The Jeep Wrangler has been on the streets for a while now, so when the Gladiator truck was announced, many folks began to say things like, “oh, the new Jeep Wrangler Truck!” That’s a valid mistake, given that the new Gladiator does quite literally look like a Wrangler in truck form. In fact, when I’m driving down the street, I frequently mistake Gladiators for Wranglers all the time. After all, that front end is almost identical! However, from a Jeep dealership perspective, these are two completely different models.
While both models include several of the same trim levels, the Gladiator includes a few of its own specialty models, such as the Overland. Furthermore, the 2022 Wrangler lineup doesn’t include the Desert-Rated Mojave trim, whereas the Gladiator lineup does. Conversely, the 2022 Wrangler offers Sahara and Sahara Altitude trims, but the Gladiator does not.
In addition to trim differences, both of these vehicles serve different functions. It’s not as simple as gaining or skipping out on a truck bed. The Gladiator is off-road capable, sure, but due to its weight and size, it simply isn’t as off-road savvy as a Wrangler. On the flip side, a Wrangler can’t tow nearly as much, especially if you choose the Rubicon diesel option. Put simply, one model is better for towing and hauling, while the other is best for hardcore off-roading–but both models are capable of both towing and off-roading.
All this aside, both the 2022 Gladiator and Wrangler share one important special edition trim that carries a wide fanbase, and that’s the Willys trim. The Willys trim pays homage to Jeep’s earliest roots, back when civilians had zero access to these four-wheeled machines. Initially, Jeeps, then known as the Willys MB, were made specifically with the military in mind. After years without addressing that name, Jeep finally created the Willys trim in 2020.
The coolest part is that the Willys trim is available in SUV and truck forms alike. Whether you want towing capability or top-notch off-road performance, there’s a Jeep Willys model for you. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the 2022 Jeep Gladiator Willys and the 2022 Jeep Wrangler Willys models.
The Basics: Commonalities and Differences
Let’s start with the simple stuff. Both the Willys Gladiator and Wrangler seat up to 5 passengers (when you choose the 4-door Wrangler Unlimited) and have almost identical passenger space. There’s more interior cargo space with the Wrangler Unlimited (over 70 cubic feet), but that’s not a major issue since drivers gain a five-foot bed with the Gladiator.
Engine availability will vary between the Gladiator and the Wrangler as well. The Gladiator includes two different engine options: a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 gas engine and a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine. The Wrangler has the same two options, but also adds a mild-hybrid eTorque system for the Pentastar and a 2.0-liter turbocharged gas engine. Either way, the diesel engine will get you the best fuel economy, but the smaller Wrangler offers slightly better all-around fuel economy ratings than the Gladiator does.
You already know that the Gladiator is the better tower, but let’s take a closer look at what that means. How much can the Gladiator’s 7,650 pounds tow versus the Wrangler’s 3,500 pounds? It’s essentially the difference between pulling a fishing boat and only pulling a jet ski or two.
The average weight of a fishing boat and motor is around 3,000 pounds (before figuring the weight of the trailer), and we all know that pushing the max tow capacity can be risky for several reasons. Depending on what gear you’ve got loaded on your boat, how full your tackle boxes are, and what size engine you have, your boat may weigh more than you think it does.
I’m sure you’ve seen those Wrangler drivers who have taken that risk before. Their rear end is tilting down, and their transmission is paying for their ambition. The unfortunate truth is that while Wranglers can tow, it’s best to keep it to small trailers loaded with lawnmowers, furniture, or ATVs.
The good news is that the Gladiator can handle much more weight, making it ideal for weekend camping or fishing trips. You get more towing capacity along with the Wrangler aesthetic that you love, making the Willys Gladiator a perfect happy medium.
Let’s just be honest here–the new Ford Bronco was designed to compete directly with the Wrangler, and even it has trouble keeping up with it when it comes to off-roading power. While the Gladiator does well off-pavement, it does fall short of the Wrangler.
The Gladiator can push through up to 30 inches of water, has an 11.1-inch ground clearance rating, and boasts impressive departure and approach angles. Overall, the downside is that the Gladiator is just too heavy to keep up with the Wrangler. When it comes to ice, mud, and climbing, the Wrangler’s lightweight design makes it more off-road capable than the Gladiator. Even the four-door Wrangler Unlimited is more maneuverable than the Gladiator.
Another major perk that the 2022 Willys Wrangler, in particular, has over the Gladiator is the new Xtreme Recon Package. This new package was previously only available on the Rubicon, but Jeep announced its presence for the Willys trim this year. The Xtreme Recon Package makes the Wrangler even more off-road capable with 35-inch tires, a 1.5-inch factory life, upgraded shocks, and much more. The Willys Wrangler can ford through over 33 inches of water and offers the best approach, departure, and breakover angles in the Jeep lineup.
That said, it’s important to keep in mind that the Gladiator is still far more off-road capable than your average truck, and it handles great off-pavement. Every trim comes with Jeep’s Trail Rated or Desert Rated badges, and many Jeep fans take their Gladiator on the trails just fine. But between the two, the Wrangler wins.
Benefits of the Willys Trim
The good news here is that no matter which one you choose–the Gladiator or the Wrangler–the Willys package adds to your off-roading game. Both models include full underbody skid plates, large, 32-inch mud tires, and rock rails to repel gravel and debris on the trail. The Willys decals paired with the black accents (such as a black grille facing, black wheels, and a rear “4-Wheel Drive” sticker) make this model stand out from its siblings. Willys models also include better shocks for off-roading, bright, LED headlights, and are the closest thing you can get to the Rubicon trim without dropping additional cash.
How to Pick Between the Two
Both of these Jeep models have a lot to offer for fans of the special edition Willys trim. While you can always try to buy both models, most of us, unfortunately, don’t have that in our budget. So, how do you choose between the Willys Wrangler and Willys Gladiator? The answer is to look at your lifestyle. And no, I don’t mean whether you’re keto or gluten-free. You have to consider usability here.
Look at which model will benefit you the most. If you don’t do any heavy lifting but you do like to hit the trails, the Gladiator is not your model. You’re better off sticking with the Willys Wrangler. However, if you plan on doing any serious towing or simply need a pickup to haul large cargos, the Willys Gladiator is a must-have.