By Peter Perrotta
If you are old enough to remember the opening of the old black and white Superman television shows, you will recall that each episode began with someone exclaiming: “Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s Superman!”
The same type of scenario rings true for one of Chrysler’s hottest new entries into the automotive market in many years.
“Look, over there, it’s a Jeep. It’s a pickup truck. No, it’s the Gladiator!”
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland 4X4 – an all new model for the Jeep line – isn’t strictly a Jeep. Neither, is it just another pickup truck.
Instead, this cleverly designed, all purpose vehicle, is actually a little bit of both a traditional Jeep Wrangler and a classic pick up truck. Quite simply, it’s a “’tweener”.
I decided to road test the new Gladiator for one week recently to see what all the fuss was about because this new vehicle has certainly been receiving some rave reviews and awards from the automotive press.
Car and Driver magazine placed it on its prestigious “ Ten Best” list out of all the 2020 models and the Rocky Mountain Auto Press named it the 2020 “Truck of the Year”.
“It’s a convertible pickup wagon dreamed up in the vein of an 83-function Swiss Army knife for the road,” wrote the editors of Car and Driver.
“Unquestionably a truck and instantly recognizable as a Jeep, the all new 2020 Gladiator is the ultimate vehicle for any outdoor adventure,” said Tim Kuniskis, head of the Jeep brand, North America. “There is tremendous demand for this unique vehicle from our loyal Jeep customers and pickup truck buyers everywhere.”
Yes, quite true.
Taken unto themselves, the pickup truck and Jeep segments of the automotive market have been on fire the past few years. As most market research indicates, traditional sedans are struggling for market share while SUVs, crossovers and pickups have taken over the automotive landscape.
So, maybe Chrysler is onto something by combining two of the hottest segments into one neat package.
While I am not totally sold on the idea yet – I am more of a traditionalist – I will say there is an awful lot to like in the new Gladiator model that makes it an extremely versatile on and off-road vehicle with a great utilitarian touch by adding the five-foot pickup bed on the back.
Like a traditional Jeep, the Gladiator doesn’t boast of precision handling or a soft ride, but, quite frankly that’s not where the strengths of this vehicle are.
The strength is obviously in its ruggedness, versatility and extreme off road capabilities.
While I found that driving the Gladiator was comfortable and entertaining enough, where it thrived the most was in the dirt. Once I pulled off the main road and on to the sandy, muddy paths of my South Jersey Pinelands, that is where this vehicle excelled.
The oversized tires and coil spring rear suspension contribute mightily to this vehicle’s off road capabilities.
Alongside the center console shifter was a second shifter that lets you select 2H for rear wheel drive, 4H for four wheel high and 4L for the down and dirty four wheel drive low situations.
The Gladiator chews up sand, rocks and mud with a vengeance. You can throw a ton of stuff in the back pickup bed – a bike, kayak, barbecue grill – on your trip into the great outdoors and still have ample room in the four seat cabin for five full-sized adults and a dog.
Moreover, once you get where you are going, there is a “toy like” novelty to this unique vehicle. So, once out in the woods or down to the beach, you can remove the hardtop and doors in sections and the windshield folds down as well.
For now, the Gladiator is offered in four models – Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon – that all get the same engine, a 3.6 liter, 285 horsepower, six cylinder powerplant. My tester came equipped with the optional 8-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is also available.
Jeep does have future plans to offer up the Gladiator with a turbo diesel engine sometime in the future.
The base price of the Overland Gladiator is $40,395. My tester came equipped with $13,445 in options. When you add in the $1,495 destination charge, the MSRP sticker price came in at $55,335.
Some of the pricier options included are: $2,000 for the 8-speed automatic transmission; $1,495 for an optional equipment package that includes leather seats and leather wrapped brake handle and shift knob; a $995 cold weather package that includes heated front seats and steering wheel and remote start; $995 for a premium lighting package; and $1,195 for a “Black Freedom Package” that comes with a 3-piece removable hard top, rear sliding window and rear window defroster.
The EPA fuel economy ratings for this vehicle are 19 miles per gallon (MPG) overall – with 22 mpg on the highway and 17 in city driving.
The EPA estimates that the average annual fuel cost for this vehicle is $2,150 as it uses about 5.3 gallons of gas per every 100 miles driven.
As far as the government’s 5-star safety ratings, this vehicle has not yet been rated by the government for overall vehicle score, frontal crash, side crash or rollover risk.
It comes standard with a three-year, 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty with a five-year, 60,000 mile limited powertrain coverage.
Overall, I would have to confidently admit, that if you are an active lifestyle individual or family person, this would be an excellent vehicle to give serious consideration to when looking for a vehicle to match your lifestyle.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. Comments and or suggestions are more than welcome. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org