Stylish and rugged, it may be the only truck you need—but you’ll have to pay the price.
- Year, make, model: 2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport 4×4
- Engine: 3.6-liter V6 with 285 horsepower
- Seating capacity: Five
- Sets of LATCH car seat anchors: Two
- EPA-estimated MPG (as tested): 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway (19.9 mpg combined)
- Price (as tested): $33,545 ($50,540)
- Related vehicles we’ve tested: Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Tacoma
- In a nutshell: The Gladiator combines the best of several worlds by offering true off-road capability with pickup-truck convenience and unique, rugged looks. However, its steep price and less-than-refined cabin can be a tough pill to swallow for some.
One can argue about many trends currently taking over the automotive and transportation sectors: hybrids, EVs, ride-sharing, ride-hailing, driverless cars, etc. However, there are two items that have always belonged in the automotive landscape that I believe will never go away: Jeeps and pickup trucks. So, how about a Jeep pickup truck? Cue in the 2020 Jeep Gladiator.
Designed to take a big bite of the delicious and profitable pickup truck sales pie, the Gladiator aims to wow with its 7,000-pound max towing capacity, decent-size bed, and traditional Jeep styling that’s been a staple of the brand since its inception. We recently had the opportunity to spend a week with a Sport 4×4 model, and low and behold, we truly enjoyed the experience, but walked away confused about whether the Gladiator would make a good family car.
Our Time Behind the Wheel
The Gladiator’s driving experience is very much so a mix of cushy Jeep and stout midsize truck—so no surprises there because that’s exactly what this thing is. What does this mean for you? It means that it’s comfortable around the city thanks to its soft and plush suspension, but it can also feel “
On the engine side, the tried-and-true 3.6-liter V6 is a gem, and along with its 8-speed-automatic (6-speed manual also available), it stands as one of the highlights of the Gladiator. Power is always ample whether on city roads or at highway speeds. The engine note isn’t half-bad either, helping the military-looking Jeep sound extra mean.
Then there’s the ergonomics. I don’t care how cool Jeeps are or how much some folks love them, the controls make little sense and are hard to get used to. Yes, with time and practice one can get used to anything, but it’s still an awkward setup by all means, much like in previous Mini Coopers we’ve tested and owned. Our unit also had the optional $555 hardtop headliner (instead of the standard cloth), which although looks great and is a good choice if you live in extreme cold or hot climates, it still lets in lots of wind noise at speed.
This is the area that proved a bit difficult to comprehend. In some ways, it’s no different than any truck, so it should make for a decent family ride. However, when compared to the traditional Wrangler, it feels like some things are lost; such as cabin space and room to store stuff. Yes, there’s the bed, but you can’t safely transport stuff there without risking exposing it to the elements or stolen. Furthermore, you can’t safely transport a dog in the bed like you could in the back of a normal Jeep.
Besides the practicality aspect, the Gladiator offers a typical roomy cabin with little in terms of insulation or other niceties—even the rear hatch window leading to the bed is manual and not power like in most trucks—let alone ones with a $50,000 price tag. The seats are very comfortable (front ones are heated along with the steering wheel), and the rear bench offers two LATCH seat anchors for your car seat needs.
Unlike in the traditional Wrangler, there’s no trunk, so all you have is a five-foot-long bed. This is just about how much bed the average American needs, with enough room for the typical run to Ikea or Lowe’s. If you’re going to constantly use it to do grocery runs, I highly recommend getting a tonneau cover and some sort of hook device to hold your bags in place.
If you have toys like dirt bikes and what not, the bed is long enough to house them but you’ll have to keep the tailgate down—so getting a rotating bed extender is also a good idea.
Like its Wrangler brother, the Gladiator will not be remembered as the most practical car to daily. However, it’s a mighty capable vehicle that surprised us during a day-long stint at the off-road park with its ability to tackle mud, sand, rocks even with its basic street tires. And during a trip to Lowe’s for gardening supplies, the bed lived up to its standards by fitting two dozen or so soil and mulch bags. To say that its utilitarian would be an understateemtn—you just simply have to get used to the drawbacks.