“2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon”
Part Truck, Part Mountain Goat, All Jeep
Sacramento to Cool, CA –Jeep has a rich heritage of tough, dependable Jeep trucks, but It’s been a while since Jeep offered a pickup model in their lineup. The first Jeep Truck appeared in 1947. One was even called, but never badged as the Gladiator. It was based on the J-Series pickup from 1963-1987, with the Gladiator reference dropped in 1972. There was a Jeep Scrambler appearing from 1981-1985 in either soft or hardtop form. The last truck until now was the Jeep Comanche (MJ) (1986-1992) based on the Cherokee platform with a six-foot bed. Enter the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator the latest iteration to appear in more than 40 years.
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is the most capable midsize hauler ever. It comes with iconic 4×4 capability, best in class towing capability – up to 7,650 pounds, a 1,600 pound payload capacity, unmatched crawl ratios, up to 30 inches of water fording and a convenient fold-down windshield.
It is the only genuine open-air 4×4 pickup truck, available with an easy-to-use premium soft top and two hardtop versions.
The Gladiator is available in four levels of trim with base prices ranging from $33,545 to $43,545. First up is the Sport, followed by the Sport S, a more upscale Overland and the top-of the line Rubicon that starts at $43,545. Add a destination fee of $1,495 for each. A special pre-order launch edition Rubicon limited to 4,190 units was offered online for one day only, fully loaded for $60,815. Each launch edition unit will be outfitted with a “One of 4,190” forged aluminum tailgate badge, as well as unique wheels and interior accents.
All models appear in Crew Cab form with a five-foot steel bed featuring a covered external power source and strong integrated tie-downs for versatile, flexible and secure cargo options, and all will lead off with Jeep’s iconic keystone-shaped, seven vertical slot grille and round headlamps. Traditional square tail lamps wrap up the aft view.
Overland and Rubicon Gladiator models share an available three-piece body-color hardtop option, providing a unique, premium appearance, while a black three-piece hardtop, available on all models, offers even more options for open-air driving. The two Freedom panels and quick-release latches allow for a fast removal and installation of the hardtop, and all hardtops feature a manual rear-sliding window.
There are dozens of different combinations and configurations for the lightweight high-strength aluminum doors, hinges, hood, fenders, windshield frame and tailgate that all contribute to weight curtailment and enhanced fuel economy.
An available spray-in bed liner, bed divider and tonneau cover provide even more options to keep cargo secure while helping with durability. Gladiator Rubicon models are equipped with protective cab and cargo bed rock rails. The tailgate is damped and features three stop positions, while cargo is secured by a power-locking tailgate. A full-size spare tire and mount is located beneath the bed, behind the rear axle, and is capable of holding up to a 35-inch tire.
The overall Gladiator design retains Jeep’s rugged persona while adding an elevated level of distinction along with a host of modern touches without compromising the brands DNA and heritage.
Two advanced fuel-efficient engines are available to propel the new Gladiator lineup. There’s a 3.6-liter, DOHC, 24-valve Pentastar V-6 with sequential, multiport, electronic, returnless fuel injection and engine Stop/Start that produces 285 horsepower at 6.400 rpm along with 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm. Transmission choices include either an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual gearbox. Also offered is a 260 horsepower, 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 with 442 lb.-ft. of torque connected to a six-speed manual, with an eight-speed automatic available next year.
4×4 systems include: Command Trac for Sport and Overland models, which can be engaged on-the-fly and featuring a 2.72:1 low range for rock crawling and with neutral flat-towing ability; and Rock-Trac for the Rubicon model with a 4:1low gear ratio Tru-Lok electronic locking differentials and an electronic front sway bar disconnect.
Third generation heavy-duty solid Dana 44 front and rear axles are standard on all Gladiator models with available Trac-Lok limited-slip differentials.
INTERIOR AMENITIES AND TECHNOLOGY
The new 2020 Jeep Gladiator’s interior blends authentic styling, versatility, comfort and user-friendly features.
The center stack is heritage-inspired featuring a clean, sculpted form complementing the horizontal dashboard design and sporting a finish dictated by the model choice. Functional features, including climate and volume control knobs, media charging and connectivity ports, and Engine Stop Start control are all sculpted for easy recognition and are within easy reach as well. Inboard and outboard circular HVAC vents are surrounded by a platinum chrome bezel for a premium look with full functionality.
The center console houses gear shift selection, transfer case and parking brake with metal plated accents. A weatherproof push-button starter is standard on the 2020 Gladiator.
Cloth or leather-contoured seats feature accent stitching and adjustable bolster and lumbar support. Available comfort features include heated front seats and steering wheel. The rear seats, feature segment-leading rear legroom with a unique design that can be locked in place providing secure storage behind the seat back. The rear seats can be folded flat to access cab-back storage and provide a load floor for larger items. With the rear seats folded flat, LED lights on the quarter trim panels illuminate the storage space behind the seats.
The rear seat cushions can fold up into “stadium” position to reveal a standard open storage bin, which utilizes the space under the seat for stowing miscellaneous items. An optional lockable bin provides secure storage space when the top or doors are removed.
The driver and front passenger vinyl-wrapped door-trim panels are soft to the touch. Lift-Assist handles under each door armrest feature an integrated pull-cup design that makes door removal quick and easy. Convenience features include passive entry with Keyless Go.
The instrument cluster features a 3.5- or an available 7-inch thin-film transistor information LED display. The 7-inch LED display allows the driver to configure information in more than 100 ways. Integrated steering wheel buttons control audio, voice, and speed functions. A 7.0- or an available 8.4-inch touchscreen houses the fourth-generation Uconnect system positioned atop the center stack.
Exclusive to Gladiator Rubicon models, a forward-facing off-road camera allows obstructions ahead on the trail to be easily seen.
Two USB ports and a USB-C port up front and two in reach of occupants in the back seat connect to the media center. A 115-volt AC outlet is available to power select three-pronged home electronics. Optional audio upgrades include a subwoofer and portable wireless speaker located behind the rear seat. LED lights on quarter-trim panels illuminate the storage space and the docking station for the wireless speaker. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are accessible.
The two four-wheel drive systems and unmatched crawl ratios of the Gladiator provide legendary off-road capability with figures varying by model. The Rubicon model has an Approach angle of 43.4 degrees; a Breakover angle of 20.3 degrees; a Departure angle of 26 degrees and a Ground Clearance of 11.1 inches. Water fording capability is up to 30 inches without a snorkel. The Rubicon Gladiator’s Rock-Trac system’s “4LO”crawl ratio is 4:1 and it comes with four skid plates and bars to protect the fuel tank, transfer case and automatic transmission oil pan as well as providing front and rear tow hooks.
The Jeep Gladiator boasts of more than 80 available active and passive safety and security features including: Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection and forward-facing off-road camera, standard ParkView rear backup camera with dynamic grid lines, Adaptive Cruise Control, and electronic stability control with electronic roll mitigation.
While the off-road capability of the Gladiator is the stuff of legends, the on-road handling characteristics were more than adequate, but perhaps less than stellar, especially at lower speeds. The steering in those scenarios felt somewhat light or even “drifty” to some drivers. In all fairness, the vehicles that were used in the launch program were pre-production units and not all participants noted such a characteristic. I personally felt that the steering was more positive than did my co-driver. Ride comfort was pleasurable and the engine’s performance was certainly more than adequate.
We were able to actually experience an Overland, Sport S and Rubicon models – the first two with Black exteriors and interiors, while the Rubicon wore a Red exterior with a Black interior. The first two models only saw light off-road duty, while the Rubicon tackled a seriously challenging, man-made off-road course with the ability on par with a mountain goat.
OUR FINAL TAKE
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is truly the most capable mid-size truck without rival. Its versatility and functionality are beyond impressive, with looks that deliver a desirable curb or rock appeal also unrivaled in its category. And, if you don’t like the way it looks, there are so many ways to modify and personalize the Gladiator with Mopar accessories and aftermarket gear that the final looks achievable are virtually endless. The Gladiator is a welcome and worthy advancement in the return of the Jeep truck. It is certainly a far cry from that first Willys-Overland example. The all-new Jeep Gladiator is built in Toledo, Ohio, where Jeep vehicles have rolled off the assembly beginning in 1941.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Base Price: $43,545.
Price as Tested: $45,040.
Engine Type and Size: 3.6-liter DOHC, 24-valvePentastar V-6 with sequential, multiport, electronic, returnless fuel injection and engine Stop/Start.
Horsepower (bhp): 285 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 260 @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed overdrive automatic with adaptive electronic control or Electronic Range Select driver interactive manual control and electronically modulated torque converter clutch.
Drive Train: Longitudinally mounted front engine / Rock Trac Four-wheel drive system.
Suspension: Front -Solid axle, link coil, leading arms, track bar, coil springs, stabilizer Bar Electronic Sway-bar Disconnect System.
Rear – High-pressure gas-charged Fox aluminum monotube shock absorbers with hydraulic rebound stop.
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel vented discs with ABS and hydraulic braking assist, ESC – includes hydraulic assist brake booster and traction control, and Hill start assist.
Tires: Falken Wildpeak M/T LT285/70R17C mounted on 5-hole/spoke alloy Machine face/painted wheels
Wheelbase: 137.3 inches
Length Overall: 218.0 inches
Width: 73.8 inches
Height: 75.0 inches – soft top / 73.1 inches – hardtop
Curb Weight: 5,072 lbs.
Turning Circle: 44.8 ft.
Approach Angle: 43.4
Breakover Angle: 20.3
Ground Clearance: 11.1 inches
Departure Angle: 26.0
Fuel Capacity: 22.0 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 17.0 mpg city / 22 mpg highway
Drag Coefficient: Not listed
0 – 60 mph: Not tested
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.