We’ve been waiting for a long time to say this: A pickup is finally returning to the Jeep stable after being absent for more than 25 years. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator debuted Wednesday at the 2018 LA Auto Show, and it surprised with class-leading towing and 4×4 payload figures to go with its Jeep-worthy off-road capabilities, Wrangler-inspired looks and healthy helping of tech features.
Compared to the Wrangler Unlimited, the Gladiator’s new frame is stretched 31 inches with a wheelbase that’s 19.4 inches longer. The suspension consists of a lateral and four longitudinal control arms up front shared with the Wrangler, while the rear rides on a five-link coil suspension exclusive to the Jeep pickup for improved on-road ride comfort.
At launch, the Gladiator will be powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 making 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive on all trim levels. An eight-speed automatic is optional. Jeep claims it’ll offer class-leading tow capacity of up to 7,650 pounds and 4×4 payload of up to 1,600 pounds.
Those interested in a little more grunt may want to holdout until the 2020 calendar year when a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel is slated to join the lineup offering 260 horses and a muscular 442 pound-feet of twist. Unlike the gas engine, the diesel will only be offered with an eight-speed automatic.
Being a Jeep, the Gladiator offers all the necessary hardware to tackle off-road expeditions ranging from a pair of 4×4 systems, Dana 44 axles, electric front- and rear-axle lockers, a limited-slip and skid plates. Rubicon models dial things up a notch with 4.10 axles, improved suspension articulation and travel, Fox shocks, electronic disconnecting sway bars, steel rear bumper and protective cab and cargo bed rails and 33-inch tires. The Rubicon can run up to 35-inch rubber with no lift, be equipped with a forward camera capable of showing anything that’s less than two feet in front of the truck and be outfitted with a front, winch-ready steel bumper.
The Gladiator features an approach angle of 43.6 degrees, breakover angle of 20.3 degrees, departure angle of 26 degrees, 11.1 inches of ground clearance and is capable of fording up to 30 inches of water.
From a design standpoint, the Wrangler-design inspiration is clear with the circular headlights, seven-slot grille and square taillights. The Wrangler’s open-air capabilities also make the jump over to the Gladiator with the removable aluminum doors, soft or available hardtops and fold-down windshield.
Out back is a five-foot steel bed featuring integrated tie downs, under-rail bed lighting that’s available with a spray-in bed liner, 115-volt three-prong plug and tonneau cover. The sides of the bed box were left low on purpose for easy reach in to load or unload items. The damped, three-position tailgate in the middle setting matches up with the tops of the rear wheel housing and enables the Gladiator to carry 20 sheets of 4×8 plywood or drywall flat.
Heading inside, the heritage-inspired layout boasts a horizontal dash with trapezoidal end, plenty of storage cubbies, rubberized touch points and real metal plated trim pieces. For a more premium feel, Overland models receive wrapped instrument panels with accent stitching.