Driving a pickup truck in the city always makes me a bit nervous. It's a large peg in a small hole kind of situation. Will I find a space long enough to accommodate the vehicle if I have to parallel park? If I do, will I have the dexterity to fit said vehicle in that spot?
What about going to the grocery store? Will it take up more than one spot? Will I have to park at the very back of the lot?
And my garage! Is it going to fit?
The 24 hours leading up to such a test week are often sleepless as I ponder how I'm going to accommodate such a vehicle in the city.
When the 2020 Jeep Gladiator
showed up on my schedule in Chicago, I knew it was going to be a vehicle I fretted over.
Even though it's a boss on the off-road, I wasn't convinced it would have the nimbleness to succeed in the city.URBAN ADAPTABILITY
It turns out that my worries were largely unfounded.
I like to play a game of "will it or won't it fit?" with my social media followers. And when I get a large vehicle, I take a picture before I try to get it into my garage and ask people to vote yay or nay.
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator got a lot of nays.
However, when I swung the Gladiator into the compact driveway that leads to my garage space and cranked the wheel hard to right, I was able to get a solid trajectory that would point the tail end of the pickup truck exactly where I needed it to go.
With a hard, left-hand crank, the Gladiator backed smoothly - but slowly - into my narrow spot.
Yes, it literally filled my entire space in the garage. Yes, it filled up an entire slot in the local grocery store parking lot. Yes, I did have to spend some extra time finding bigger parallel parking spots. And yes, I did have to pay close attention to the rear three quarters of the vehicle in every single tight maneuver.
But with a little extra time and attention, it worked.
Huge parts of its success were due to the rearview camera, large side mirrors and excellent turning radius. OFF ROAD AWESOMENESS
I last spent time behind the wheel of the Jeep Gladiator in Attica, Indiana, at the Badlands Off-Road Park, and I encountered some obstacles that looked impossible. Yet with the right approach angle and a little finesse, the Gladiator traversed terrain that left me blinking in astonishment. It did this multiple times on that journey.
The right-seat instructor seemed obsessed with photo opportunities. So, a lot of the obstacles he pointed me at were because "that would make a great photo." In a very memorable moment, he had me drop the Gladiator into a creek while keeping one wheel perched precariously on a large rock.
Of course, I then had to wade through ankle-deep water to get the photo. While standing in poison ivy.
In another instance, he had me scale what looked like a concrete wall so I could park on top of a rocky overhang.
Both times, I looked at the obstacle, made eye contact with the instructor and glanced warily back at what may as well have been a firmly shut steel door.
After a final "whatever" shrug (both times), I slowly applied pressure to the gas pedal. The Gladiator calmly and delicately nudged its way up and over every obstacle.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, since all Gladiators are Trail Rated and only available with a 4X4 drivetrain.
In terms of specific off-road stats, Gladiator has an approach angle of 43.6 degrees, a breakover angle of 20.3 degrees and a departure angle of 26 degrees.
Ground clearance on this off road beast is 11.1 inches.
Additionally, the Jeep Gladiator is available with Command-Trac and Rock-Trac 4×4 systems as well as a Track-Lok limited slip differential, knobby 33-inch off-road tires and electronic sway-bar disconnect. It can ford up to 30 inches of water, tow up to 7,650 pounds and has a maximum payload of up to 1,600 pounds. CITY SPEAK
But, how do these amazing skills off the beaten path translate to city streets?
First, I never worried about the crater-like potholes or speed humps causing bumper or tire damage because I knew the Jeep Gladiator could handle them.
Second, the Gladiator had a surprisingly smooth ride on city streets and the highway - surprising because of those large tires. I thought there would be more road noise or interference, but there wasn't.
To be fair, this is partially due to the test vehicle being a hardtop model. But in a northern city, this is probably what I'd opt for over the soft top anyway; in addition to keeping out the cold, it keeps the urban audio clutter at bay as well.
Third, the power provided by the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 had enough oomph for fast merges into city traffic or onto the highway. PROBLEMS
Other than the sheer size of the Jeep Gladiator, the primary urban downfall is fuel economy. EPA estimates drivers should get 17 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway, and I was lucky if I averaged 15 in combined driving.
Another downfall: No trunk. You can get a roll-up tonneau like this particular test vehicle had, but I'd hate to leave anything in the truck bed (like golf clubs or computer bags) while parked in a city lot for fear that someone would slash the canvas and steal my stuff.
When my husband and I went to the airport, we settled for stashing our luggage on the back seat since we knew we weren't leaving it there.
Another big thing to note: The standard transmission on Gladiator is a 6-speed manual. The 8-speed automatic is a $2,000 option. SHOW ME THE MONEY
Gladiator has four trims, adding more content and capability as you rack up the dollar signs. At its bare bones, the base model has a manual transmission, cloth seats, manual door locks and manual windows.
But the price tag can quickly - and easily - top $50K, just like the test vehicle did. Of particular note, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are not standard. They come into play at the Sport S trim along with the 7-inch touchscreen display.
- Sport: $35,040
- Sport S: $38,240
- Overland: $41,890
- Rubicon: $45,040
Our test vehicle was a loaded up Overland model that had leather trimmed seats, a trailer-tow package, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, LED lighting, a premium audio system, navigation, rear park assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist, a roll-up tonneau cover, an automatic transmission, body-color three-piece hard top and passive entry.
The as-tested price was $55,840.ALACRITY
In a truck-happy world, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is a nice addition to the segment and a unique alternative.
Its narrower width and excellent turning radius make it easier to deal with in urban situations than say, a Ram Rebel or Ford F-150 Raptor, and its squared-off design and strong Jeep heritage add a sense of panache to truck ownership. Not to mention driving around with the knowledge that you can scale tall buildings, or at least tall rocks, in a single bound.
While I'm not sure I'd make this a daily driver in the city - though I have seen some owners doing just that in Chicago - it has proven a certain alacrity with its ability to rule off-road challenges and tackle the city all in one attractive and rugged package.