Note to readers: I’m unable to write about Jeep Wranglers with any objectivity because I love them unconditionally. It’s crazy, and I don’t know where it comes from. Probably the same place as my 25-year crush on Javier Bardem, a man I’ve never seen in person, let alone met, and who has never shown any interest in me, at least not that I know of. But as Emily Dickinson famously wrote: The heart wants what it wants.
With that disclaimer, here are some words about the 2021 Jeep Gladiator.
Gladiator is a Wrangler-based crew cab (five seats) midsize pickup truck introduced in 2019 for model year 2020. Jeep engineers didn’t create the truck by just attaching a 5-foot cargo bed to the four-door Wrangler Unlimited cab and calling it a day. They worked from scratch, so to speak, to build a bona fide rugged pickup capable of handling a 1,700-pound payload and 7,650-pound towing capacity. The Wrangler Unlimited has a 118.4-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 188.4 inches. Gladiator’s wheelbase is 137.3 inches and its overall length is 218 inches.
For all its truck bravado, the Gladiator retains Wrangler’s irresistible styling and signature fun-in-the-sun features of a removable roof and doors, and a fold-down windshield. Wrangler’s stupendous off-road capability is fully present as well.
Like all Wranglers, Gladiator’s interior is perfect in every way. Its ride and handling? Same. Anything else? Same.
New for 2021, all Gladiator models now offer the option of a 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 engine for an extra $4,000. It makes 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque, and comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The EPA fuel economy rating is 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined.
The model I drove for this lovesick review was a Gladiator Rubicon with the turbo diesel engine. All the extra torque delivered by the turbo diesel is great for towing, which I don’t do, but it also provides a big boost during acceleration, and gives Gladiator an extra 5 mpg in combined fuel economy over the standard V6 gas engine.
Other newbies for the 2021 Gladiator are an 80th Anniversary Edition version, a Willys model, full-time four-wheel drive now available on all models, a TrailCam forward-facing off-road camera, and a couple of new options for the Gladiator Sport model: LED headlights and fog lights.
2021 JEEP GLADIATOR RUBICON 4×4
Base price, including destination charge: $45,370
Price as driven: $67,130
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. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.