When Jeep decided to get back into the pickup game, drivers took notice. The rugged brand, known for its lineup of highly capable, go-anywhere adventure vehicles, hadn't offered a pickup option since the Jeep Comanche was discontinued in 1992, but that all changed with the debut of the Jeep Gladiator. Hitting the streets in 2019, the Gladiator combines the Jeep reputation for off-road 4x4 performance with the practicality of a traditional midsize pickup, giving drivers an enticing new option that's quickly grown into a best-seller.
The Gladiator has proved to be a hit with drivers and critics alike, quickly climbing through the ranks to become JD Power's #1 midsize pickup of 2023. The Jeep truck earned particularly high marks for its quality, reliability, and resale value, besting long-standing favorites like the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Maverick. From its brawny engine and spacious interior to its legendary off-road ability and those novel features that make a Jeep a Jeep, there's a lot to love about the 2023 Jeep Gladiator. Let's take a closer look at this game-changing truck and see how—five years on—the Gladiator is already beating the rest of the pickup sector at its own game.
With a design inspired by the storied Jeep Wrangler, the Gladiator pickup has a big reputation to live up to. The four-wheel drive pickup, which comes as either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, gets off to a good start right off the bat with Jeep packing one of two brawny V6 engines under the hood. The standard option is a gas-powered 3.6L Pentastar V6 producing some 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. This engine can speed from zero to sixty in around 8.5 seconds when optioned with the eight-speed automatic, but if you're looking for a little more in the way of acceleration, the six-speed manual might be a better choice as it can shave as much as a half a second off that time. The standard V6 offers decent fuel economy with 17 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway for the automatic, and 16 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the highway for the manual, but those seeking a more efficient—and powerful—version of the V6 might want to look into the diesel option.
Dubbed the "EcoDiesel," this 3.0L turbocharged diesel V6 delivers slightly less grit at around 260 hp but—as one would expect from a diesel—makes up for it with a considerable 442 lb-ft of torque. This generous amount of low-end power makes the Gladiator a standout in the towing department, with a tow rating of 6,500 lbs and a payload capacity of 1,350 lbs. This is a considerable upgrade over the gas-powered V6, which maxes out at 4,000 lbs and 1,700 lbs, respectively, making the diesel the go-to option for drivers who see a lot of large-scale hauling in their future.
The diesel also outperforms the standard V6 regarding acceleration, posting a zero-to-sixty time of 7.6 seconds. Upgrading to the diesel isn't cheap, at around $4,000, but it'll pay off in the long run, given the engine's impressive fuel economy numbers. The diesel-powered Gladiator earns an EPA-estimated 22 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway in all but the slightly thirstier Rubicon trim, allowing drivers to recoup the cost of the upgrade every time they hit the gas station. If the EcoDiesel sounds intriguing to you, now is the time to act; Jeep recently dropped the diesel from the Wrangler lineup, and experts expect the Gladiator will soon follow suit.
When it comes to the interior, the Gladiator makes some notable improvements over its Wrangler cousin. Jeep has elongated the pickup's wheelbase, making for a more comfortable, spacious cabin with plenty of legroom and clever storage options throughout. The Gladiator also offers 42.8 inches of headroom in both the front and rear seats, which is considerably better than much of the pickup's competition. Take the 2023 Toyota Tacoma, for example; for many drivers, Toyota's midsize offering might seem cramped by comparison, with just 39.7 inches of headroom in the front row and just 38.3 in the rear.
Even the 2023 Chevy Colorado struggles to keep up with the Jeep, with 40.3 and 38.3 inches of headroom in the front and back rows, respectively. That five extra inches of headroom can make all the difference, especially for taller drivers who might struggle to squeeze into the back. The 2023 Gladiator doesn't just offer more headroom than the competition; it technically offers infinite headroom, given the fact that the pickup's roof panels can be removed for an open-air ride that no other vehicle in this sector can match. This classic Jeep feature is one of the brand's hallmarks, offering a unique experience that goes a long way in building on the Jeep legend.
Unique creature features aside, a pickup is always going to be measured by its cargo bed. The Gladiator features a five-foot setup which, while not the biggest in its class, can be customized to be just as functional as any other midsize pickup on the market. The bed measures 18 inches deep, 44.8 inches wide at the wheel wells, and 56.8 inches wide above the wheel wells, allowing it to pass the all-important pickup litmus test of being able to accommodate a standard sheet of plywood. The Gladiator's rear tailgate features a mid-open position for accommodating longer cargo, and an available bed extender ups the truck's utility even further. The interior also features a number of slick storage options, from well-placed cubbies perfect for stowing smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets to a hidden compartment under the rear seats that's ideal for keeping your valuables away from prying eyes.
Jeep has built a reputation for off-road performance, and they haven't skipped a beat in outfitting the Gladiator for the road less traveled. From the type of heavy-duty equipment it takes to succeed in off-road scenarios to an elongated wheelbase and the ability to wallow in up to 30 inches of water, the 2023 Gladiator does the Jeep name proud with a bevy of off-road features that'll have drivers searching for the nearest trail.
It all starts with the Gladiator's wheelbase, which has been extended some 19.4 inches between the front and rear wheels, compared to the Wrangler. This longer wheelbase gives the pickup superior handling and a more enjoyable ride all around, allowing drivers to rack up the miles in comfort. Add 11 inches of ground clearance (depending on the trim) and you've got an off-road beast that can climb boulders, ford rivers, and chew through any trail with ease. Every Gladiator model comes standard with skid plates, and other off-road-ready upgrades include mud- and all-terrain tires, rock sliders, locking front and rear differentials, and a steel bumper designed to accommodate a winch.
Another interesting option of note is the Cargo Management package, which adds a 400-watt power inverter, under-seat storage bin, and bed-mounted, 115-volt outlet to the mix. These onboard power options can go a long way in improving the quality of life on your next off-road excursion, allowing you to charge phones and accessories, power small appliances, and just generally make for a more comfortable, convenient experience. Drivers looking to customize their Gladiator can choose from a number of appearance and equipment packages, with some enticing new options on offer for 2023. These include the Freedom package—an add-on for the Sport S trim that honors US servicemen and women with a military-themed exterior, steel front bumper, and rock sliders—as well as the Capability package for the High Altitude trim, which sees a winch-ready steel front bumper, steel rock sliders, and a front-facing off-road camera to make the trim just as rugged as it is luxurious.