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JEEP GLADIATOR: 100% JEEP, 100% PICKUP

Yeah, it looked cool: the signature Wrangler grille, the square shape of the roof, the big, all-terrain wheels. I quickly jumped in when I had the opportunity—not that I was reviewing the new Jeep Gladiator as a potential fleet truck, but just because I was curious. It bounded over dirt mounds and boulders as I expected. It easily swam through 20-plus inches of water to no one’s surprise. Its 4×4 capabilities were just like that of a Jeep Wrangler, so I wasn’t that impressed. But then I towed with it.

The Wrangler has been the ultimate off-road toy for decades. It’s fun, reliable (my dad uses his ’95 as a daily commuter), easy to maintain, and on top of all that retains its value better than most vehicles. I remember the frenzy when Jeep introduced the four-door Wrangler a few years back, and a similar frenzy is heating up with the brand new Jeep Gladiator.

WHAT IS IT?

The Jeep Gladiator is the brand’s newest addition to its lineup. It’s basically a Wrangler with a truck bed. It’s marketed as a vehicle that “erases boundaries.” In the Gladiator, Jeep wants you to go anywhere, bring anything. It’s available with all the bells and whistles, and even then some.

I TRIED IT

I expected a Wrangler-like interior before I hopped in the driver’s seat, and that’s exactly what I got. The small cab, the small windshield, and the rugged details are all major components of the Wrangler. It handled Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA)’s test track at Chelsea Proving Grounds like a true Jeep Wrangler would. Its size allowed me to maneuver easily. Its Wrangler-height clearance allowed me to bound over obstacles. I had fun leaving Gladiator tracks in the dirt and mud. Needless to say, its off-road capabilities were great.

MWS editor, Jade Brasher, in the cab of a Jeep Gladiator at FCA testing facility in Chelsea, Michigan.

I wasn’t impressed by the Gladiator’s ability to blaze rocky inclines; I expected that. However, when it came to towing, consider me sold. This Jeep/pickup hybrid can tow up to 7,650 lbs. I towed a boat around 7,000 lbs around a track, and I’ve got to say, the Gladiator handled it much better than I expected. After talking to the folks at Jeep, I found out why.

Engineers behind the Gladiator wanted a vehicle that was 100 percent Jeep, 100 percent pickup. They sought advice from their friends at Ram throughout the process, and the result was what I would call a definite success.

TAKEAWAY

I didn’t have much time behind the wheel of a Gladiator, but I did have the time to learn its capability, comfort, and how well it drives. So would I add it to my fleet? The Jeep pickup is definitely a head turner. It’s got the towing capability of a mid-size truck and the ability to get to almost any remote site. It doesn’t have that “work truck” look, but it has a work truck toughness that is desirable from most fleet managers. But it isn’t cheap. The Gladiator starts around $33,000 and goes past $60,000, and considering Jeep’s reputation, it isn’t likely to depreciate quickly. But even all these good features wouldn’t convince me to buy this as a fleet vehicle. You’ll likely find everything you need in another mid-size pickup for a fraction of the price.

MODERN WORKTRUCK SOLUTIONS:
OCTOBER 2019 ISSUE

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JULY 2019

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