The Jeep brand has long among the best SUVs, ranking highly in utility and sales. Jeep Wrangler has always been an outlier, though, never a soccer-mom’s ride or grocery-cart, to be sure, which limited its “utility” for certain groups. Still, in not changing Jeep Wrangler much over the years, it’s growing on people, and is consistently one of the market’s most wanted vehicles. With the introduction of Jeep Gladiator, the first Jeep pickup truck in a quarter-century, garner the same desire?
Fiat Chrysler America (FCA) certainly thinks so, finally releasing the midsize pickup it’s teased us with since at lease 2005, notwithstanding stopping production of its last pickup in 1992. Jeep pickups had a long history, dating from the post-WWII 1947 Willys-Overland. Blast forward through the FC Series, Gladiator, Commando, Scrambler, and 1992 saw the last production of the Jeep Comanche. Jeep Wrangler has a certain feel to it that pickup trucks have been missing for a long time, and that’s that appeal that Jeep Gladiator brings to the mid-size pickup truck table.
Looking at the mid-size pickup trucks on the market today – over half a million were sold last year – admittedly a hard market to break into. Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado, Nissan Frontier, and Honda Ridgeline have a solid following, and research suggests that Jeep loses a tenth of its buyers to these very trucks. Jeep owners looking for more cargo space or towing capacity have had nowhere else to turn until now. Jeep Gladiator will do everything a mid-size pickup should do. The standard V6 engine puts out 285 horsepower and the rig is rated to tow 7,650 pounds. It even comes standard with a manual transmission. If you need to haul, the bed is rated for 1,600 pounds. Of course, because it’s a Jeep, it’s got the off-road pedigree – it talks the talk and at least one or two trims will certainly walk the walk.
The “big deal” is all these trucks are practically the same under the sheet metal. They’re all falling into the same pattern and, with not much to differentiate them, Jeep Gladiator stands out even more. Based closely on Jeep Wrangler’s lines and style, Jeep Gladiator looks exactly like nothing else in any American parking lot.
Who wants a Jeep pickup truck is the big question, and there seems to be a wide swath of people who would easily slide behind the wheel. Primarily, FCA is hoping to get back those 10% who switch out of Jeep into some mid-size pickup truck, those who were driving Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, maybe Commander, and most certainly Wrangler. With its unique appearance and off-road cred, Jeep Gladiator might even draw off a few die-hard Tacoma and Colorado fans. Did we mention, true to Wrangler styling, the doors come off and the windshield folds flat?