Car Review: Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is a truck that plays as hard as it can work

Jeep has been on a roll lately as SUVs and crossovers are big business. So what could Jeep do to increase sales even more? How about a truck that marches to its own beat?

The new Gladiator is just plain cool. With the look of the popular Wrangler, it garners attention. This mid-size truck sports four doors just like the competition, but that’s about where it ends in similarities. The Jeep Gladiator — especially in the off-road-ready Rubicon trim — is one serious off-road rig. The Jeep is just as happy climbing rocks as it is hauling 14 pieces of Sheetrock in the bed or towing over 7,000 pounds.

The Jeep Gladiator works as a mid-size truck like others in the market but acts like the Wrangler with the ability to transform into a sun-loving, open-air rider. A supplied tool pouch allows you to take the doors off and fold the front windshield down. The hard top on my tester allowed the top to come off easily into three parts.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator comes with several engine options, including an upcoming diesel engine. I drove the standard V6 with a manual transmission. After 500 miles, I wished for closer gearing. I had to downshift at times on the highway to pass due to taller fifth and sixth gears. The shifter has longer throws between gears. It’s a truck — not a sports car! The ride is comfortable on the highway, and it’s small enough to drive in the city and park in a normal space. There is some tire noise at higher speeds due to more aggressive tires that would also be happy playing in dirt.

Cost: $43,546; as tested $55,475.

MPG: 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway; I managed 20.1 mpg in 497 miles of mixed driving.

Safety: adaptive cruise control; advanced brake assist; lane departure warning; full-speed forward collision warning-plus; blind spot and cross-path detection; and ParkSense rear park assist system.

Options: $695 cold weather group; $1,495 leather-trimmed bucket seats; $895 Jeep active safety group; $350 trailer-tow package; $295 wireless Bluetooth speaker; $1,295 Uconnect 4-NAV/Alpine premium audio; $555 hardtop headliner; $1,045 premium LED lighting group; $795 adaptive cruise/forward collision warning.

Things to know: The new Jeep Gladiator is a mid-size truck with real off-road capability. And with leather and the latest technology, the Gladiator can work as hard as it can play.

Pros:

  • Big on style with looks that draw a crowd.
  • The Rubicon model is one of the most off-road-capable mid-size trucks on the market.
  • Hauls, tows and it’s a convertible!

Cons:

  • Can get pricey when you add all the options.
  • Manual transmission has long throws and tall gearing.
  • Some owners might want larger rear door openings.

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