As of 2019, Jeep has made a return to form by reintroducing a pickup truck into their lineup. This has come at a surprise to dealerships and Jeep fans across the globe, who had settled in an agreement that Jeep would exclusively focus on the SUV for the foreseeable future. Everything changed when the 2020 Jeep Gladiator rolled off of the Jeep factory floor. In the Jeep Gladiator, Jeep made a triumphant return to the pickup truck, and it shows that they wanted to make something that was a little different from the light pickups already out there. The Jeep Gladiator is much smaller than its competitors; however, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in off-road prowess. One look at the styling, and it’s easy to see where Jeep pulled inspiration from, the Jeep Wrangler. So this begs the question, who wins in a matchup of the 2020 Jeep Wrangler vs 2020 Jeep Gladiator? While these two vehicles may appear very different at first, they are more similar than meets the eye.
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree
Lineup the 2020 Jeep Gladiator and the 2020 Jeep Wrangler side by side, and you have two sides of the same coin. In fact, the Jeep Gladiator looks like an off-shoot of the Jeep Wrangler, differing in only name alone. What sets these two vehicles apart in appearance is the fact that the Jeep Gladiator sports a 5-foot truck bed in the back, and the Jeep Wrangler doesn’t. While there is more to the story than just this outward appearance factor, it is difficult to refute the simple fact that the Jeep Gladiator is the truck version of the Wrangler.
Now, is this a problem? Not to us, the Jeep Wrangler is already a looker, and it only makes sense why Jeep would want to reuse this same incredible design in with their return to the pickup truck market. Now, what about trim options? Well, the Gladiator sports only four trims while the Wrangler has nine available trims. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is available in the Sport, Sport S, Overland, and Rubicon. Meanwhile, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler is available in the Sport, Sport S, Black and Tan, Sport Altitude, Willys, Freedom, Sahara, Rubicon, and Sahara Altitude.
Pricing is where these two models really stand apart from one another. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is going to start at an MSRP of $33,545 if you purchase the base model. Meanwhile, the Jeep Wrangler sits far lower in cost, starting out at an MSRP of $28,295. So, of the options available, the only real dividing factors are the option of a truck bed, the naming convention of a single trim model, and the initial asking price.
Solid Performance No Matter What
Initial observation of the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator powertrains will only show more of the same. The entry-level versions of both vehicles sport a 3.6-liter V6 engine that comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission but truly excel when they partnered with an 8-speed automatic transmission. While the starting engine in both vehicles is identical, it is hardly a problem, as the V6 does a pretty solid job, with 285 horsepower. As to be expected, both the Jeep Wrangler and the Jeep Gladiator come standard with four-wheel-drive, offering up some seriously rugged specs right off the jump.
Strangely enough, both vehicles will eventually use a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 engine. The fact that Jeep has plans to roll out updates that are similar across both vehicles adds to the stark similarity factor. It makes us wonder why they didn’t add the Gladiator as a trim option for the Wrangler model lineup. The only real engine difference between these two vehicles is the fact that the 2020 Jeep Wrangler provides drivers with a mild-hybrid eTorque system, which provides some serious power delivery at low speeds. However, this eTorque system will only be available on the Sahara trim option. The Jeep Wrangler also offers a 2.0-liter engine that boasts 270 horsepower and is the preferred option for off-roading.
Off-roading is another area where these two vehicles perform similarly; however, not quite the same. When it comes to munching through dirt, the Jeep Gladiator does a decent job, particularly in the Rubicon model, which sports 33-inch off-road tires, locking front and rear differentials, and a shockingly low crawl ratio. There is also a camera planted at the front of the Jeep Gladiator’s nose so that you can get a better look at the trail. While snappy in a pinch and certainly outperforming even the most off-road ready competitor pickup trucks, it is still no Jeep Wrangler.
The Jeep Wrangler is legendary in its off-road prowess, and the 2020 model is no different. The Rubicon model is outfitted with all of the same gear as the Gladiator Rubicon, although with some key differences such as disconnecting sway bars, and beefier axles. These small differences really matter for the off-road enthusiast and maybe part of the reason why Jeep wanted to distance its new pickup from their iconic Jeep Wrangler.
Infotainment, Safety, and Everything Else
While both the Jeep Gladiator and the Jeep Wrangler outperform when it comes to bounding out onto rigorous trails, they also both fall short in terms of baseline amenities. The base model of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator, for instance, provides power locks and windows in an optional package. While you can upgrade Jeep’s rugged pickup to sport a sprawling 8.4-inch display, heated front seats, and leather upholstery, it’s going to cost you extra.
Unfortunately, the same could be said of the Jeep Wrangler. The Jeep Wrangler Sport is decked out with manual windows and no air conditioning. However, the Jeep Wrangler has the edge over the Gladiator by providing USB charging ports, and keyless ignition. While this lack of modern tech in base models may be a turn off for some drivers, it is exactly what some Jeep-purists enjoy. Driving a Jeep is all about the experience of feeling connected to the outdoors, and to some, all of the extra flair can get in the way of that.
Another bonus is the fact that both the Jeep Gladiator and the Jeep Wrangler offers a variety of active safety features on every model. While adding them in will cost you extra, its nice to know that you can purchase a Jeep Wrangler or Gladiator with things like blind-spot monitors and automatic emergency braking.
Both of these vehicles also sport plenty of room for cargo and passengers. On the one hand, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator has that five-foot truck bed and boasts a remarkable 41 inches of rear legroom. Meanwhile, the Wrangler, with its two and four-door builds, has up to 72.4 cubic feet of cargo space. So, while the Jeep Gladiator or Wrangler may hit it off in terms of onboard tech, they make up for it in practical space and utility.
Which is the Better Jeep?
Picking a victor out of this matchup is a bit of a challenge. Both bring plenty to the table, and both fall short in similar areas. While the Jeep Wrangler is the superior off-road vehicle, the option of a five-foot truck bed is a great addition that many drivers will get a lot of use out of. So, it is fair to say which model is superior all depends on what you’re looking for. It seems in this case that when Jeep sat down to design their pickup truck, they wanted to create something as close to the Wrangler as possible, without actually being the Wrangler, and to no surprise, they’ve pulled it off beautifully.