The 2020 Jeep Gladiator brings all the right hardware to the mid-size pickup truck fight. It’s even dressed for battle.

Pundits might argue that the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is a Wrangler with a pickup truck bed, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. The Gladiator shares its retro design that borders on kitschy with the Wrangler. What’s underneath to support the Gladiator’s bed makes a difference, however. The Gladiator stretches more than two feet longer than the four-door Wrangler. At 218 inches from bumper to bumper, it’s bigger than any other mid-size truck with a 5-foot bed; measure your garage carefully before driving one home. A Wrangler stretches a comparatively tidy 188 inches long.

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Nineteen inches of that newfound length comes between the Gladiator’s wheels. Not surprisingly, it rides better than the four-door Wrangler, though only those used to renting scooters by the minute will find the Gladiator to be plush. About three inches of that wheelbase stretch is dedicated to rear-seat riders with the rest supplementing the pickup  bed.

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

The Gladiator uses the automaker’s ubiquitous 3.6-liter V-6—Fiat Chrysler must build as many of these as McDonald’s does hamburgers. Here, it’s rated at 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, which is sent power to all four wheels via a part-time four-wheel-drive transfer case and a choice of 6-speed manual and 8-speed automatic transmissions. The V-6 is tasked with lugging around at least 4,700 pounds of Gladiator. Opt for the Rubicon with a hard top, fill the gas tank, and invite along a few buddies, and you’ll close in on 6,000 pounds.

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The V-6 is up to the task with the manual but better with the automatic. The torque peak  comes at 4,400 rpm and horsepower peaks just off the 6,600 rpm redline, so the V-6 needs a lot of revving. The automatic makes good use of its eight cogs, especially off-road.

On pavement, the Gladiator’s light steering requires more correction at highway speeds than most other vehicles and its blocky profile is susceptible to crosswinds. It’s not as nimble around town as its Wrangler sibling, but other mid-size pickup trucks aren’t much different.

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2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

Off-road, the Gladiator comes into its own. It should, after all. The Gladiator’s suspension is a hybrid of Wrangler Rubicon and Ram 1500. The Dana 44 front and rear axles come from the Rubicon, while the rear suspension uses control arms and a track bar donated by the bigger Ram.

Solid axles make for predictable suspension articulation. When one wheel is pushed up into the fender by a hump, the other drops down, even into a rut, to scrabble for traction. Independent front suspensions like those in other pickup trucks don’t have the same capability, but they don’t suffer the same ride quality penalty on the road, either.

Base Sport and Overland trims have a part-time two-speed transfer case and open differentials. A limited-slip rear differential is optional and worthwhile for slippery roads, especially since the automatic four-wheel drive that’s optional on the Wrangler doesn’t make an appearance on the Gladiator.

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

The Gladiator Rubicon is a quantum leap ahead of the Sport and Overland in terms of serious four-wheeling capability. Buttons on its dashboard control its locking front and rear differentials and unlatch its sway bars for even more wheel articulation. The standard 33-inch off-road tires squash into upsized fenders that can handle the aftermarket 35-inch tires many owners will likely make their first modification. The spare tire well—under the bed and between the frame rails—can swallow a 35-inch tire, too.

The downsides to the Gladiator’s length are its breakover angle, which at about 20 inches in Rubicon guise means some obstacles will require more patience, and its ability to pick through tight trails. The Gladiator will be too long to wind through some narrow, winding trails.

On the other hand, the bed increases utility. With an optional tow package, the Gladiator is rated to tow as much as 7,650 pounds. Most configurations are rated between 4,000 and 7,000 pounds, though, so shop carefully.

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

Comfort and convenience, kind of

The Gladiator is a formidable four-wheeler and trailer tugger, but it’s not very comfortable compared to its rivals. Its interior isn’t actually as narrow as it feels, which comes as a surprise. Front-seat passengers have limited leg room and their shoulders may brush against the door panels. Rear-seat riders have stretch-out leg room and a reasonably comfortable bench that can fold up to reveal storage bins. Interior materials range from chintzy to durable. A loaded Gladiator Rubicon is far from impressive given the $60,000-plus price it can command.

The best thing owners can do to liven the mood in the Gladiator’s cabin is to pull off its doors and roof. The open-air feel enhances spaciousness by a factor of one galaxy and no doors means less hard plastic. Snark aside, a topless Gladiator is charming and will be worth the price of admission for many buyers.

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

Like the Wrangler, the windshield folds forward after a few bolts are removed for low-speed driving. Doing so disables the optional automatic emergency braking system, which is of little use off-road anyway.

A base Gladiator Sport costs about $35,000 and has roll-up windows, manual door locks, and a basic 5.0-inch display for the AM/FM/Bluetooth radio. Spending more buys more, such as 7.0- and 8.0-inch touchscreens for infotainment, heated seats, power windows, and leather upholstery.

The standard cloth top is insulated but doesn’t muffle road roar as well as the optional composite, three-piece hard top.

Stick with a Gladiator Sport and select popular options and you’ll be on the hook for around $45,000. A nicely optioned Gladiator Rubicon costs around $53,000. Those prices may raise eyebrows, but they’re only around $2,000 more than an equivalent Wrangler.

The Wrangler, capable as it is, doesn’t pack an arsenal as extensive as that on the Jeep Gladiator.

Jeep provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

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