Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor for Brand Ave. Studios and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine's online Web Bonus.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon

Photo provided by Jeep

Shortly after having parked for the night a 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon in front of our house, this author was sitting on his front porch at twilight, sipping a beer and enjoying a delightful St. Louis fall evening.

Suddenly, my reverie was interrupted by a young mom and her son strolling down the block with the family dog. The dog, I noted, showed a disconcerting interest in our front lawn, but the kid -- oh, I’d say, 6- or 7-years old -- ignored Fido’s pressing concerns, instead focusing his full enthusiasm on the Gladiator pickup parked at the curb: “Look, mom, it’s a Jeep and a truck -- IN ONE!”

The kid’s got a future as an automotive scribbler. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Gladiator is, indeed, a Jeep and a truck in one. The question, however, is this: Is it a Jeep for truck people? Or is it a truck for Jeep people? We vote for the latter.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

Photo provided by Jeep

As a truck, Gladiator is the real deal, a midsize pickup with genuine truck capability, including the muscle to tow up to 7,650 lbs. -- more than 2 tons better than a four-door Wrangler -- and the stamina to tote a 1,600-lb. payload, eclipsing the four-door Wrangler’s 900-lb. spec. So, yeah, it’s a vehicle truck fans will find most capable.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of rough-and-tumble “Jeep-iness” in Gladiator -- characteristics fans of open-top Jeeps embrace as part of the brand’s cache, but which might put off truck buyers accustomed to the creature comforts of modern pickups.

For example, Gladiator can wear a soft top or a three-piece removable hardtop -- either way great fun, but also producing notably higher interior noise levels than you’ll find in a typical modern pickup.

Gladiator also has solid axles at both ends, which enhance off-pavement capability, to be sure, but inevitably contribute to a ride that’s stiff as a short 2x4. Compare that to the silky on-road comportment provided by the fully independent suspension of a Ram 1500.

Finally, while 21st-century half-ton pickups generally boast modern rack-and-pinion steering, Gladiator retains Wrangler’s recirculating-ball setup -- again, off-road tough, but vague at highway speeds, requiring constant vigilance to keep the vehicle lane-centered.

Jeep fans are cool with all that, of course, because -- and they’ll brook no argument -- Jeeps are cool, as well as trail-tough. Both appellations describe Gladiator.

Available in four trims -- Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon -- every Gladiator at this writing is powered by Wrangler’s standard 3.6-liter, 285-hp V-6. And, as in Wrangler, it can be managed in Gladiator by a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic. In calendar year 2020, a 3.0-liter V-6 diesel will become available, too.

jeep2020gladiator1027bWIESEPIC.JPG

Photo provided by Jeep

In just over 200 miles of mixed city/hwy driving, our gas V-6/automatic Gladiator Rubicon returned 18 mpg.

On road, Gladiator feels like the Jeep it is. Off road, as we noted while observing a Gladiator sharing trails with us last month on a Jeep Jamboree in southwest Colorado, the Rubicon version is awesomely capable, although its long wheelbase and robust rear overhang does result in more off-road belly rubbing and bumper dragging than you’ll see in a Wrangler Rubicon four-door.

To ensure Gladiator Rubicon is the industry champ when it comes to off-road pickups, Jeep engineers have blessed it with a 2-inch factory lift, 33-inch rubber, locking front and rear differentials and a 4:1 crawl ratio, not to mention more under-body skid plating than an Abrams M1 battle tank.

Inside, the modern appointments, which include a roomy back seat and an available 8.4-inch infotainment touch screen, will be familiar to Wrangler JL fans.

In the final analysis, folks who love Jeep, but need or want a pickup, will find the Gladiator a joy. On the other hand, those who simply want a comfortable, capable, contemporary pickup may want to have the nice salesperson take them to the other side of the showroom to see that new Ram 1500.

Now, please excuse me while I take that nice doggie to the other side of the driveway to show him the neighbor’s landscaped lawn.


This content was produced by Brand Ave. Studios. The news and editorial departments of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had no role in its creation or display. For more information about Brand Ave. Studios, contact tgriffin@stltoday.com.