New Jeep Gladiator Pickup Truck Revealed at LA Auto Show

It’s finally here! After years of whisperings of a Jeep Wrangler pickup truck being released, FCA is finally doing it by revealing the brand new Jeep Gladiator at the 2018 LA Auto show today. Previously referred to as the “Scrambler,” the 2020 Jeep Gladiator promises to make a big splash in the sizzling, mid-size pickup truck market with it’s classic Jeep Wrangler JL styling, excellent towing and payload ratings, and legendary off-road capabilities.

The Gladiator is the latest iteration in a long line of Jeep trucks that began back in 1947 when Willys Overland introduced a one-ton truck with four-wheel drive based on the CJ-2A. With more than 40 years of rich heritage to draw from, Gladiator is the latest in a long line of Jeep trucks that includes the Jeep Gladiator/J-Series Pickup, which sold from 1963-1987; the Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler, which sold between 1981-1985; and the Jeep Commanche (MJ), available from 1986-1992. Its been 26 years since a pickup truck was last offered by Jeep.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator comes with a number of goodies that would make any Jeep lover and truck owner drool, including third-generation Dana 44 heavy-duty axles with 3.73 front and rear axle ratio standard, Tru-Lock electric front and rear lockers, Trac-Lok limited-slip differential, a segment-exclusive electronic disconncting sway-bar, and 33-inch Falken Wildpeak A/T tires. The mid-size truck also will feature Command-Trac and Rock-Trac 4×4 systems, 30 inches of water fording, 7,650 pounds of towing capability and up to 1,600 pounds of payload, and a suspension tuned to optimize on-road handling and ride comfort without sacrificing off-road capability, payload or towing capability.

As expected, the Gladiator will be offered in a crew cab configuration only and will be the only true “open-air” 4×4 pickup truck with removable soft top and hard tops. The 4×4 truck will feature a durable, 5-foot steel truck bed; lightweight, high-strength aluminum doors, hinges, hood, fenders, windshield frame and tailgate; and dozens of different door, top and windshield combinations to accommodate all kinds of outdoor activities. The truck also comes with a fourth-generation Uconnect system including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the choice of 7- or 8.4-inch touchscreens with pinch and zoom capability, and more than 80 advanced safety and security features.

The Gladiator will utilize FCA’s proven five-link coil suspension configuration with the front suspension using a lateral control arm and four longitudinal control arms. Full-width track bars made of forged steel control lateral movement of the axle with minimal angle change during suspension travel. The springs have been tuned for an optimum balance between on-road handling while providing a comfortable ride around town, with or without cargo in the bed, and legendary off-road capability. Ride comfort, body-roll control, handling, payload and towing capability is significantly enhanced with assistance from shock tuning, hard points and body mount strategy.

Only one powertrain, the Pentastar 3.6L V-6 with Electronic Stop-Start (ESS), will be offered in 2019, mated with either an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. The 3.6L Pentastar V-6 engine delivers 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and features ESS as standard equipment. Known for its power, efficiency and adaptability, the Company has produced more than 8.6 million 3.6L V-6 Pentastar engines since production began in 2010. Truth be told, we have some reservations on Jeep’s choice of engine. It remains to be seen if it can generate enough horsepower to power through steep climbs at or near the truck’s 6,250-pound GVWR .

Jeep plans to offer a 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 with ESS and an eight-speed automatic transmission in 2020. The 3.0L diesel is rated at 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque, with ESS standard. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard and is designed to handle the increased torque output.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator will be available in several trim configurations, including Sport, Sport S, Overland (the luxury version and Sahara equivalent), and Rubicon. On the Gladiator Rubicon, a Rock-Trac 4×4 system features heavy-duty third-generation Dana 44 front and rear axles with a “4LO” ratio of 4:1. A 4.10 front and rear axle ratio is standard as are Tru-Lok locking differentials. With Falken Wildpeak 285/70R17C A/T tires, Gladiator Rubicon models will also offer improved articulation and total suspension travel with help from a segment-exclusive electronic sway-bar disconnect. With the standard six-speed manual transmission, Gladiator Rubicon has an impressive crawl ratio of 84.2:1, and 77.2:1 on Rubicon models equipped with the optional eight-speed automatic transmission—both of which will make scaling any obstacle on the trail easy. A forward-facing off-road camera is also available on all Gladiator Rubicons.

While the Gladiator Rubicon promises to be more than capable off-road, the Gladiator will not be the most capable Jeep. The two-door Wrangler Rubicon retains that lofty designation, because the Gladiator’s wheelbase is a whopping 137.3 inches long, a full 19.4 inches longer than the four-door Wrangler. Fortunately, Jeep addressed the long wheelbase and the mediocre 20.3 degrees breakover angle with beefy rock rails under the doors and rear corners, which should allay any fears of body damage while rock-crawling. Yet, in spite of the truck’s length, the Gladiator still offers some pretty impressive off-road numbers for a pickup truck with an approach angle of 43.6 degrees, a departure angle of 26 degrees, 30 inches of water fording, and a ground clearance of 11.1 inches. Larger aftermarket tires, obviously, will improve upon these numbers even more.

For those interested in hauling a small pop-up camper or truck topper, the Gladiator’s truck bed and payload rating should prove more than adequate for the job. The GVWR of the truck varies by trim with 6,250 pounds for the Rubicon and the Sport with the max tow package and 5,800 pounds for the Sport without the max tow package and the Overland. While the 1,600-pound payload is surprisingly high for a mid-size truck, options, of course, will reduce this rating substantially with the Gladiator Rubicon netting a payload of only 1,160 pounds, so choose your options wisely. Fortunately, the Dana 44 rear axle boasts a GAWR of 3,750 pounds, which should provide a little more capacity with the right wheels and tires. As for the Gladiator’s bed, it measures 5.025 feet long and 4.73 feet wide with a distance of 44.8 inches between the wheel wells. The official Jeep Gladiator specification sheet can be downloaded here.

A quick survey of existing pop-ups reveals several possibilities for the Jeep Gladiator. Potential campers capable of being safely hauled on this mid-size truck include the Four Wheel Camper Swift, Outfitter Caribou Lite, and the AT Overland Summit, though some tweaking of these campers may be needed in order to fit the dimensions of the Gladiator’s diminutive bed and narrow, 50-inch tailgate opening. The truck’s narrow tailgate opening, however, will probably mean new designs for truck camper manufacturers, similar to the old Four Wheel Camper Sparrow.

Built in Toledo, Ohio, the Jeep Gladiator will be available in dealerships in the second quarter of 2019. Pricing for the new mid-size pickup truck is to be determined, but is expected to fall between the $33,000 and $40,000 price range.

About Mello Mike 635 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert, he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 2013 Ram 3500 with a 2021 Bundutec Roadrunner truck camper mounted on top.

5 Comments

  1. As a 2013 Rubicon owner that has done a few trails (by no means an expert) and have been wheeling awhile, I have a few comments about this new offering from Jeep. First off, I like the look (lines) of the new Jeep pickup, configurability and glad to see that a Rubicon model with decent pumpkin gearing and resultant crawl ratios is being offered. The approach angle nearly matches my 2 dr. Rubicon, but the bed hinders it’s departure angle, so without some serious skid plates and lifting, this truck won’t be a serious off road machine when compared to the current Jeeps, but maybe it’s not meant to be.
    Hopefully the soon to be released diesel engine will be a success as I’m skeptical that this pickup, with anywhere near a full load, will perform satisfactorily with the Pentastar V-6. I was hoping that Jeep wouldn’t use the same engine as in my Rubicon as after a 2” lift and 33” tires, the performance and mileage of mine took a dive.
    I’m sure there are folks who will be happy with this truck, but having the experience with my 2 dr. and the just “ok” performance I’ve experienced, I just can’t imagine this truck with a slide-in camper, loaded nearly to GVWR, having any sort of performance left. Maybe Jeep has a new gas engine in the works or plans to up the ante on the diesel power, i.e. twin turbos? I for one would be interested in this truck if, but only for that engine….. my .02.

    • Thanks, John, for your comments on the 3.6L V-6 engine. We have the same reservations. I’m sure the diesel will up the ante when it comes to performance, but the corresponding loss in payload will be problematic. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t when it comes to a small pickup engine. We will have to wait and see. Can’t wait to test drive it.

  2. Any idea what the limiting factors might be on the payload? Tires, wheels? As someone that travels and lives in his vehicle, I am obviously keen not to stay below GVWR!

    • The wheels and tires are almost always the limiting factor when it comes to payload. The GAWR for the rear axle is 3,750 pounds. It would be pretty hard to reach that limit with a tiny pop-up. The wheels and tires would limit you long before you reached that number.

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