Following through on a vehicle that FCA's late CEO Sergio Marchionne promised would follow the new Wrangler unveiled in late 2017, Jeep has added a pickup truck to its lineup for the first time in over a quarter of a century. In true Jeep off-road style, it'll ford water up to 30 in. deep.
While the Gladiator looks essentially like a four-door Wrangler with a pickup bed, Jeep gives a nod to its truck heritage in decades past with that name, which also has a more modern reference. The new pickup is expected to start arriving at dealerships during the second quarter next year, and like the Wrangler will be built in Toledo, OH.
Jeep calls the 2020 Gladiator a midsize and rates its max payload at 1,600 lbs. and towing capacity up to 7,650 lbs. By comparison, a "full size"/ half-ton 2019 Ford F-150 offers up to 3,270 lbs. of payload and 13,200 lbs. towing, and a 2019 Chevrolet Colorado 4x4 midsize pickup offers payloads in the 1,400-1,600-lb. range.
The Gladiator is unique among its peers: not only will all the trucks have four-wheel drive (and serious 4WD hardware, at that), but the standard engine will be FCA's familiar 3.6L Pentastar V6 making 285 hp. and 260 lbs.-ft. of torque mated to a six-speed manual transmission. An eight-speed automatic is optional, and coming next year is a 3.0L EcoDiesel turbo diesel V6 engine alternative that FCA says will have 260 hp. and 442 lbs.-ft. of torque.
Original Jeep maker Willys-Overland launched a pickup in 1947, and the Jeep Gladiator name goes back more than 50 years in its initial use. It was first given to Jeep's J-Series pickup trucks when those debuted in 1963 (see '63 Gladiator J-200 Thriftside above; note set-in bedsides) and continued with the series through 1972, when the name was dropped.
Then in 2005, more than a dozen years after Jeep had discontinued its most recent Comanche pickup in 1992, the company toyed with the pickup truck idea again and resurrected the Gladiator name with a concept vehicle (see photo below). It was a regular-cab pickup based on the Wrangler then in production but never saw production itself, though it got considerable fanfare from Jeep enthusiasts. Notably, Jeep recently conjured up a Comanche concept pickup based on the current Jeep Renegade.
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator that will at last make it to production will be a roomier crew cab design seating up to five, and passengers aren't just an afterthought. The truck gets exclusive rear seats designed to offer better support and legroom for rear passengers and include not only fold-down but fold-up "movie theater" options to stow more cargo.
"I think the new Gladiator really hearkens back to those [early] Jeep trucks. You know it's a Jeep when you see it," said Brandt Rosenbusch, manager of Jeep historical services. "It has the workload, the work ethic of other Jeep vehicles."
Jeep calls the Gladiator "the only true open-air 4x4 pickup truck with easy-to-use premium soft top and two hardtops." The "open air" part is very real, regardless of model. You need a Torx bit to remove the doors and lower the windshield, and Jeep was nice enough to include the correct bit in a toolkit (and even stamps the proper bit size on the door hinges). If you take off a Gladiator's hardtop, there's specially marked storage inside for the bolts.
Available options and Mopar performance/ custom parts include LED headlights and fog lights, a 115-volt external AC power outlet, lift kits, off-road lights, different wheels, a spray-in bed liner, a bed divider, a tonneau cover, and many more.
Other Gladiator features include:
—Available in Sport, Sport S, Rubicon, and Overland models, with Sport, Rubicon, and Overland "Trail-Rated"
—Under-rail bed lighting
—Full-size spare mounted under bed
—Start-stop tech on the 3.6L V6
—Forward-facing grill cam on Gladiator Rubicon provides forward trail view