Since then, Jeep has gone through many changes in ownership and lineup over the years, and has even been imitated (and arguably improved upon) by Land Rover and Toyota. And while I was always a sucker for an old flat fender Willy's (really, who isn't?), the brand never had my full attention as a consumer until they revealed the JL Wrangler at the LA Auto Show in 2017.
I bought a JL in 2018 and built it out. And it was great. I loved that Jeep but life throws it's curves at you and I found myself needing more capacity for payload and towing. The JT Rubicon has twice the towing capacity of my JL at 7,000 lbs, and payload is considerably better as well at 1,600 lbs.
The JT Gladiator is the first Jeep pickup since the XJ Cherokee based 1986-1992 MJ Comanche. The Gladiator name was first used on the 1962-1971 SJ Gladiator. After 1971 the SJ was simply known as the Jeep Pickup or the J-Series (1972-1973: J2000 and J3000: 1974-1988: J10 and J20). Where the original SJ Gladiator was powered by various I-6 and V-8 engines, the 2020 JT Gladiator is powered by Chrysler’s tried and true 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar Upgrade (PUG) engine.
The standard 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 makes 285 HP and 260 lb-ft of torque, significantly more than my 4.0 liter 1GR-FE V6 Tacoma did and with better fuel economy too. I wasn’t interested in the pending 3.0 EcoDiesel, it just doesn’t appeal to me.
This truck features an all-new lightweight, high-strength steel frame. When compared to Jeep JL Wrangler 4-door, the Gladiator’s frame is an additional 31 inches longer making the overall wheelbase 19.4 inches longer. Gladiator utilizes the proven five-link coil suspension configuration with the front suspension using a lateral control arm and four longitudinal control arms. Full-width track bars made of forged steel control lateral movement of the axle with minimal angle change during suspension travel.
The rear five-link coil suspension design is exclusive to the Gladiator and features two upper and two lower forged steel control arms for longitudinal control, and a track bar for lateral axle control. The control arms are centered under the frame rails while the rear shocks are forward facing.
Factory electric lockers front and rear are great, as is a good old fashioned manual shift lever for the transfer case. And the 850RE TorqueFlite automatic features a low 4.71:1 first gear and delivers a JK-beating 77.2:1 crawl ratio (compared to 58.9:1 on the five-speed automatic JK) when paired with the JT Rubicon’s NV241OR Rock Trac 4:1.
30 inches of water fording, an approach angle of 43.6 degrees, breakover angle of 20.3 degrees, departure angle of 26 degrees and a ground clearance of 11.1 inches allows it to go where most other trucks can't.
The 2020 Gladiator has some features that were not available when I bought my 2018 JL Wrangler. First is the forward facing trail cam, an amazing addition that lets you follow precise lines and proper wheel placement on the trail, or even just a look over the hill when your windshield is full of sky.
And then there's the new Off-Road Mode Plus. If you engage this button while in 4-High, it will assume you’re driving through sand, and adjust the throttle and stability control settings accordingly; if you engage it while in 4-Low, it assumes you’re traversing rocky, low-speed terrain and adjusts the systems for that. I'm not a big fan of push button traction aids BUT it is nice to have these onboard if you're having a bad day.
As luck would have it, my search for the right one took about 5 minutes, I found it in an online inventory search about an hour away from me in Daphne, Alabama. A fully loaded JT Rubicon in Gator Clear Coat. With an all steel bed and OEM spray in bedliner.
There is simply no other mid size truck on the market in 2020 that offers better mobility right from the factory. It was love at first sight.
So I sold my beloved JL Wrangler and started a new project with similar goals: A focus on keeping it simple, fast and light.
MODEL/TRIM: Gladiator Rubicon
COLOR: Gator Clear Coat
FACTORY OPTIONS: Everything
ENGINE: 3.6 liter V6, 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque
TRANSMISSION: 850RE TorqueFlite, 8 speed auto
MODS - EXTERIOR:
Active Cargo System FORGED by Leitner Designs
MODS - INTERIOR:
12V accessory control by sPOD - Bantam w/HD panel
Magnetic phone mount by 67 Designs
ENTER THE 'GATOR!
Jeeps have been built in Toledo, Ohio since 1941.
- 7,000-pound towing capacity
- 1,600-pound payload
- Dimensions: 204” frame (31” longer than JLU), 137” wheelbase (19.4” longer than JLU), 5-foot bed
- Approach angle: 43.6 degrees
- Breakover angle: 20.3 degrees
- Departure angle: 26 degrees
- OEM Ground Clearance: 11.1”