MSRP
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2020 Jeep Gladiator Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.5

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is a mixed bag when it comes to performance. It's an outstanding off-roader, and its on-road ride and handling are perfectly fine by truck standards. It also has high towing and hauling capacities and is the only member of the class that comes standard with four-wheel drive. This truck isn't the quickest off the line, though, and almost every competitor offers at least one engine with considerably better fuel economy ratings.

  • "At launch, all 2020 Jeep Gladiator models will be powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that spins out 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It's not a powerhouse by any means, and the Gladiator's base curb weight of 4,650 pounds … contributes to the truck's sluggish acceleration." -- Autoblog
  • It's not much for cornering… but then again, neither are the rest of these trucks. Plus, if you're measuring success in life by how quickly your Jeep accelerates or how well it turns, perhaps it's time to revisit the Xanax." -- Car and Driver
  • "Yet with up to 11 inches of available ground clearance and all sorts of traction aids, the Gladiator still offers surprising off-road capability, as demonstrated on a grueling course set up for just that purpose." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The Gladiator comes standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard, and an eight-speed automatic is available.

This is the same engine that powers the Wrangler, but the Gladiator's substantial curb weight means the engine doesn't pack the same punch as it does in the Wrangler. The V6 does the job for getting you around, but it feels slow, particularly when accelerating. The manual transmission fails to impress, but the available automatic is smooth and responsive.

According to EPA estimates, the Gladiator gets 17 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway when equipped with the automatic transmission. Those ratings are similar to what four-wheel-drive, V6-powered rivals earn. However, many rivals also offer four-cylinder engines that get superior fuel economy.

Down the line, Jeep will also offer a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 EcoDiesel powertrain that produces 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. It will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

  • In regular driving on surface streets and highways, the Gladiator's V6 engine feels sufficient. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard across the board. There isn't a whole lot of joy in the art of shifting the Gladiator's manual gearbox, but somehow a clutch pedal in a Wrangler-based vehicle just feels right." -- Autoblog
  • "The Gladiator is not quick. We know this because we've driven two of them: a Rubicon, the top trim level and leader of Jeep's off-road armada, and an Overland, which sits one step down the Gladiator trim tower. The Overland tester needed 7.2 seconds to hit 60 mph. That's off the pace of the rest of the mid-size-truck field by at least half a second." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 850RE eight-speed automatic is eager and capable, equally adept both on- and off-road. We briefly drove a Gladiator equipped with the base six-speed manual, and although it was surprisingly fun on the road, we much prefer the automatic when the going gets rough." -- Automobile Magazine

Handling and Braking

Like most trucks, the Gladiator hardly feels sporty, and you shouldn't expect to head out and carve corners in it. Still, it feels poised and composed on winding roads, and its steering is responsive and quite accurate. The Gladiator can feel a bit jittery over rough roads if its bed is empty, but that's the case with many pickups. Overall, the ride is fairly smooth, particularly in higher trims.

  • "… We can tell you from our several days behind the wheel that this might be the best riding and handling solid-axled vehicle we've ever tested. Jeep was so confident in the Gladiators on-road manners that we were routed through the coastal hill country of Northern California on a drive route that included tight and twisty two-lane roads, where the Gladiator was as good or better than every other pickup in its class. Steering was communicative and the brakes were strong with good pedal feel. Through potholes and broken pavement, the chassis was unflappable without any of the hard-edged impacts transferring through to the cabin. The shock tuning is spot on and the rear suspension geometry and extended wheelbase gives the Gladiator a feel of stability." -- Truck Trend
  • "The biggest differentiator between the Gladiator and Wrangler on the road is in ride quality. This sensation can vary based on trim level, but the midlevel Gladiator Overland (and I suspect the Sport trim, too, which has the same suspension) can be a touch pitchy over poor pavement without a payload in the bed – a common pickup truck trait. The Gladiator Rubicon, which has an upgraded suspension featuring Fox Shox and cushy 33-inch tires, doesn't have the same rear-end stiffness of the other Gladiator models. It also rides exceptionally well, though it does give up a bit in handling feel." -- Motor Trend
  • The Gladiator drives a lot like the Wrangler Unlimited. No surprise there. The ride is a bit less busy due to the truck's much longer wheelbase and additional weight, and it would likely further improve with some weight in the bed. Base Sport models get 17-inch wheels shod in 245/75 tires, and so equipped, the Gladiator's power steering feels very light and overboosted, requiring a lot of small corrections to keep the truck pointed straight ahead at highway speeds. In Rubicon trim, the Gladiator gets 33-inch all-terrain tires with soft sidewalls, with blockier mud-terrain tires optional. It sounds strange, but those heavier tires dampen some of the lightness from the steering, and that offers a driving experience that we prefer over the base model." -- Autoblog

Off-Roading

Jeeps are known for their off-road ability, and the Gladiator will do nothing to tarnish that reputation. This truck channels the spirit of the Wrangler, and though its longer wheelbase prevents the Gladiator from matching the Wrangler stride-for-stride, the pickup can still go just about anywhere that you dare to take it.

According to Jeep, the Gladiator can ford up to 30 inches of water, and all models have at least 10 inches of ground clearance. The Rubicon model is especially adept at handling all types of terrain, but in any trim, this is probably the best off-road pickup in the compact truck class.

Every Gladiator comes with skid plates, a two-speed transfer case, and four-wheel drive. The base Gladiator comes with the Command-Trac 4WD system, while the Rubicon comes with the Rock-Trac heavy-duty 4WD system, which has an additional 4LO mode as well as front and rear locking differentials. The Rubicon also comes with a front sway bar, rock rails, and a brush guard. The standard Off-Road+ button changes the Gladiator's driving dynamics to function better on sand in 4WD low or as a rock-crawling mode in 4WD high. Non-Rubicon trims offer a limited-slip differential.

  • "After a good bit of time spent on one of the roughest trails I've ever experienced, I can say that the Gladiator will go places I never dreamed it could go, and certainly would never take my own vehicle. And it did it with seeming ease. Amazing." -- Consumer Guide
  • When the going gets really rough, that long wheelbase does demand a careful approach to breakover obstacles and tight off-road switchbacks. The Gladiator's dimensions will ultimately keep it from venturing everywhere a Wrangler can go, but we found that the practical limit is well within the expectations of a 4WD pickup. High ground clearance and an expansive central skid plate protect the important bits, and the trailing end of the bed is rimmed with rock rails that are stout enough to be used as jack points." -- Edmunds
  • "As always with these Jeeps, driving is believing: The Gladiator's longer wheelbase detracted from the feeling of mountain goat nimbleness you get in, say, a Wrangler two-door, but choose your line carefully and you won't hang the thing up. As always, it's not about what the Jeep can do: It's almost certainly going to be just fine. It's about convincing yourself that the Jeep can handle the obstacle before it -- and letting it do its thing." -- Autoweek

Towing and Hauling

When properly equipped, the Gladiator can tow up to 7,650 pounds and haul up to 1,600 pounds. Those are good totals for the class. No compact truck can match a full size pickup for regular heavy-duty towing and hauling, but the Gladiator gets the job done confidently for pulling smaller trailers or vehicles like ATVs and motorcycles. Although the it can still do the work of pulling loads heavier than 5,000, the Gladiator can feel a little overwhelmed at times under that strain, especially if you're climbing hills.

  • We towed a 5,500-pound Airstream trailer for several miles using a Gladiator Sport equipped with an automatic transmission and all the requisite towing gear, including a Mopar-branded trailer brake controller. Buyers who plan on regularly hauling anything that heavy will likely want to opt for a fullsize pickup, but we can confirm that the Gladiator will handle the load just as well as any of its midsize competitors. The engine feels a little stressed as it pushes the Gladiator and trailer up to highway speed, but its transmission holds gears well with no intervention from the driver, and appropriately adapts to uphill and downhill grades." -- Autoblog
  • With 6,000 pounds of boat and trailer attached to a Gladiator Rubicon's standard Class IV hitch, the Jeep was a stable tow rig and wore the weight well. Although obviously you'll want the coming diesel engine if you plan on towing regularly, our gas V-6 tester handled the load just fine. The Jeep lacks a tow-haul mode but doesn't appear to need it; its eight-speed shifted up late and down early, ensuring the Gladiator always had a handle on the load. The only time the Gladiator felt outmatched was pulling away from a stop on a steep 6 percent grade, where the V-6 simply doesn't have the low-rpm torque available to get going quickly." -- Motor Trend
  • Gladiators are rated to tow up to 7650 pounds, but to hit that number you'll need the Sport trim level equipped with the Max Tow package. Rubicons are good for 7000 pounds when equipped with the automatic transmission. An Overland or Sport trim with a manual transmission (and no tow package) is good to yank only 4000 pounds. We drove a Rubicon hitched to a 6000-pound boat trailer and can say this: It was slow. And sometimes loud. And you're certainly aware that you're moving some weight, but it behaved itself well enough, pulling the dinghy and trailer with stability and confidence." -- Car and Driver
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