Initial Impressions of the Jeep Gladiator – Truck Enough?

If you follow 4WAAM on social media you already know I purchased a Jeep Gladiator. Colloquially known as the JT the plan with the all-new Gladiator is to see if it is truck enough, and also to see if it’s still Jeep enough.

Let’s compare Gladiator models for a moment.

The JT isn’t as varied as the JL. There aren’t as many special editions and there are four distinct models to choose from. At the entry point is the Sport, stripped of most comfort and luxury the Sport edition is the quintessential Jeep. The Sport S adds a few more bits and baubles standard. For that extra 3K, you get aluminum wheels, keyless entry, security alarm, Duty Plus suspension, and power locks. The other difference is the options available on the Sport S. You can add just about any option to the S whereas the base Sport is very limited.

Next up in the hierarchy is the Overland edition. Tack another 4K onto the price tag and the Overland gets you a few luxury and performance options. The Overland gets a 220 Amp alternator as standard, Overland specific cloth bucket seats, LED interior lighting, 7.0-inch display, more USB inputs, and distinctive Overland styling touches. The JL equivalent would be the Sahara model. The Overland model also has the lowest tow capacity of the option groups at only 6000 pounds.

On top of the range of options is the mighty Rubicon. Distinctive Rubicon styling, 4:1 transfer case, lockers, 4.10 gear ratio, aggressive AT tires, higher fender flares and everything else you expect a Rubicon model to have. It is the king of the hill. It isn’t the king of tow capacity. The extra weight of all of those off-road specific parts lowers the maximum tow rating to 7000 pounds.

So what version did we choose?

I ended up buying a Sport S but with a twist. The S and base sport are available with the Max Tow package. This $1095 option takes the Gladiator to 7650 pounds of towing capacity and might be the ultimate off-road version besides the Rubicon. Let’s look at what that checkbox adds.

  • 240-Amp Alternator
  • 245/75R17 All-Terrain Tires
  • 4.10 Axle Ratio (Factory 4.10 in a non-Rubicon!)
  • Class IV Receiver Hitch
  • Heavy-Duty Dana 44 Wide Front Axle (These appear to be Rubicon axles without lockers.)
  • Heavy-Duty Dana 44 Wide Rear Axle (These appear to be Rubicon axles without lockers.)
  • Daytime Running Lamp System
  • Heavy-Duty Engine Cooling
  • Trailer Hitch Zoom (Handy little camera to line up solo.)

The option package isn’t perfect. What is readily apparent is the requirement to upgrade to the automatic transmission. If you didn’t want the automatic that’s $2000 you weren’t going to spend. If an auto was already on your list of must-haves, this isn’t a big deal.

We added a few other options. The 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple Play, heated seats, steering wheel, and autostart for the colder weather. If I have to have an automatic I might as well be pampered a little. Since the purchase, I have added a spray-in bed liner, the bed rail cargo management rails, and Weathertech floor mats. You can get all of that as options but the one I wanted didn’t have it.

What’s it like so far?

If you were blindfolded when you get in the cab you wouldn’t know you weren’t in a Wrangler. The switchgear, the ergonomics, and the look and feel are all straight out of the JL. Not surprising given how much of the JT is taken directly from the Wrangler.

Considering the supposedly ancient suspension technology of solid axles and track bars the Gladiator rides quite smoothly. Handling is typical for a Jeep. It wanders in the wind, road crowns, and requires little steering inputs to keep in line. I theorize that some of this is the new electric steering pump. Like automatic transmissions and drive-by-wire, it either overapplies or underapplies assistance.

In truth, there are very few shortcomings. The bed could be bigger, not the point of a mid-size truck and fuel economy could be higher. The running gear, the towing capacity, and the cargo-hauling are all top of the category. Not too mention the overall off-road capability is unparalleled.

What do you think of the Gladiator?

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