- Front and rear selectable locking differentials
- Lever-shifted transfer case
- Removable top on a pickup truck
- Honest-to-goodness rocker protection
- Road noise
- Cramped passenger quarters
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 4×4 New Features
You wanted the Jeep Rubicon Gladiator, and now it’s here. We were told by FCA that the “Gladiator is 100 percent Jeep and 100 percent truck,” and it’s the first truck we’ve seen from Jeep since the last Comanche rolled off the line in 1992. Our Rubicon-badged Gladiator came with the familiar 3.6L V-6 and the 850RE eight-speed automatic transmission that we’ve come to know in the JL Wrangler. With a first gear ratio of 4.71:1, the standard NV241OR 4.0:1 Rock-Trac transfer case reduction ratio, and 4.10:1 gears in both Dana 44s, the Gladiator reigned supreme amongst our trucks with a 77.2:1 crawl ratio. Compared to its relative, the JL Unlimited, the Gladiator gained 18.9 inches in wheelbase and 31 inches in the frame, as well as sporting a greater distance between the A-pillar and front axle to keep the articulating axle out of the oil pan. Higher payload and towing ratings come from wide-track, third-gen Advantek-based Dana 44 axles, the rear tubes featuring a beefier 10mm ring-and-pinion axletubes, and 5 percent larger brakes. The Gladiator’s rear suspension borrows from the Ram with a five-link design, the shocks are angled forward for better load control, and dual-rate coils can be found in place of the JL’s linear-rate springs.
Jeep Gladiator Suspension Travel
Like we’ve been trained to do on anything with a Rubicon badge, we pushed the button to disconnect the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon’s sway bar, locked the axles, and crawled the Jeep truck to a winning score of 583 on the ramp.
Gladiator Top Speed
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 4×4, however, was the slowest truck to run down the track, taking 17.2 seconds to complete the quarter mile and breaking 60 mph in 9.5 seconds. With the same front brakes as the JL and 13.6x.86-inch single-piston brakes in the rear, the Gladiator screeched its way to a fifth-place score, going from 60 to nothing in 120 feet.
Jeep Gladiator Exterior and Interior
Standing eye to eye with the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon’s grille, there’s not much to signify that it’s Jeep’s new truck other than the self-cleaning forward-facing off-road camera (which was lauded by the judges). From afar, judges wrote there was no question about it, the Gladiator is undoubtedly a Jeep with its iconic edges, fenders, windshield, and overall rugged design. As far as aesthetics, one judge wrote that the Gladiator’s bed “looks like an open filing cabinet drawer from behind,” and others wished the bed was a bit deeper. However, the more vertically challenged judges noted the lower height made in-bed cargo easily accessible from over the bedsides. We were split on the soft top with some judges applauding the ability to roll back the roof on a truck and others concerned that it “appears flimsy and cheap on the vehicle.”
Inside, the trim was “Jeep’s standard” with a minimally adjustable driver’s seat, a red dash “to match the paint color,” and the revered shift lever for the transfer case. “I still reach for the door panel to roll down the window,” commented a judge, referencing the window controls that still reside on the center stack. We were fans of the forward-facing TrailCam and the rear-facing camera on the 8.4-inch touchscreen as well as the numerous off-road-centric readouts located directly in front of the driver. While not the most luxurious interior of the test, the tools and dials within our reach each served a distinct function, and for that we were grateful.
Comments echoed throughout the week to the tune of “feels like the Wrangler, but a bit rougher,” and, “I can’t wait for the road to turn to dirt.” Judges heard hints of familiar wind buffeting from the truck’s steep windshield angle and a bit of a flap from the soft top but were otherwise impressed with the overall lack of cabin noise, even despite the addition of Falken Wildpeak mud-terrain tires. Adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring all kept judges happy when testing the Gladiator in crowded parking lots and congested freeways, and we were thankful for the backup camera’s dynamic gridlines when we selected R on the gearshift.
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 4×4 Off-Road
Between the rocks and ruts and from the snow to the sand, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon earned every syllable of its Rubicon badging. One judge penned it concisely, “Not my first choice for a road trip, but my only choice for the trails!” The manual transfer case lever received universally positive remarks, as did the steel bumpers, skidplating, and rocker protection. Sand gave judges a chance to explore the Gladiator’s Off-Road Plus feature, which in higher-speed, low-traction applications, increases throttle responsiveness and decreases the threshold for traction control intervention. Read: It allows for more wheel slip at speed, aka “Party Mode in the sand.” With its low-range ratio, 33-inch mud-terrain tires, and armor, the Gladiator owned the rocky trails. During the snowy hillclimb, its pair of locking differentials pulled it to the top in 4-Hi, leaving judges hard-pressed to find any scorning words. With one more live axle than every other truck in the lineup, judges had ample time to examine the Gladiator’s responses to surface irregularities in direct comparison to similar IFS-equipped trucks—and the comments were fascinating. While we saw notes stating, “It’s no whoop-eater,” “I hear some chatter down there,” and “Holy wheel hop!,” judges also explained in their log books how the Fox shocks’ tuning and the suspension geometry combined to give a “better than expected ride” over the rough stuff. One judge remarked, “I’ll take a few bumps, ’cause the Gladiator crawls rocks and can tow three tons!”
Why Did It Win?
Let’s get real, you’re buying the Gladiator because you want to take the doors off your half-ton, fold down the roof, and throw some camp gear into the bed while crawling the Rubicon Trail. You want solid axles, a pair of selectable lockers, and a proven-by-time off-road platform that will tear up trails in its stock trim while being backed by an array of aftermarket upgrades.