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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

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A silhouette of a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is splashing through a river on a trail.

Comparing the 2020 Jeep Wrangler and 2020 Jeep Gladiator

While the 2020 Jeep Wrangler and 2020 Jeep Gladiator are in different segments – one is an SUV while the other is a midsize pickup truck – both are very similar vehicles. They share powertrains and features, and both allow you to drive in the open air on back roads and mountain trails. In a sense, the Gladiator is a Wrangler with a truck bed, and both the Wrangler and Gladiator are for people looking for adventure or looking to get lost off-road. But how do these two off-road monsters compare? Let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between two of the best off-road vehicles ever made: the 2020 Jeep Wrangler vs 2020 Jeep Gladiator.

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler and 2020 Jeep Gladiator both feature similar styling and performance, share engines, and both are known for their classic and rugged good looks. You can also remove the doors and roof from both vehicles, and both offer go-anywhere four-wheel-drive capability. Of course, the major difference is that the Gladiator features a truck bed for added utility, while the Wrangler features many trim levels so that you can customize your ride however you choose. But which is the better choice for you? Let’s take an in-depth look at these two vehicles and break down the differences.

A gray 2020 Jeep Gladiator is towing an airstream trailer on a highway.


Looking at the Wrangler and Gladiator from the front, it’s hard to tell the difference. But the Gladiator is a truck and can do truck things. It has two live axles and can out-tow the Wrangler when properly equipped. It can actually tow up to 7,650 pounds compared to 3,500 pounds for the Wrangler. That’s a big difference if you plan on using your Jeep to tow often. While the Wrangler has its advantages too, towing capacity has never been a strength.

The Gladiator now offers Jeep Wrangler fans and enthusiasts the off-road functionality of a Wrangler along with the capability of a pickup truck. The Gladiator can also carry a significant amount of weight in the bed. With a payload capacity of 1,700 pounds, the Gladiator proves itself as a useful pickup truck. Its towing capacity is actually the best in its class.

The Gladiator competes well in its segment, against other midsize pickup trucks like the Chevy Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, but it also proves to be a capable competitor for the classic Wrangler. It comes with four full-size doors and a five-foot bed. Every Gladiator also features four-wheel drive and a two-speed transfer case. You can also find the Gladiator as a soft-top or hard-top model, and like the Wrangler, its windshield folds down flat. So the same experience is offered with the Gladiator, the same sense of freedom and adventure as the Wrangler, only there is the added utility of a pickup bed.

One of the differences between the Wrangler and Gladiator is with the engine choices. Both share a base engine, and the Gladiator is slated to get the Wrangler’s diesel option for the 2021 model year. But the Wrangler offers another option as well – a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. This engine is optional on the Jeep Wrangler but is not an option on the Gladiator.

This is unfortunate for the Gladiator, as this is a great engine. It offers impressive fuel efficiency of 22/24 mpg and provides great power. It’s a great engine for off-roading too, as the low-end power for this engine is incredibly useful on the trails. When considering the fuel efficiency and off-road chops this engine brings, this is a big win for the Wrangler.

But the other engine options are good ones too. The base engine for the Wrangler and Gladiator is a 3.6-liter V6 with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. This is a solid standard engine, and both vehicles benefit from having such a stout entry-level offering. However, there is a difference as the Wrangler also offers this engine with an eTorque mile hybrid system.

This brings increased fuel efficiency, which is a big advantage for the Wrangler. The eTorque system is also available with the optional inline-4 on the Wrangler. While both the Wrangler and Gladiator have similar engine options, there are notable differences, with the Wrangler offering more power as well as better fuel efficiency.

The last engine option, or the Gladiator’s soon to be optional engine, is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 with 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. With this engine, the Gladiator will get a powerful and efficient option to compete with the Wrangler, though the engine is not expected to be quite as efficient in the Gladiator. But the Wrangler returns an impressive 22/29 mpg with this engine, so if the Gladiator is anywhere near those numbers, it will find itself in good company.

A red 2020 Jeep Wrangler with no roof or doors is next to a woodland river as part of the 2020 Jeep Wrangler vs 2020 Jeep Gladiator comparison.

Off-Road Champ?

Ride and handling are similar in the 2020 Jeep Wrangler and 2020 Jeep Gladiator. The Jeep Gladiator does better on the highway, with its longer wheelbase giving it better ride comfort and making it a better cruiser, but the difference is not that noticeable. However, the Wrangler’s smaller dimensions give it many advantages on the trail, especially for the two-door models. With a better breakover angle and the ability to negotiate tighter turns, the Wrangler is the more capable of the two.

But both come with impressive off-road features, such as low-range gearing, disconnecting sway bars, locking differentials, skid plates, and off-road tires. If you are looking for a dedicated off-roader, both the Wrangler and Gladiator are great options – probably the two best options on the market. One disadvantage to the Gladiator is the long rear overhang that can scrape on certain terrains, but if you are in a situation like that, you expect a little scraping here and there.

Who Wins?

In the end, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler and 2020 Jeep Gladiator are almost the same, aside from the pickup bed on the Gladiator. The Wrangler’s fuel economy gives it a slight edge, but your choice should depend on what you need. If the utility of a truck bed is important to you and you’d like a smoother ride and more towing capacity, the Gladiator is the clear choice. If you want better fuel economy, a larger backseat, a two-door model, or the best off-roader, the Jeep Wrangler is the better choice. But both offer exceptional capability off-road, and both feature a convertible option, so there really is no bad choice here.

If you are looking for a pure off-roader, go with the Wrangler. If you are looking for an off-road capable pickup truck with best-in-class towing and serious payload capability, then the Jeep Gladiator is the vehicle for you. Both will soon offer a diesel engine, so no matter which one you choose, there is a great engine option with lots of low-end power to hit the trails with. While the Wrangler currently offers a more efficient optional engine, the diesel option for the Gladiator will offset that a little.

In the end, this is actually a fairly simple decision. Do you need the utility of a midsize pickup truck? Or do you need a truly dedicated off-roader? Let’s be honest, in a perfect world there is probably space for both a Wrangler and a Gladiator in your driveway.

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