Is the 2020 Jeep Gladiator the Defender replacement we need?
Jeep has returned to the dual-cab market in a large way, in what is good news if you ever wanted a 4X4 that looks like a Wrangler backed into a ute tray. However, don’t write it off yet, hiding way inside the huge body is some impressive off-road kit. The Russell Crowe-inspired Jeep is claimed to be “the most capable midsize truck ever” and while we won’t reciprocate Jeep’s own claim, if what’s on paper is as good in person it’ll certainly ruffle some feathers.
The Gladiator arrives on the market with familiarity; from front on, you’re staring at a Wrangler – it’s what’s been attached to the back of it that’s noteworthy. The pure size of the Gladiator stands out on its own, 787mm longer than the biggest Wrangler, with a 3500mm wheelbase accommodating a 1500mm tray bed, the Gladiator will provide an alternative option for the massive dual-cab market in Australia. In traditional Jeep fashion, the windscreen and doors can be an optional extra to help enhance your driving experience, along with roof options covering both soft and hardtop.
We won’t really know anything about the Gladiator’s off-road credentials until we get to drive one ourselves, but judging the vehicle purely on information provided, it seems extremely impressive. There are heavy-duty third generation Dana 44 front and rear axles across the range, with the Sport and Overland models getting the Command-Trac 4WD system. This has a two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range ratio and a 3.73 rear axle ratio.
The range-topping Rubicon however gets a few more bells and whistles. With Jeep’s more advanced Rock-Trac 4X4 system, it still has third-generation Dana 44 axles front and rear but with a 4LO ratio of 4:1, the Gladiator Rubicon gets locking Tru-Lok diffs with 4.10 front and rear axle ratio. That isn’t all with the Rubicon also getting an electronic sway bar disconnect to provide greater flex and travel. In the six-speed manual it will have a crawl ratio of 84.2:1 and in the eight-speed automatic option, 77.2:1. Furthermore, Jeep says it will have plenty of skid plates, and recovery points to aid the 282mm of ground clearance out bush, and thankfully no plastic bumpers to ruin this capability with the Rubicon getting front and rear steel bars compatible with a winch up front.
STATS YOU WANT TO KNOW
Jeep announced there are two power plants that you will be able to chose from to push your Gladiator along: the standard 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol with 213kW and 352Nm of torque, or you can opt for the 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6 with 194kW but 599Nm of torque; unfortunately the diesel option can only be paired with the eight-speed automatic. However, as Australian car enthusiasts we know all too well that we normally miss out on what the Americans get, so fingers crossed the V6 doesn’t get replaced by the time it gets here. Despite the fearsome name, the Gladiator only has a maximum payload capacity of 725kg but can tow up to 3470kg.
With Land Rover leaking images of a softer Defender replacement, the Gladiator could be what traditional Land Rover owners look to as well as many other 4WD owners. With the distinctive styling and claimed capability, the Gladiator could shake up the dual-cab market. We look forward to putting the claims to the test.