The Jeep Gladiator has been around for a few years now, offering consumers an alternative to more traditional pickup truck offerings.
Yes, you read that right. A Jeep pickup truck.
The Jeep Wrangler upon which this model is based has a long history in North America, and a very loyal following. There is good reason for that, especially for those who use the rugged vehicle to the very best of its off-road abilities.
The Gladiator adds a bit more utility to the mix with a five-foot bed in the back, although the side walls are pretty short so the bed itself is not very tall, which does limit some of its functionality.
There are seven trims for the Gladiator, which has a base price of $50,045. We recently drove the Willys trim, which is about mid-range on the model, and it was priced at $68,860 with a long list of extra options added on.
That includes several pricey packages like the Customer Preferred Package ($3,295) which adds items such as 17-inch Black aluminum wheels, 4-wheel drive decal, black grille, body-coloured 2-piece fender flares, remote start system, deep-tint sunscreen windows, front and rear heavy duty shock absorbers, power, heated exterior mirrors, power tailgate lock, a Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential and some Willys decals.
Other additions include $395 for the interestingly named Snazzberry Pearl paint, the technology group ($845), trailer tow package ($525), LED headlamp and foglamps ($995), cold weather group ($700), safety group ($995), a Mopar hardtop headliner ($725), Mopar soft tri–fold tonneau cover ($795), black freedom Top 3–piece modular hardtop ($1,695), a Mopar cold air intake system ($675), portable wireless Bluetooth speaker ($395) and a Mopar spray-in bedliner ($650).
That’s a lot of options to consider when ordering one of these vehicles.
Powertrain: The base engine on the Gladiator is a very competent 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine. It delivers 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and can be configured to move the power to two of four wheels as needed. Do not expect rapid acceleration on the Gladiator, as it can feel somewhat sluggish, but that is really only an issue in urban driving. Off the beaten path is where this powertrain shines.
The standard transmission on the model is a 6-speed manual, however the tester was equipped with the optional 8-speed automatic for an extra $1,995.
For the diesel fans out there, the Gladiator does also have an optional 3.0L EcoDiesel engine available.
The V6 has an estimated combined fuel economy rating of 12.3 litres per 100 kilometres, but with a lot of city driving during my time with it, I averaged only 15.2 L/100 km.
The Gladiator, with the automatic transmission and tow package, has a maximum payload of 1,535 pounds, and a towing capability of up to 7,650 pounds.
Exterior: From the outside, the Gladiator has distinctive Jeep cues that give away its lineage. The front grille, an iconic look, is front and centre, as is the boxy shape of the body. The large tires on the 17-inch wheels leave little doubt this vehicle can handle anything it its path, and the deep red colour on the tester was enjoyable.
But there is just something about the addition of the bed that makes the Gladiator look a little odd, at least in my book.
With the tonneau cover on and because of how shallow the bed is, you are also limited to hauling fairly small items, height wise, if you wish to keep them out of view or protected from the elements.
On a beautiful sunny day, that isn’t an issue, of course. And removing the roof panels on the Gladiator is a pretty simple process that allows you to enjoy the open air while driving around.
Interior: On the inside, there continue to be many similarities with the Wrangler.
And that means you get a utilitarian and fairly straightforward cabin, with just the right amount of creature comforts.
The seats are cloth, which might be an issue if you are off-roading and tend to be a little messy, but are otherwise fine. The high seating position gives good lines of sight in all directions.
The dashboard layout is simple and affective, with large buttons, shifts and knobs for all the main functionalities. The power window controls are all houses in the centre stack as well, which took me a few days to get used to.
There’s an abundance of hard plastics in the cabin, but I do not see that as being an issue for the type of consumer looking to get into a Gladiator.
The Cold Weather group added to the tester means you get a heated steering wheel and front seats.
Second row seating is reasonable, with good legroom for those back there. Rear occupants also have their own air vents, and there’s some hidden storage under the bottom cushions if needed.
Infotainment: I have always enjoyed the Uconnect setup from the Stellantis family, and the Gladiator is no exception.
The tester had an upgraded Uconnect 4C NAV and Surround Group package added on ($1,695), which brings with it an Alpine premium audio system, satellite radio, an 8.4-inch display, off-road information pages and a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet.
On top of that outlet, you have USB A and C ports, as well as a 12-volt outlet, so no shortage of ways to keep all your devices powered up.
The system has a good interface and fast response time, making it easy to understand and operate.
Drive: There’s no denying that the Gladiator is a bit of a rough drive, especially in the city. And with the large off-road wheels, it can also be kind of noisy in the cabin.
But you would hope that the people who are buying this vehicle fully intend to take it where it belongs, and that is not really in an urban environment.
Off-road, those tires become a blessing, and the roughness becomes irrelevant as you climb over rocks or other debris with ease in the Gladiator.
The 4×4 system can be set manually using a lever next to the gear selector to best suit your driving situation.
Conclusion: Jeep aficionados will fawn over the Gladiator as it takes the legendary Wrangler up a notch in terms of versatility thanks to the truck bed and available towing capacity.
It does appear to be resonating with a certain segment of the consumer base as I continue to see more of these models around.
The look never quite resonated with me, however.
2022 Jeep Gladiator Willys 4X4
Price as tested: $68,860.00
Configuration: Front engine/All-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.6-litre V6/ 8-speed automatic
Power/torque: 285 horsepower/ 260 lb-ft of torque
Fuel (capacity): Regular (100 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 12.3 L/100 km
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 15.2 L/100 km
Warranties: 5-years/100,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Chevy Colorado, Ford Ranger, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma