Jeep Gladiator: a review

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BLUF: Swiss-Army knife truck.

We have always ran Chevy trucks around here, for decades they have provided for our transportation, towing and hauling needs. We’ve never viewed trucks as anything other than work implements, to be tapped when needed. As a boy, my father had a ’59 Chevy truck, we used it for everything. When I was young I followed the tradition and ran an ’81 GMC until I got sick of fixing it, then I bought a new, full-sized Silverado while I was being boarded for medical retirement.

It was a great truck. Utterly reliable, tough, could tow anything, excellent vehicle. So why did I trade it in on this Jeep truck?

Well, the Silverado was BIG. For years I’ve wanted something smaller, but I really didn’t like Chevy’s Colorado series trucks. I think for the steep prices they command they are just too delicate, really more a passenger vehicle than a truck.

Around here a truck is a truck. If it can’t be asked to tow or haul it is worthless. And oh by the way; it needs to go wherever we ask it without a lot of BS.

The Silverado was a capable off-road four wheel drive vehicle, but did I mention that it was BIG? Kind of unhandy on a narrow forest path, which I have used it on from time to time. Also, I don’t think in the near-decade that I owned it that I ever got anywhere close to using the 327/5.3L V8 engine to its capacity.

In short, the Silverado was too much truck. I knew it. But it’s little brother, the Colorado? Too much passenger car.

Then the new Jeep Gladiator caught my eye, there was one sitting on the lot of my local Jeep dealer.

I stopped in and I was screwed. I knew it. The vehicle I looked at was badass; it had literally everything I could ask for. However, its sticker price was way too high.

A salesperson ran over to greet me; I told him I liked the little Jeep truck, but the price was too much. I was prepared to walk. He knew it, and he held a trick up his sleeve.

Would I be interested, he asked, in a more basic model? Sure, I answered. He led me to the back of the lot, there sat a more-or-less base model Gladiator. I loved it.

Steel wheels. Crank windows and manual locks. Removable hard top. Standard HD Dana 44 axles with a 3.73 gear ratio. Fairly good gas mileage, thrifty V6 engine. 30 inch fording capability. All weather rubberized interior. Granny gear. 1600 lb/800 kg hauling capacity, 7000 odd pound towing capability. Ugly green color.

It was a war machine.

The dealership gave me a decent trade-in on the old Chevy, I handed in the keys and drove away in the Jeep.

I immediately put it to the test. I wanted to check out a prolific spring in the woods, so I turned off the pavement and crawled back to the spring in 4 high, there was no need for 4 low. The Jeep didn’t flinch, and I didn’t have the feeling I was driving a whale as I did so often with the Silverado off-road.

So flying colors on the whole off-road thing. But I expected no less from a Jeep. But how was it as a truck?

I threw 1500lbs of topsoil in the back and then drove it along a twisty, hilly road. Hell, it barely squatted and I couldn’t really tell it held nearly a ton in the bed. It was a tad heavy in the sharp corners, but that was it. It braked just fine, too. I proceeded to also haul the recycling and other stuff like animal feed, just to check its all-around utility. In the near future I plan on hauling bales of hay, I estimate that the little truck can comfortably hold 18 square bales. Pretty impressive.

Hauling success. I especially appreciated the very utilitarian tie-downs, and the automatic bed lights were cool.

To my pleasure and complete shock (I didn’t realize this when I bought it and drove away) the Jeep also has a backup-cam! This is my first truck ever to be so equipped, and I thought it was a very nice touch. Real luxury.

To date, the truck has done everything I have asked of it. Also, the layout of the cab and the four-door arrangement is very handy. My old Silverado had a backseat as well, but it used the “suicide doors” arrangement, this set-up is far superior.

The only thing I haven’t done with this truck is take a road trip to a national park, but I’d imagine this will happen eventually with the fam; when this lousy siege lifts, anyway.

OK; above is all the good stuff.

There are some bad things. When I lift the hood, it looks like a spacecraft in there. Good luck trying to do a field repair on this. Second, I had to buy a hitch mount and have it installed. A hitch should come factory standard on a truck. Finally, the truck could use a bedliner; the factory paint is already scratched to hell. Yes, a bedliner was an option, but I wanted to be cheap. Well, I’ll end up paying for it anyway. But I’m nitpicking, really.

To sum up: for what will hopefully be my last gas pickup truck- pretty awesome. This little guy does 99% of what I need; for the other 1% I can call a flatbed hauler. The Silverado was a great truck, the best I’ve ever owned. But it was always a sore point with me that I wasn’t using it to its potential; this Jeep is a lot closer to realistic for my needs. Plus in many respects the Jeep is more capable than the old grey Chevy, certainly off-road.

After a while owning it I have no regrets about trading in the Chevy.

The Jeep Gladiator. A practical mashup of the iconic Jeep and a medium-duty truck. If the situation allows and you’re in the market, take a look.

But if you look, you might buy. So be careful.


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