Sep 9, 2021
Jeep hasn't offered a model with a cargo bed since the early '90s, but the 2022 Gladiator finally gives the brand's fans a cool and useful tool. The mid-size pickup truck is basically a more versatile version of the popular Jeep Wrangler, which earned it an Editors' Choice award. It tows more (up to 7760 pounds versus 3500) than its SUV counterpart, and its longer wheelbase helps it ride better, too. Still, the truck requires regular steering inputs when cruising on the highway to keep it from straying, and it's not as easy to maneuver on the trails as the smaller Wrangler. Along with a strong V-6 and a standard stick-shift transmission, the Gladiator offers a torquey diesel engine option with 442 lb-ft. While the 2021 Gladiator can get pricey in a hurry, its removable body panels and rugged persona make it one of the best pickups around. Jeep hasn't announced the full roster of changes to the 2021 Gladiator lineup, but it has confirmed what we've known for a while: the truck with a seven-slot grille will add a diesel engine option. The oil-burning 3.0-liter V-6 will develop 260 horsepower and a substantial 442 lb-ft of torque. Although we're still waiting on pricing and EPA fuel-economy figures, we're told the diesel will be offered on the Sport, Overland, and Rubicon models. The Gladiator is powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 that produces 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque routed through a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional eight-speed automatic. We tested an Overland model with the automatic, which needed 7.2 seconds to scoot to 60 mph. In other words, it's slightly slower than most competitors. The Jeep adds a diesel 3.0-liter V-6, which develops 260 ponies and a mighty 442 lb-ft of twist. Compared with the regular Wrangler, the Gladiator has an extra 19.4 inches between the front and rear wheels. Jeep says this helps improve the pickup's ride and handling. Now that we've driven several examples, we can confirm that it drives much like the Wrangler. The truck's steering isn't extremely precise and the ride can be busy on uneven surfaces. Still, these characteristics are part of the formula that make the Gladiator both a legitimate pickup truck and a trail-ready tool. Most enthusiasts care about the truck's off-road equipment anyways, which includes everything from copious skid plates to rock-crawling axle ratios to the ability to ford up to 30 inches of water. Generous ground clearance and approach/departure angles further help the Gladiator conquer parts unknown. Inside, the Gladiator has an upright dashboard that imitates the Wrangler's and supports user-friendly controls. Durable details include a waterproof push-button start, and there are optional convenience features such as a heated steering wheel and heated front seats. Jeep says the truck's stretched wheelbase improves back-seat legroom versus the four-door Wrangler. The Gladiator also has body and roof panels that can be easily removed to create an open-air cabin. Along with its five-foot cargo bed, the Gladiator is filled with ingenious interior storage options. Its cabin has a handful of spots to stick a smartphone and a handy compartment hidden under the back seat. The seats themselves can be stowed in multiple ways and then securely locked in place for when the trail turns treacherous. Every model has a standard touchscreen, but only the larger 7.0- and 8.4-inch displays come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The stereo system can also be upgraded with an optional subwoofer and portable wireless speaker behind the back seat. Front-seat passengers will be privy to several power points, which include two USBs and a USB-C port; a 115-volt outlet is also available.