On an off-road course created by Jeep at a ranch in California, the 2020 Gladiator demonstrates its extreme capability. (Manufacturer photo)

On an off-road course created by Jeep at a ranch in California, the 2020 Gladiator demonstrates its extreme capability. (Manufacturer photo)

2020 Jeep Gladiator merges the Wrangler with a pickup bed

This all-new midsizer delivers truck utility along with open-air fun and 4x4 practicality.

If you’ve ever yearned for a Wrangler but couldn’t have one because you need a pickup and something capable of towing big playthings, your soulmate has arrived.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is a midsize truck with a four-door crew cab, 5-foot-3-inch bed, and best-in-class 7,650-pound towing capacity and 1,600-pound payload rating. Best of all, it comes with Wrangler’s many wonderful features, including Jeep’s phenomenal 4×4 systems, open-air driving with a removable hard top or push-back soft top, removable doors and a fold-down windshield. Almost too much utility and fun to bear.

Gladiator comes in four trim levels: Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon. With destination charge included, pricing starts at $35,040 for the Sport and tops out at $45,040 for the Rubicon.

A 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine powers all versions, making 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Transmission options are a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic.

Fuel economy ratings are 17/22/19 mpg with an automatic transmission and 16/23/19 mpg with a manual.

A 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 with eight-speed automatic transmission will be available next year.

To give automotive media members a comprehensive introduction to the all-new Gladiator, Jeep created an off-road area at a ranch near Cool, Calif. It’s about 40 miles northeast of Sacramento and if you’re curious about the origins of that cool name, you’ll want to check it out on Wikipedia.

We spent an entire day driving the Gladiator in downtown Sacramento, on freeways, highways, and twisty rural roads in the region. At the off-road site, Rubicon models were provided for the tough stuff.

A five-link suspension system with coil springs gives the Gladiator a smooth and comfortable ride on both paved and gravel surfaces. The cab is surprisingly quiet, the seats are first-rate.

The amount of room behind Gladiator’s front seats is best-in-class. For maximum storage space, the rear seats can be folded up, or folded down flat. There’s also a storage bin beneath the seat cushion, and an optional lockable bin for protecting valuables.

A front camera gives off-roaders a better look at what’s immediately ahead than the low-tech method of craning their neck.

Another handy Gladiator feature is a three-position tailgate. Up or down aren’t the only options, there are integrated cables for securing the tailgate in the halfway position to more easily accommodate items longer than the bed.

Infotainment technology is up to date, including the newest Uconnect system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It’s simple and easy to use and there are new 7-inch and 8.4-inch touchscreens that can be zoomed by pinching, like a smartphone screen.

An eight-speaker audio system is standard, but audiophiles will want the optional nine-speaker Alpine system with all-weather subwoofer and 552-watt amplifier.

As for off-road capability, I’ll say what goes without saying about any Jeep but especially this one: It’s astounding. The only thing a Gladiator Rubicon can’t crawl over is something that should never be crawled over in the first place.

2020 JEEP GLADIATOR

Base pricing, including destination charge: $35,040-$45,040

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association.

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