Overall rating
7.9 / 10
    The introduction of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator gives midsize-truck shoppers an intriguing new option to consider. Simply put, the Gladiator is a four-door Wrangler Unlimited with an extended wheelbase and a 5-foot cargo bed instead of the normal cargo area. This Wrangler DNA promises to give the Gladiator off-road performance that no other truck can match.
There's plenty of towing and hauling capability here too. When appropriately equipped, the Gladiator can tow a class-leading 7,650 pounds. The cargo bed is only available in a 5-foot-long configuration, but it's easy to access and has some useful features such as a special tailgate position that enables you to haul 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood.
    A Rubicon version is available, just like on the Wrangler. Features such as lockable front and rear differentials, standard 33-inch all-terrain tires, and a disconnectable front stabilizer bar give the Gladiator Rubicon the ability to traverse difficult terrain with ease. But even if you're just cruising around town, you can have fun with the Gladiator's removable top and doors. It's the only convertible pickup on the market.
There are a few downsides. The Wrangler-based underpinnings that give the Gladiator its off-road prowess are a detriment for driving on the street and result in vague steering and a sometimes jiggly and wandering ride quality. Also, the Gladiator can end up getting significantly more expensive than its rivals when you start adding a bunch of options. Overall, however, we're quite fond of the Gladiator and think it's a great pick for a truck that delivers off-road capability, cargo hauling and fun all in one.

Jeep Gladiator models

    The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is a five-passenger, four-door midsize truck. It's available in four trim levels - Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon - that provide increasing levels of comfort, convenience and off-road capability.
All come with a 5-foot cargo bed, a four-wheel-drive system and a 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and an eight-speed automatic is optional.
The Gladiator's Sport trim is equipped with 17-inch steel wheels, all-season tires, crank windows, manual door locks and mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, an eight-speaker audio system, a 5-inch central display, a rearview camera, Bluetooth and voice control capability.

    The Gladiator also comes with a convertible folding soft top, removable doors and a fold-down front windshield. A Class II bumper hitch with a 4,500-pound tow capacity, anti-sway trailer control, and a combination four-and-seven-pin trailer plug is standard.
    Jeep also offers a Sport S trim level that adds the most common power and luxury features to the Sport, such as alloy wheels, power windows, power door and tailgate locks, heated power mirrors, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
    Both trims allow for certain options and packages to increase towing and hauling capability. These include the Trailer Tow package and the more capable Max Tow package (includes 4.10 axle ratios).
Opting for the Sport S opens up availability to more options. The Technology Group package is worth getting and includes a 7-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and automatic climate control. Other notable picks include the Cargo Group package (a rail-based cargo management system and a 115-volt power outlet in the bed) and the Safety Group and Advanced Safety Group packages that append a variety of advanced driver safety aids.
The Overland model dresses up a Sport S with style and function features such as 18-inch alloy wheels, body-color wheel arches, side steps, and tinted rear side and rear windows. Additional standard features include automatic headlights, LED ambient footwell lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the 7-inch infotainment system (with additional USB ports for the rear passengers), and a 110-volt outlet in the center console.
    Finally, the Rubicon trim provides the most off-road capability with a different transfer case that provides a lower crawl ratio for better climbing and crawling, fenders with increased clearance to accommodate larger 33-inch all-terrain tires, locking front and rear differentials, an electronically disconnectable front stabilizer bar, Fox shock absorbers, and body-protecting rock rails and skid plates.
All trims can be equipped with a premium sound system with a nine-channel 552-watt amp and subwoofer, an auxiliary switch group that lets owners wire up to four electrical devices to customizable switches inside the cabin, a spray-in bedliner, a semi-rigid roll-up tonneau cover, a black hardtop with removable roof panels, and a premium soft top that uses a thicker material that offers more insulation than the standard top. Overland and Rubicon models can get their hardtops painted in body color.
Additional notable options for the Gladiator, depending on the trim level, include a three-piece hardtop roof, a premium soft-top roof, a spray-in bedliner, a tonneau cover, LED headlights, a larger 8.4-inch infotainment display, leather seating surfaces, a premium Alpine sound system, and a detachable wireless (Bluetooth-based) speaker.

Trim tested
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon (3.6L V6 | 8-speed automatic | 4WD).
The Rubicon benefits from a well-matched engine and transmission combination, and it has no equal when the pavement turns to dirt. On-pavement performance is compromised by the giant tires and solid front axle, but the chassis is nevertheless nicely optimized around these necessary limitations.
The Rubicon's short gearing and tall (and heavy) off-road tires certainly throw a damper on its 0-60 mph time. At Edmunds' test track, we measured a sprint of 8.5 seconds. Most other V6-powered trucks are quicker. But for the most part, the V6 is up to the demands of everyday driving.
The brake pedal feels smooth and predictable in normal use, but the action is a little long. The Rubicon's knobby tires squirm a bit during hard stops, but they still inspire confidence. Our panic stop from 60 mph used up 138 feet. That's a bit long but not out of the ballpark for trucks on such tires.
The Gladiator's old-school recirculating ball steering simply isn't as precise as rack-and-pinion steering. It does track nicely through corners, though, and the weighting is about right around a defined center point. Crosswinds and road ruts do demand the driver's attention.
Overall, the Gladiator feels composed and secure. It changes direction predictably if the road is smooth. But its solid front axle can get unsettled when going around turns that have particularly uneven or bumpy pavement. Other rival trucks are more settled in these situations.
The smart-shifting eight-speed automatic always makes the right moves and gets the most out of the engine. The manual shift mode isn't a mere top-gear limiting device; it gives full control, is simple to use and is very helpful when driving off-road. The auto stop-start system restarts the engine fairly quickly. Also, any Gladiator can be had with a six-speed manual.
No stock pickup can match the Gladiator Rubicon and its 33-inch tires, lockable front and rear differentials, and disconnecting stabilizer bar. It has the others beat as far as approach angle, articulation and ground clearance are concerned. Tidy departure clearance is supplemented by rub rails on the bottom corners of the bed. Its only weakness is a long wheelbase.
There's no getting around the fact that its solid-axle front suspension compromises ride comfort. After that, however, things improve considerably thanks to the supportive seats, a powerful climate control system and a reasonably quiet cabin. Overall, it's a pretty comfortable truck.
Seat comfort
The front seats are firmly padded and supportive. They provide better long-distance comfort than you'd guess. The seat position is more upright than other trucks, which might make the forward edge of the seat feel more prominent for some people. The rear seat is nicely sculpted and has a comfortable, albeit nonadjustable, backrest angle.
Ride comfort
This Jeep's ride isn't particularly choppy or pitchy, and its basic motions are nicely controlled and shouldn't make passengers feel queasy. But rough or lumpy pavement can make it wiggle and jiggle due to the solid front axle's lack of independence and heavy unsprung mass. It's a Jeep thing.
Noise & vibration
The Gladiator's boxy shape generates wind noise, but less than you might expect. It's also notably quieter inside than a Wrangler because the truck's cabin volume is cozier and less boomy. The Falken Wildpeak off-road rubber is surprisingly quiet, too. This Jeep truck is nowhere near the class-leading Ridgeline, but it beats expectations.
Climate control
The Wrangler-size climate system regulates temperature well in the Gladiator's smaller truck cabin. The controls are very easy and straightforward to use. The air vents are amply sized and easy to direct. This midsize truck is one of two (apart from the Ridgeline) that have rear vents for the back seat.
The Gladiator benefits greatly from logical and intuitive controls and instruments. The classic Jeep driving position works well here, and its superior backseat space is a real advantage compared to rivals. And did we mention it's a convertible? The only downside is it's tall and more difficult to climb into.
Ease of use
Controls are simple and close at hand because of the classic vertical Jeep dash. The instruments are nice, and customization possibilities abound thanks to the programmable accessory switches. The organization and logic are impeccable, and the controls feel comfortable in your hand. Form and function coexist wonderfully here.
Getting in/getting out
The Rubicon stands taller than other Gladiators, and the step in and up lend a real sense of ruggedness. Ample grab handles are provided. The doors open very wide (or can be removed entirely), and the roofline is not even close to being a problem. The doorsills are quite narrow and easy to cross. Bottom line: It's quite tall. But you knew that.
Driving position
The classic upright Jeep driving position is in full effect. You sit tall in the saddle, and the windshield and windshield pillars are close. It's easy to adjust the seat and steering wheel to suit, and the result is a commanding view of the road and the instrumentation. Not car-like at all, but we still like it.
There's ample head- and legroom up front. In back, headroom soars high above. Rear legroom is expansive compared to what you'll find in the Tacoma, Colorado and Ranger. It's on par with the Ridgeline. A Jeep's cabin is narrow by design, however. While it is not confining, the doors can feel a bit close to your outward elbow.
A narrow hood and separate fenders combine with a tall driving position and rear-set windshield to create excellent forward visibility. The side windows are ample and the bed sides are low, so there are good views to the sides and rear, too. The rearview camera can be paired with an optional forward-looking one meant for crawling off-road.
Like the newest Wrangler on which it is based, the Gladiator comes across as well-built, particularly on the inside when you look at the details. The plastics and materials are better than what you'd see in a Tacoma, Ranger or Colorado, but they do lag behind the Ridgeline's.
Convertible top
It's not a case of no other pickup does it better; it's more like no other pickup does it at all. The standard soft top flops back easily like a giant folding sunroof, or it can be removed altogether with a supplied toolkit. The optional hardtop roof can be unbolted and removed, or you can leave it on and unclip the Freedom Panel T-tops on a whim.
The Gladiator excels compared to its rivals. It has a strong tow rating (even the Rubicon) and ample payload capacity. Its cargo bed is thoughtfully designed, and the rear seat's volume and folding strategy make it good for cargo and child seats alike. Its main weak point is a lack of small-item storage nooks for road trips.
Small-item storage
Small-item storage isn't a Gladiator strong point. The glovebox and center console are on the small size. We found that the front cupholders end up gathering items other than cups, and the little dashtop tray gets used a lot. The door map pockets are nets because these doors are meant to come off.
Cargo space
The rear cab storage is abundant, and the seat-folding strategy is clever. The bottoms flip straight up, revealing low bins that are key-lockable if you're running with the top off. The seatbacks also fold down flat to create a fairly low platform, and there's a small shelf behind the seatback. You can lock the seat to deter unauthorized access when the top is off.
Child safety seat accommodation
The lower LATCH anchors are easy to attach safety seat buckles to, and top-tether access is fairly obvious. Compared to other midsize trucks, the Gladiator's extra rear cabin volume and legroom mean more types of car seats will fit, but you still might need to scoot a front seat up for bulkier ones. The doors open wide, but kids may need a boost up.
The Gladiator has the highest gasoline tow rating in the class: at maximum, 7,650 pounds when properly equipped. Even the Rubicon is good for 7,000 pounds. Hitch and trailer sockets are nicely integrated, and it is pre-wired to support an electric trailer brake controllers. The blind-spot monitoring system has trailer coverage, too. But the mirrors are set close to the narrow body - you may need accessory mirror extensions.
The accommodating bed has four large standard tie-downs. The load floor is lower than most, and the bed sides are low enough to allow easy access. Factory options include a system of movable tie-down cleats and a 115-volt power outlet. The damped tailgate is tied into the central locking system. It also has a clever half-open setting that aligns with the fender tops to support a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood or sheetrock. The marquee payload of 1,600 pounds applies to the manual-transmission Sport model with optional wide-track axles. Our Rubicon automatic was good for 1,160 pounds.
The infotainment setup gives the Gladiator a leg up against its competition because it is attractive, straightforward and capable. The automated emergency braking and adaptive cruise control option not only works well, but it's also compatible with accessories that off-roaders want to add.
Audio & navigation
The sound quality is crisp in the Gladiator's smaller cabin. The optional 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen navigation-audio system offers sharp graphics and a quick response. It's all easy to control with a logical mixture of fixed buttons, knobs and touchscreen controls. The built-in navigation map includes off-highway trail info.
Smartphone integration
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow full integration of your smartphone without having to pair it to Bluetooth, but Bluetooth audio and phone support are still present. There are four data-level USB ports (two front, two rear) and three USB-C ports. We found it all to be seamless and dependable to operate.
Driver aids
The optional automated emergency braking and adaptive cruise control systems work well and have easy-to-use controls.. Their related sensors are windshield-mounted so they don't interfere with the addition of bumper and winch accessories. Blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alerts are handy, but lane keeping assistance is absent because the recirculating-ball steering cannot support it.
Voice control
Pushing the voice button on the steering wheel gets you the standard voice interface, and it works decently and can understand most commands. But we found ourselves pressing through to reach Siri on our paired iPhone because that works directly with the phone and its data connection.

Our experts' favorite Gladiator safety features:
Collision Warning Plus
Alerts the driver about an imminent forward collision. Can apply the brakes automatically if the driver doesn't react in time.
Blind-Spot Monitor w/Cross-Traffic Alert
Warns the driver of other cars in the blind spot and approaching cars from out of the driver's view while in reverse.
Rear Parking Sensors
Gives audio alerts when approaching objects from the rear, helping to minimize low-speed bumps in parking scenarios.