladiator.
    I welcome a review of the lower trim level of Gladiator.

    For me I’d go for a Ranger XL 2WD if I needed a truck on the cheap and F-150 is my overall pick for best truck.

    So, when will the Ram Dakota appear? If ever. FCA filed trademark application for Dakota on April 29th of this year.
    My theory is when Ram ends production of the 1500 Classic the Dakota will begin production.

  • avatar

    For me buying a jeep Im Ok going pretty stripped. I would get a sport add the hardtop and max tow ( wider track lower gears bigger tires auto transmission) and be out the door for 35k.

    • 0 avatar

      I just priced what I want- Sport S with Max Tow, popular equipment package (so hard roof), plus the audio package for the bigger screen, and the all terrain tires. It was only 37,455 with current incentives. Completely reasonable. My bro-n-law recently picked up an fx4 ranger for about 36k and the Jeep is a much more compelling package in my humble opinion.

      Ya for real wheeling it would need some work, but for hunting/fishing etc this would be a kick ass vehicle.

  • avatar
    Avid Fan

    You lost me at 50K. Never, never, never. Not in this lifetime. Fifty thousand for a middle of the road Jeep/truck? 780 a month for 72 months, give or take. Not to mention the additional price of your probable FCA trade in, that you’re upside down in.

  • avatar

    LOL 50 Grand for something that still looks

    • 0 avatar

      There are those out there that PREFER looking Stone Cold Base while still having the options where they belong, inside the cabin and under the hood. The vehicle isn’t a status symbol for them, it’s a mark of who they truly are.

      • 0 avatar

        Too bad there’s not a LOT of people who want to drop 50 Large on something with literally zero “looks good” attached to it, because every single auto MFR would just LOVE to hook those people up :)

        “We can jack up the price but don’t hafta make it look any cooler??!? Sheeeee-oot where do we sign!”

        • 0 avatar


          I strongly recommend some research. I recall very recently seeing that Ford made the blacked out XL grilles an option on several of the higher models.

          Interesting thing…. Go to the Ford site and look at the grilles and bodies of the 2021 models… Even the King Ranch and Platinum are remarkably plain compared to previous years!

  • avatar

    I’ve seen the strange fuel economy ratings several times on this site and wonder if I’m missing something 17city/19hwy/22combined. Is this legitimate, or just a minor error? I could see it being possible since fuel economy ratings for hybrids follow a different pattern than traditional ICEs.

    • 0 avatar

      @tankinbeans: Sounds like either a typo or a misreading. The real numbers are supposed to be along the lines of 17 city / 22 hwy / 19 combined. And those numbers do make sense in that order as my ’08 JKU Wrangler did 16 city / 23+ hwy / and 20 combined with the old “minivan motor” 3.8L V6. On one trip of over 700 miles I actually achieved over 25mpg in that relatively old beast. (All in how you drive it. With that flat face, 80mph is NOT how fast you want to go.)

      • 0 avatar

        That’s what I figured. I was generally getting 23ish in my 300S. I recognize that it’s lower to the ground, even if it has a certain amount of avois du pois; I wonder if the aerodynamics are all that different.

        • 0 avatar

          @tankinbeans: The aerodynamics on a Wrangler-based vehicle are bad, at best. Though FCA did make some notable improvements by adding some slope to the top of the grille and a touch more slope to the windshield itself (only a degree or two, IIRC), it’s still a brick going through the air, a Chrysler 300 is significantly more aerodynamic especially due to its lower right height and smaller frontal area. The 300 is wider across the cabin even if the track width is about the same but the more sloped windshield and roof tumblehome (inward slope from the sides) make a significant improvement in total drag. (I’ll assume you know how the Coefficient of Drag is used to calculate total aerodynamic drag or at least how to find out if you don’t know.)

          Believe me, the only time a Wrangler-based vehicle is going to get “decent” fuel economy is when it’s traveling less than 65mph.

  • avatar

    A friend had a loaner Sport when his car was hit during an unscheduled and not cool run to Arby’s by the porter at the dealership. He and I agreed, the lack of power, and crazy price would keep us away, even if it was something we wanted. A hemi, and a sticker in the low 40’s would be tolerable. As is at 48K+, hell no.

  • avatar

    I like the colorado too. In general buying new I would go wrangler for awesome resale and I just like Jeep’s used Colorado is a good value.

  • avatar

    Fun toy if you want to throw some money away. Not a real truck, not a real jeep and not a real convertible.

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