Jeep Gladiator Finally Debuts at LA Auto Show

By Justin Banner

 

Jeep is calling it “the most capable midsize truck ever” in their releases, but how does the new Gladiator stack up? We take a look at its spec sheets and compare it to the Wrangler JL.

This not only marks the first time in 26 years that Jeep has had a pickup truck but also the newest vehicle in their line with new Head of Brand, Tim Kuniskis. With Mike Manley taking over after the passing of Sergio Marchionne, Kuniskis has a lot to live up to.

At the debut of the Gladiator, Kuniskis was passionate and enthusiastic, picking right up where Manley left off, so it looks like Jeep is in the right hands so far. Just like Kuniskis, the Gladiator has a lot to live up to, as well.

Differences

Gladiator Frame

The 2019 Gladiator, with the chassis designation of JT, will be built on the same line as the JL Wrangler. However, while it’s built on that line and shares a few components with the JL, the frame is unique to the JT. The biggest difference, and one we’ll have to work with, is the rear spring buckets. Rather than having a straight frame rail past the rear doors, the bucket juts the rear frame out towards the tires.

From what we were able to guesstimate based on our hands, it’s a little wider than three or four inches (we didn’t bring a tape measurer, sorry) between the frame and the stock Gladiator tire. It’s built much like a standard pickup truck frame, too, with one additional cross member and a spare tire mount under the body. So, no, there won’t be a spare tire mount on the body like the JL.

The frame is also longer than a JL four-door, with to total frame length (bumper mount to bumper mount) of the Wrangler Unlimited being 14.40-feet long and the JT being 17.08-feet long. However, the frame is nearly the same from the center body mount forward and looks to be about the same width. Though, rearward of that mount is unique to the JT.

The frame differences also equate to a better towing capacity than the JL. At 7,650-pounds max towing and 1,600-pounds max payload, it can pull 4,150-pounds more than the JL and carry between 600- to 708-pounds more in the bed than the Wrangler.

It will also be the first Jeep to carry an aftermarket brand of shocks on the Rubicon model. Fox Shocks has stepped up to provide Jeep with their aluminum monotube shocks with a hydraulic rebound stop. The JL Rubicon does have a similar technology, but the Gladiator has a proven aftermarket brand to back up its capabilities. If you’re unfamiliar, the hydraulic rebound stop helps prevent damage to the shock piston by helping prevent it from overextending in droop (rebound) while also dampening that last bit of travel before going to full droop. Think of it as a hydraulic version of a limit strap.

The body is very close in how the four-door is designed when a JK is converted by American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) to the Brute. The rear roll bar falls straight down to make the C-pillar and the body follows straight with it. The bed is separate from the body, like a traditional pickup truck. The rear bumper is different from the JL as the bed extends past the rear fenders by about two feet. The gas filler is also different – it’s closer to the driver’s rear door and is a door mounted flush with the bed quarter panel.

Similarities

Gladiator Front End

From the rear doors forward, it looks exactly like a JL Wrangler. The hood, grille, front fenders, and all appear to be swappable between the JT and JL. The rear fenders are different, however, with the rear following further down the rear tire as the rear bumper is no longer there. That being said, the rear tail lights look identical to the JL as, much like the grille, is a part of its design heritage. Seven slat grille, round headlights, and square tail lights are the defining features of a Jeep based off the Wrangler.

The interior is also similar, right down to the dashboard and Apple and Android phone interface options. The Rubicon front bumpers will also feature removeable end caps for increased front tire boulder clearance. They will also get a set of rock sliders to protect the rocker panel from the factory floor and the vented hood. The Sport and Overland Gladiators will get a regular JL-style front bumper and step-bars instead.

The most important and defining feature of all Wrangler based Jeeps, however, is the “freedom” of open-air driving. The Gladiator is no exception and will feature a fold-down windshield with an aluminum frame, removable doors, and either a removable cloth top or a three-piece hardtop. Finally, just like the Wrangler, Mopar is offering accessories for JT owners to take advantage of before they drive it of the showroom floor.

Technology

Gladiator Dash

The JT continues Jeep’s trend to make the Wrangler/Gladiator capable but also technologically superior, too. You’ll get the swaybar disconnect feature, but also front and rear locking differentials, just like on the JL. The Gladiator Rubicon ups the tech package with a forward-facing off-road camera located in the middle slot of the grille. You can then view hard to see obstacles in the off-road pages of the touch screen.

Behind the folding rear seats – yes, the rear seats can fold forward for additional cargo room and the seat bottoms fold up for a lockable cargo area – is a Bluetooth speaker that you can carry around and connect to your phone while outside of your JT. There is also a 115-volt AC outlet in the cargo area that can be turned on or off from the driver’s seat.

Crawling and Gears

Gladiator Rubicon Dana 44

The JT also continues the off-road capability of the JL. For the Sport and Overland models of the Gladiator, you’ll get the NV241 Command-Trac transfer case. It features a 2.72:1 low range while the axles will feature either a 3.73:1 ratio or a 4.10:1 ratio with the Sport Max Tow Package. The Gladiator Rubicon will feature the NV241OR Rock-Trac transfer case. It has a 4.0:1 low range with a 4.10:1 axle ratio and a crawl ratio of 84.2:1 on the D478 six-speed manual and 77.2:1 with the 850RE eight-speed automatic.

Gladiator Rubicon axles are third-generation Dana 44s and will feature Tru-Lock electronically locking differential front and rear while the rear electronic locker will be optional on Sport and Overland (their front diff will remain an open version of the Dana 44).


Rubicons will also receive LT285/70R17 Falken Wildpeak A/T3W tires standard or Falken Wildpeak M/T tires in the same size to give it a 32.8-inch diameter tire (rounding up is why Jeep can say it has a 33-inch tire stock). That will give it a 43.4-degree approach, 20.3-degree breakover, and 26-degree departure angles with a ground clearance of 11.1-inches. The Sport will have Bridgestone Dueler HT 685 or Dueler AT RH-S LT245/75R17 (31.5-inches diameter) tires standard while the Overland will have Bridgestone Dueler HT 685 255/70R18 (32.9-inches diameter) tires standard. Despite the tire differences, both Sport and Overland will have a 40.8-degree approach, 18.4-degree breakover, and 25-degree departure angles with 10-inches of ground clearance.

Power

Gladiator Engine

To start, the Gladiator will only have the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. It’s the same V6 found in the Wrangler JL. It’s a 60-degree deep-skirt aluminum V-block with a bore of 3.78-inches and stroke of 3.27-inches for a displacement of 220-cu. In. Its aluminum heads house the dual overhead cams that are driven by a chain drive. The cam lobes move a set of rockers with roller followers that move on a set of hydraulically adjusted pivots. It also features variable valve timing. At 11.3:1 compression and 87-octane, it pumps out 285-horsepower and 260-lb/ft of torque at the crankshaft.

In 2020, Gladiators will be able to offer the EcoDiesel 3.0-liter V6. It’s also a 60-degree V-block but is made of compacted graphite iron (CGI). Using CGI allows it to be nearly as strong as cast iron without the weight and was first used as the material for brake discs in high-speed rail trains. It has a bore of 3.27-inches and stroke of 3.60-inches for a total capacity of 182-cu.in. at 16.5:1 and a Garrett 2056 variable geometry turbo, it puts out 260-horsepower and 442-lb/ft of torque.

Our Thoughts

With a heritage stretching back to 1947 with the original Jeep Pickup, the Jeep Gladiator has a lot to live up to. On paper, it looks to achieve that and then some. With much of it sharing parts with the JL, it will be a very quick truck to get aftermarket adaptation and we’ll be sure to bring you all the parts as they become available for the new Jeep Truck. We’re certainly looking forward to getting our hands on one to test out.