WHAT IT IS: Jeep recently launched the all-new Jeep Wrangler, and they have now launched a mid-sized pickup based on it. Named the ultra-machismo ‘Gladiator,’ it starts at a hefty $33,545 and can extend well north of $50,000 for a fully loaded Rubicon trim. I was able to drive several trims at the recent Texas Auto Writers Association Truck Rodeo, so I got a pretty good taste of what is available.
First, you don’t lose any of the extreme capability that the Wrangler provides. While we all know that a hefty portion won’t see anything more extreme than a grass field used as parking lot overflow, even the base model Gladiator provides rock crawling and overland capabilities. Wranglers have always been this way, but never with the convenience of a truck bed. The added length of the Gladiator didn’t bother me at all, and actually felt more stable when driving over heavy offroad terrain.
The one massive benefit to the newest Wrangler (and by extension, the Gladiator) is the revised interior. It is significantly more livable than previous versions. The stereo actually sounds good, the dash looks modern, and everything is much more upscale. This may hurt the hearts of the Jeep purists, but there are plenty of Jeeps out there with older interiors and amenities.
Refreshingly, there are tons of options to chose from. Jeep is happy to sell you things that don’t appear on any other vehicle. Winch-capable steel front bumper? $795. Forward-facing TrailCam to allow you to see the terrain directly in front of your wheels? $595. An insulated headliner for the optional hardtop? $555. I was disappointed to see modern safety features like forward collision warning with brake assist ($795) or blind-spot and rear park-assist system ($895) remain options and have not become standard features.
A late availability EcoDiesel engine will also be available instead of the standard 3.6-liter V6 that is found in so many FCA products. I recently wrote about the same engine, but equipped in the Ram 1500, and I think it would make tremendous sense in the Gladiator, but I haven’t driven it yet. If you’re an interested buyer, then I would keep an eye out for this option, especially if you are interested in towing.
MPG: 19 combined/17 city/22 highway
PRICE: $33,545 to $43,740 plus options.
UPSIDES: Good size. Unique. Extreme capability. Great resale.
WRAP-UP: It was refreshing to drive a mid-sized pickup truck. It’s much easier to control and I think that today’s full-size pickups have sizes that have spiraled out of control. The downside is that if you went out to buy a Gladiator, it’s almost for sure going to cost more than a comparable Ram 1500 due to current discounts from extreme competition between the major truck manufacturers. The Gladiator is only a bit more expensive than a four-door Wrangler, so I would expect that there are lots of buyers out there that would prefer the truck bed. So yes, the Gladiator is excellent, albeit pricey. If you’ve always wanted a Wrangler, but with a pickup bed, then Jeep has delivered a great version of exactly that.