Apr 23, 2020

Jeep Gladiator TowingBy Glen Konorowski

Ever since I was a youngster Jeeps of all kinds have fascinated me. It wasn’t until the mid 70s that I finally had a chance to drive a CJ5 when I was in college. I was a little disappointed to say the least. Shifting the manual transmission was like the ten-ton truck I drove for a summer job a year before.

Fast forward a number of years and I later drove lots of them as a budding journalist. I actually bought a Jeep Liberty and had it 10 years.

Just recently I had the chance to test the 2020 Jeep Gladiator, the new mid-sized pickup that was introduced in April 2019. The basis is the 4-door Wrangler with a pickup box attached to the rear. Like the Wrangler 4-door it has four doors with a removable roof. An owner can get the standard soft top or go for the popular fiberglass unit with removable panels over the front two seats.

Unlike much of the competition, the Gladiator comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission attached to a well-proven 3.6LV6 from the Chrysler stable. For those who don’t want to shift an optional 8-speed automatic is available. Power for the V6 is a strong 285hp., which is more than enough for the Gladiator to move it about pretty well.

I tested the Rubicon, the top of the line model of a 3-model lineup equipped with a very capable off-road package that is second to none, like locking axles, detachable front sway bar for more front axle movement and some grippy off-road tires to name a few. Towing capacity for a boat and trailer is 7650lbs. with the towing package added.

As my test vehicle was the Rubicon model, with bigger tires and slightly raised suspension make getting aboard just that little more awkward. So, I don’t think your cabin boy will have an easy time of getting in. Gladiators can be equipped with running boards for those who might need a little help getting in.

2020 Jeep Gladiator InteriorOnce you are inside the Gladiator, you find the standard Wrangler dash layout with smaller gauges in front of the driver and an LED screen in the centre area for many of the controls and sound system. the mid-size vehicle’s cab is roomy, but small enough to easily get at everything. My Rubicon was equipped with a nice saddle coloured leather seats that were fairly comfortable. Rear seating was not too bad either especially when it came to legroom. Overall, the electronic controls were easy enough to lean and master after just a few days.

An optional feature with my tester was the front and rear cameras. Great for backing up then when hitching up the trailer, it was perfect when trying to get the hitch lined up with the ball. The front camera I can see be very helpful when lowering the boat trailer into the water as it gives you have a front hitch or parking in close quarters.

A couple of things you might want to be aware of when stowing gear in the back of the Gladiator is first it is higher than many pickups and it is not as big. Dealing with the height of the box can be a problem if you are vertically challenged. One friend of mine with a 4X4 pickup keeps a plastic step stool at the back of the box to get up and in the box without strain. The other fact that it is only a 5ft. (1.5m.) stowing any boat gear longer is a little tricky, but you do gain a little more with the tailgate down.

There was only one problem with the Gladiator I experienced and more prevalent with the Rubicon model was handling at higher speeds. The optional Falcon 285/70R17C tires tend to sway a little when changing lanes at higher speeds. Around town and off-roading, they were perfect, as they gripped well off road in mud and on the street in the rain. The sway motion is something one can get use to with time.

For me the Gladiator has more plusses than negatives. I particularly loved the traditional styling; seating comfort was great and traction on and off the road was great. You just have to drive a vehicle like the Rubicon with the knowledge it is a capable off-roader and not a sports car or many other pickups.

Prices for the Gladiator start at $45,845 for the Sport S model, and all the way up to $52,845 base for the Rubicon I tested. My test Rubicon Gladiator well equipped was in and around $63,000, not out of line with many 4X4 pickups out there.

Glen KonorowskiGlen Konorowski is a life long automotive enthusiast and automotive journalist for 35-years. He also claims to be former Commodore of the Monty Carlo Yacht Club!

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