Check Drive: The Jeep Gladiator is a superb truck. However is it sufficient truck?
A few weeks in the past I spent most of a day at FCA’s Chelsea Proving Grounds driving the brand new 2020 Jeep Gladiator. It was enjoyable. Quite a lot of enjoyable, truly. And regardless of all that enjoyable, the largest query I got here away with in regard to this very enjoyable truck was “Why?”
Over the course of the day, I noticed nearly every part the Gladiator is able to, and it could be the last word Swiss Military Truck. However does anyone on the market actually need a Swiss Military Truck?
So, close to the tip of the day and after a easy towing demonstration with the truck, I put that query to FCA spokesman Scott Brown. “Why did Jeep make this truck?” I requested him. “Who precisely is that this truck for?”
Brown stated that FCA has discovered that when it loses a Jeep Wrangler buyer to a different automobile, that new automobile is often a pickup truck.
“We constructed it for the Wrangler man who needs or wants a truck,” Brown stated.
That is sensible. It’s additionally a really particular particular person to make a pickup truck for. I’d enterprise to say that it’d classify the Gladiator as a distinct segment automobile, regardless of its vast enchantment to only about anyone who seems at it.
However, that’s type of the purpose. With the success GM and Ford have seen with the Chevy Colorado and the new Ranger, respectively, FCA needed to get again into the resurrected mid-size truck section. And whereas they may have completed that by bringing again the Dodge Dakota, the corporate determined that it will reasonably re-enter the section with a purpose-built automobile.
All Jeep, all pickup
Various occasions throughout my time in Chelsea, I heard the road “we knew the Gladiator needed to be 100 p.c Jeep, and 100 p.c truck.” Earlier than I bought into the truck, I used to be skeptical. However! They did it. It’s a bizarre and completely pleasant combination of each Wrangler and Ram with a snug inside that may confuse the hell out of nearly anybody available on the market for a mid-size pickup.
To get a really feel of simply how a lot Ram and Wrangler DNA will be discovered within the Gladiator, I spent a number of hours on an off-road course on the Proving Grounds, the place I used to be capable of drive, one after the opposite, a Ram Insurgent, a Jeep Wrangler and, lastly, the Gladiator.
The course takes between 20-30 minutes to crawl via and contains a myriad of various obstacles that help Jeep engineers in creating these autos, whereas additionally serving as an illustration space as soon as they’re full.
To start out, I hopped in a Ram Insurgent 1500, threw the truck into 4LO and entered the path. This specific Insurgent was outfitted with Ram’s non-compulsory air suspension, which I positioned into the off-road excessive place. The Insurgent glided over each impediment with ease. A steep stair climb was no downside. Three toes of water may as properly have been a puddle. The truck even displayed little hassle wobbling via the risky-looking offset rut impediment, the place the path throws a collection of small mounds positioned diagonal to 1 one other underneath your tires as a strategy to exhibit axle articulation.
Within the Insurgent, I hardly felt something. And due to the truck’s peak, you don’t see a lot both. (Facet observe: Don’t sleep on the Insurgent. It’s a enjoyable truck that Ram simply retains making higher.)
Subsequent up was a two-door Wrangler which is such a special automobile that the drive virtually felt like I used to be going via a special path. If the Insurgent glides via a path, the Wrangler crawls via it like a spider. You’re feeling the terrain. You get extra of a rush by climbing that 40-degree incline. And you must method sure issues in a different way within the Wrangler than you’ll within the Insurgent. As an example, I needed to take a special line on the stair climb as a result of Wrangler’s shorter wheel base. Within the Insurgent, I used to be 3/4 up the stair case earlier than the truck’s wheels have been all on the steps. Within the Wrangler that transition occurred sooner and on the primary couple makes an attempt, the again tires slipped. (I’m additionally nowhere close to a veteran off-road driver. The Wrangler dealt with the impediment high-quality, however you’ll have a a lot simpler time within the Insurgent.)
Lastly it was time to hop within the Gladiator. I positioned the truck in 4LO and in handbook first gear, which Jeep engineers advised me has been optimized particularly for navigating off-road trails with ease. To be trustworthy, the Jeep pickup felt quite a bit like a repeat journey of the Wrangler. That’s, till you encountered obstacles the place the Gladiator’s almost 40 inches of additional wheel base over the two-door Wrangler come into play.
On the stair climb, the place the Wrangler slipped up a bit, the Gladiator climbed up and over with no hitch. And whereas the Insurgent supplied related climbing efficiency, the Gladiator’s was faster because of the Jeep truck’s lighter weight and decrease method. One other profit over the Insurgent is that you may higher see the terrain. The Gladiator was additionally capable of squeeze into tight parts of the path that FCA officers stated the Insurgent was too massive to get into and out of.
Although a six-speed transmission comes normal on the Gladiator, you’re going to need to pony up the additional $2,000 for the eight-speed. It makes a distinction on the path and when towing.
Talking of towing, I additionally had the possibility to tow a ship and trailer on a roughly 1.5-mile loop. The truck’s 3.6-liter V6 and that eight-speed gearbox delivered fast acceleration for the 6,100 kilos in tow. On the turn-around spot, braking was good and easy and maneuvering the truck, boat and trailer into the wrong way was straightforward.
When you’ll be doing quite a lot of towing, you may need to wait a bit. I used to be advised by a couple of FCA spokesperson that the Gladiator can be getting a 3-liter diesel engine possibility. They’d not, nonetheless, inform me when. The truth that they advised me in any respect leads me to consider that subsequent mannequin 12 months is trying good. Even with out the non-compulsory built-in trailer brake, the Gladiator I drove did an admirable job bringing the boat and trailer to a halt. However throw within the trailer brake and exhaust braking and also you’ll be extraordinarily comfy towing pretty huge hundreds with this truck.
I additionally drove the Gladiator on a few asphalt programs together with a 2-mile loop and a zig-zagging part. On the highway, the Gladiator has the sensation of a premium SUV. It cornered nimbly in tight turns and was comfy to drive on open highway.
On the finish of the day, the one downside that got here to thoughts with the Gladiator is that, except you’re a Wrangler-lover who wants a truck, you’ll must persuade your self you want it. The Gladiator I drove, with a fiberglass high, leather-based seats and the premium sound system will set you again at the least $50,000. That is likely to be out of the vary many mid-size prospects are keen to pay, and it probably doesn’t provide the entire truckiness that it will take to transform a half-or one-ton truck buyer.
Whereas the inside was comfy, it wasn’t almost as spacious as that of the Ram Insurgent, or some other 2019 Ram half-ton. And although the Gladiator’s 7,650 kilos of towing capability is best-in-class, it’s nonetheless a far cry from what a half-ton can pull, not to mention the 35,100 kilos the Ram 3500 is able to towing.
In different phrases, the Gladiator, whereas a enjoyable and thrilling truck, is difficult to advocate to somebody who actually wants a truck. Nonetheless, don’t underestimate simply how enjoyable it’s.
It may not be probably the most sensible pickup available on the market. But it surely’s actually probably the most attention-grabbing.