In unveiling the all-American off-roader at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Jeep was adamant in making sure everyone knows that they didn't simply add a flatbed to their iconic 4x4.
"Gladiator is a dedicated pickup," says Tim Kuniskis, now head of Jeep brand North America. "[Customers] are looking for real pickup trucks."
The Gladiator is billed as "the most capable midsize truck ever." Quite a claim, especially considering that its 285-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 is, as Road & Track notes, "not fast."
But no one would ever buy a Jeep for speed, and the Gladiator's towing and payload capabilities are commensurate with others in its class.
Towing capacity with the 3.6-liter V6, the only engine offered at launch, is 7650 pounds, just shy of the diesel Colorado/Canyon and trouncing the Tacoma. Payload is 1650 pounds.
Hitting those numbers required Jeep to significantly beef up the Wrangler’s frame and increase engine cooling. That, along with a 20-inch longer wheelbase, pads the Gladiator’s curb weight by some 400 pounds compared to a four-door Wrangler with similar equipment.
A 3.0-liter diesel, due in 2020, should get off the line more quickly, with 442 pound-feet of torque. It will, however, have a lower towing rating.
The hallmark of the Wrangler is the ability to air it out by removing doors, roof and panels. The Gladiator does indeed provide the most open driving experience of any pickup, and even has a folding windshield.
Its offered with four trim levels: Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon. All are designed not just to tow and haul, but hack it off the beaten path as well.
R&T has further details on the equipment that makes the Gladiator and worthy off-roader:
Four-wheel drive is standard, and the Gladiator retains solid axles both front and rear, although the suspension in back has different geometry to minimize bed shake.
The top-of-the-line Rubicon comes with all the off-road trimmings: Dana electronic locking differentials front and rear, a front anti-roll bar disconnect, transfer case with a 4:1 low range, and 33-inch tires.
It also rides on Fox dampers that aren't (yet) offered on the Wrangler. It’ll ford through 30-inches of water. Approach angle, 43.6 degrees, is similar to the Wrangler; departure angle is shallower at 27 degrees. Rock rails on the Rubicon extend to the front of the bed.
Pricing hasn't been released yet, but Inside Hook, Jalopnik and Auto Blog all love it at first glance. While we eagerly await the first test drive, check out the Gladiator Rubicon and Overland models in the photo galleries above.