Chicago Auto Show Blog

The swiss-army knife of trucks comes in a flavor for everyone.

Posted by: Jim OBrill

The Jeep Gladiator arrived for the 2019 model year with a lot of hype. It was the first pickup truck for Jeep since Comanche departed in 1992. Gladiator is a 4-door, 5-passenger midsize pickup with exterior styling similar to the Jeep Wrangler. Most notably, the Gladiator is currently the only pick up on the market with a removable roof and doors. For 2021, the Gladiator comes in nine trim levels: Sport, Willys Sport, Sport S, Willys, 80th Anniversary, Overland, Rubicon, Mojave, and High Altitutde. Powertrain options include a 3.6-liter V6 with engine stop-start and, new for 2021, the 3.0-liter turbo diesel engine dubbed EcoDiesel.

Equipped with a versatile box, a body-on-frame design, front and rear five-link suspension system, solid axles and electronic lockers, Gladiator is one of the few midsize trucks to offer a six-speed manual transmission in addition to its available eight-speed automatic. Whether you're a city-dweller, suburban parent or an off-road junkie, there's a Gladiator to suit your lifestyle. Having spent time in a few of the various Gladiator trims and engine offerings, I'll highlight some the differences.

Starting with the engine variations, all Gladiators come standard with the 3.6-liter V6, making the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel a $4,000 option on all trims except for the Mojave. Most Gladiators come standard with a 6-speed manual and have variations of the optional 8-speed automatic for $2,000.  The 3.6 V6 delivers 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft of torque while the EcoDiesel generates 260 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft of torque. Gladiator models, equipped with the 3.6-liter V6, feature up to 1,700 pounds of payload and up to 7,650 pounds of towing capacity with the Max Towing Package. Fuel Economy on the 3.6L is rated at 16 MPG city, 23 MPG highway, 19MPG combined running on regular grade fuel with a 22-gallon tank.  Opting for the EcoDiesel will provide up to 1,325 pounds of payload and up to 6,500 pounds of towing capacity with the Max Towing Package. Fuel Economy on the EcoDiesel is rated at 22 MPG city, 28 MPG highway, 24 MPG combined running on ultra-low sulfur diesel with an 18.3-gallon tank. Having spent a week with both engines, the fuel economy is notably better in the EcoDiesel during suburban commuting.

Both engines deliver sufficient power and the 3.6-liter V6 has a proven record of performing well. The EcoDiesel is all new for 2020 and has been redesigned compared to past diesel offerings.  The added torque in the EcoDiesel (442 compared to 260) should be appealing to the off-road enthusiasts. Higher torque is beneficial for off-roading when tackling various obstacles with larger off-road tires. The EcoDiesel has only a slight diesel hum from the engine that the average person likely wouldn't even notice, it's big departure from the loud and smoky diesel engines from the past.  While the EcoDiesel comes at a premium price, it may save in the long term with fuel economy if you're planning to keep your Jeep long term. Outside of the engine choice, buyers also have the choice between the 8-speed automatic or the 6-speed manual on each engine.

Once you've determined the engine combination you want in your Gladiator, the next step is to choose your trim level.  Jeep offers everything from your basic soft top Gladiator to a more luxurious cruising model to the ultimate off-road version. With such a wide variety, it's hard to decide which direction to take, but know that all offer the same Gladiator versatility with removable doors and roof which is what makes this a standout in the midsize truck segment. Part-time 4WD is standard, but full-time 4WD is available on all Gladiator models as are variations of the roof in either soft top or hard top. Standard electronic stability control (ESC), electronic roll mitigation, trailer-sway control, hill-start assist and brake traction control are among more than 80 available safety and security features. See below for some insight on what separates some of the key models.

Gladiator Sport / Sport S


With a starting price of $33,565, it's the lowest cost in the Gladiator family. It comes standard with the 3.6-liter V6 and a 6-speed manual. Like most Gladiators the EcoDiesel or 8-speed transmission can be added options. Sport models come with 17" basic black steel wheels wrapped in 245/75 all-season tires and a retractable soft top. If you're looking to fully customize your own Jeep with Mopar accessories or bigger wheels/tires for off-roading then this may be the best model to start with. Many off-road enthusiasts want to design a truck that is unique to them and Jeep offers this solid base model to build up on. With the Sport model you'll get Jeep's Uconnect3 infotainment system with a 5-inch touchscreen display. Overall, Sport models are as basic as they come and include roll-up windows, manual door locks, single zone AC, black fender flares, and halogen headlamps.

Sport S models start at $38,100 and include 17-inch silver aluminum wheels, 245/75 All-Season tires, and body-colored fender flares. This model also offers more optional upgrade packages such as the 8.4-inch radio and premium auto group that includes Jeeps Uconnect4 technology which integrates with Apple Car Play, Android Auto and more tech as a $1995 option. If you're looking for a little more standard tech and power features, starting with the Sport S is a better entry point.

A special edition Willys model is also offered on both the Sport or Sport S trim for 2021 for $1,500 more which adds off-road looks starting with unique 17-inch black aluminum wheels wrapped in 32-inch LT255/75R Mud-terrain tires, body colored fender flares and a retro Willys graphic across the side of the hood. Willys models also feature a limited-slip differential, rock-rails and shocks which will bolster its off-road capabilities.



Overland models feature 18-inch granite crystal aluminum wheels wrapped in 255/70 all-terrain tires. The Overland model is a nice mid-grade model with a starting price of $37,150 that adds power windows/locks, tinted windows, fog lights, power-heated mirrors, side steps, keyless entry, and more. An improved Uconnect 4 touchscreen with a 7-inch screen is standard along with multiple USB ports. The Overland model is great for those looking for a Gladiator as a daily driver around the city or suburbs with minimal (if any) off-roading desires. It offers all the modern amenities you'd come to expect and when equipped with the EcoDiesel engine is one of the most fuel-efficient trucks you can buy.  During my week in an Overland equipped with the EcoDiesel, I averaged around 26 MPG.

While still capable off-road, the all-season tires are the kind commonly found on many SUVs. Add in options such as the black freedom 3-piece hard top, a soft tri-fold tonneau cover, leather, and the upgraded Uconnect 4C with 8.4-inch touchscreen and the package becomes even more appealing for under $42,000. I'd recommend this option for those who want a quieter ride (compared to models equipped with mud/off-road tires) as the Overland generally produces less road noise. Note that at highway speeds, all Gladiators have a fair amount of wind noise which is to be expected when the doors and roof all come off with a few twists and turns of some bolts. I think of the Overland models as the sophisticated, clean-cut versions of the Gladiator intended for some nice evening cruises around town.



The Mojave trim was all new for 2020 and comes exclusively with the 3.6-liter V6 mated to either the 6-speed manual or the 8-speed automatic. The Jeep Gladiator Mojave is a truck that commands attention. The starting price for a Mojave edition is $44,140 and can climb into the mid $60k range for a fully loaded model that features upgraded safety features, premium audio, additional front camera, premium lighting, trailer-tow package, a cold weather package and more. The Mojave features an industry exclusive FOX hydraulic jounce bumpers and 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks, a reinforced frame, a one-inch suspension lift with silver front skid plate, and stronger axles with cast-iron steering knuckles. Add to that 33-inch Falken Wildpeak All-Terrain Tires mounted to 17-inch Mojave-exclusive wheels and you have a truck that both looks the part on the outside and has the guts underneath.

The Mojave was a blast to drive, a bit bouncier on the highway when compared to the Overland which is expected considering the larger tires and upgraded shocks that come on the Mojave. Mojave models come standard with all of the same tech specs as the Overland. Get the Mojave if you want a Gladiator that looks tough and comes ready for the off-road trails. There's nothing you'll need to add to this one because Jeep has done all of the work in building a great looking and off-road focused package. The Mojave is tuned for higher-speed off-road adventures (specifically the dessert) compared to the Rubicon which is more focused on climbing rocks.  Mojave models include accents of orange inside and outside including the Mojave name across the side of the hood. When compared to the Overland with the EcoDiesel, there was a stark contrast in fuel economy. Besides the engine difference, the 33-inch off-road tires will also effect the Mojave's overall fuel economy which averaged around 19 MPG during my time in it.



Similar to the Mojave, Rubicon models come ready to hit the trails with the same 33-inch off-road tires wrapping different granite crystal aluminum wheels and the same starting price of $44,140. Where the Mojave is tuned for high-speed desert running, the Rubicon is tuned for low-speed rock crawling. One major difference compared to the Mojave is that you can get a Rubicon model with the EcoDiesel engine as a $4,000 option. Rubicon models come standard with electronic front and rear differentials as well as an electronically controlled sway-bar disconnect. They also feature Fox shocks, but without the hydraulic jounce bumpers found in the Mojave.  Standard are rock rails for the cab and bed which provide protection when taking it off the paved roads. Inside, both the Rubicon and Mojave models offer the same features save for a few design accents that differentiate the two interiors.

Jeep has been offering Rubicon models of its Wrangler since 2003. The Rubicon name derives from the Rubicon Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains and since the Wrangler was built for off-road ruggedness, the most off-road capable of the Wranglers and Gladiators get the Rubicon designation. Similar to the Mojave, it's often the 33" knobby tires that will stand out first. Opt for the Rubicon model if you want a truck that comes ready to hit the tough trails, rocks, water and just about anything else.

The Gladiator (and Wrangler) is one of the most customizable vehicles on the road and is definitely unique to the truck segment. Besides the engine options and trim packages mentioned above, there are many other options to consider such as the roof type (soft top or 3-piece hard top in black or body color), wheel/tire options, and technology packages. Other specialty packages available on the Gladiator include an Altitude package or the North Edition package which group various options together. Also exclusive for 2021 is an 80th Anniversary Edition which features 18-inch wheels with Granite Crystal finish, Neutral Grey Metallic exterior accents, 8.4-inch touchscreen, berber floor mats and commemorative exterior badging. Spend time on  building out your Gladiator to configure your dream Gladiator. Prices can get as high as $65,000 if you add in just about every option which includes all of the technology, safety, off-road features, driving assist features and more.  The Gladiator is a jack of all trades type of truck that is as fun to drive as the Wrangler and often turns a few extra heads when people notice that it's actually a truck.

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