Ace of Base: 2020 Jeep Gladiator

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You knew this one was coming.

The unveiling of Jeep’s first truck in nigh thirty years was a widely anticipated event at the L.A. Auto Show, with our man on the ground reporting at the time that neither man nor beast could get handy to the media area. Gaining admission during the reveal was only slightly less difficult than beating Reid Bigland at arm wrestling.

While we’re still sans pricing, we do know the level of kit bestowed on each trim of Gladiator, including – wait for it! – the base model.

Even the cheapest (a relative term) Gladiator will apparently be able to tow a best-in-class 7,650 lbs, a number that outstrips all but a pair of the fifteen configurations of the V6 Ram 1500 with which it shares showroom space – and even those two machines (3.55 equipped 4×2 Quads) only beat it by a scant 80 pounds. Makes sense that it’s equipped with a hitch and seven-pin wiring connectors as standard equipment, then. This is one stout Jeep.

Base Gladiators are, like their Wrangler brothers, called the Sport. Heavy-duty Dana 44 axles are found underneath the thing. Command-Trac part-time four-wheel drive is shared with all other versions of the Gladiator, save the mighty Rubicon, and there are skid plates over the fuel tank.

Upgrading your not-a-Scrambler will not net you any extra power, as all trims get the same 285 horsepower Pentastar V6 and six-speed manual as standard equipment. It goes without saying one should stick with the stick; slushbox shifting costs a heady $2,000 on the base Wrangler Unlimited, so expect it to cost the same or more on the Gladiator.

At this price point, Gladiator owners are quite literally sitting in the cheap seats, as the chairs are devoid of any power adjustments and bear tough cloth upholstery. Ideal for a Jeep, then. The base infotainment unit blows compared to the 8.4-inch Uconnect, but at least it has Bluetooth. It’ll not escape your notice that the window controls are of the manual variety; power units don’t appear until the Sport S. I’ll posit here that this is a good thing, as power windows are simply one more connection to fiddle with and eventually wear out after repeated removal/installation cycles of the side doors.

It’s a Jeep, so of course drivers can remove those doors and roof, preferably not while they are driving. The windshield flips and folds in a much easier fashion than the JK Wrangler, too. Lockable rear seat storage keeps valuables outta sight when you hit up the beach but leave the Gladiator’s doors at home. All ten colours are available on the Sport as well. Hydro Blue is shown here on stock 17-inch steelies. I enjoy the fact that the base model retains fog lights.

Base models of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited start at $31,545 and it would not be unreasonable to expect at least a 10 percent premium for the Gladiator. That would put Jeep’s pickup right around $34,700. A heap o’ beans to be sure. Check this post to call me out after FCA announces pricing in the new year.

Ace of Base, then? Well, we won’t know for sure until they issue a Monroney but assuming there’s a ten grand spread between entry level and top-of-the-line (like the Wrangler), I’d argue one can build up a base Jeep beyond Rubicon capability – save for the Rock-Trac low range system – for less than the price differential.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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