Jeep’s First Pickup in 26 Years Has Arrived. But Should You Buy It?

Their claim: the ‘most off-road capable midsize truck ever’

November 29, 2018 9:00 am

On Wednesday, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator was officially unveiled — aka the centerfold-worthy, call-your-mother Wrangler pickup.

In the first 24 hours, it’s been called “glorious,” “the most off-road-capable pickup ever” and a “tour de force” (and that’s not Twitter hyperbole, those are headlines from reputable sources). The praise is to be expected, as this is the first Jeep pickup since the Comanche was killed off in ‘92 — and the end of a 26-year dry spell like this deserves some fanfare.

But now that the dust has settled and we’ve collectively wiped the drool off these Gladiator-towing-an-Airstream promo photos, we can ask the big question: Should you actually buy the damn thing? Or more accurately (because everyone wants to), what kind of driver should buy it?

Jeep Gladiator Release (10 images)

Before we get into that, you’ll want to know some of the basics. And basically, the Gladiator is an elongated version of the current Wrangler. As such, it only comes in a four-door configuration for now, with the wheelbase 19.4 inches longer and the full pickup 31 inches longer than its bed-less counterpart. The power specs actually match those leaked two weeks ago, with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, standard six-speed manual or optional eight-speed automatic transmission, a 7,650-lb.towing capacity and 1,600-lb. payload capacity. And yes, the roof and doors are fully removable.

So is it an off-roader or a pickup? Or is it truly the holy grail rock-climbing hauler we’ve all been pretending it is? Below, we’ve outlined a few reasons you would potentially buy the 2020 Gladiator, and whether or not you actually should when it hits your local dealer in spring 2019.

Use Case: Hauling and Towing
We’ll leave this one to Timothy Kuniskis, head of Jeep North America, as quoted on Autoblog: “Everything that psychologically drives a consumer to a Wrangler, there’s a sub-segment of those buyers whose needs push them toward a pickup. These aren’t people who are going to fill the bed with mulch and boulders. It’s not a work truck. It’s absolutely a lifestyle choice. These are people who are into surfing, mountain biking, dirt bikes, side-by-sides.” He said it himself! It’s not a work truck. But if what you’re looking to haul is your ATV out to the desert or tow your shiny new Bowlus around on the most Instagrammable road trip of all time, then yes, it’ll do.

Verdict: Depends

Use Case: Off-Roading
We turn to the always eloquent Outside for the main problem here, which is that “the Gladiator is just so freakin’ loooonnnnngggg.” Even so, the press release notes that the approach angle is 43.6 degrees, departure angle is 26, breakover angle is 20.3, and ground clearance is 11 inches. For context, “Aside from the breakover angle, those are all at the top of the mid-size truck segment,” writes Jalopnik. But in a separate article, that same publication reported on a Gladiator on display at the L.A. Auto Show that had been outfitted with new Mopar parts and accessories, a collection of more than 200 upgrades from the brand launched in conjunction with the truck. Meaning: the stock Gladiator will be impressively off-road capable for a pickup, but if you’re looking to do it in earnest, you’ll need a few (pricy) upgrades. And if you’re looking to do some rock climbing, you’ll need another vehicle entirely.

Verdict: Depends

Use Case: Flexing in the Whole Foods Parking Lot
You don’t need us to tell you the Wrangler is a legitimate off-roading favorite. But you know who else loves a Wrangler? Jugheads. That high-school bully with the bleached hair, the villain in every ’90s teen comedy, your snobby neighbor whose idea of off-roading is hopping the flowerbed divider in a Whole Foods parking lot, R. Kelly … they all love their Wranglers (the latter a little too much). And you can bet those same people are gonna snap up the Gladiator. But guess what? Sane drivers can reclaim the casual-use Jeep! Don’t let someone tell you the Gladiator should only be used for towing campers and fording streams — go ahead and throw your Yeti cooler with orange slices in the bed, the cleat-clad youngins in the back, then watch jaws drop at the second-grade soccer game. Remember what Kuniskis said: “It’s absolutely a lifestyle choice.” Just don’t muscle your way into parking spaces and we’ll allow it.

Verdict: Buy

Involuntary salivation kicking in again? Head on over to Jeep to read more and sign up for updates. And before you go looking, pricing has not been released yet — so keep on dreaming.

All images via FCA US

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