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2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 NACTOY Winners: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Detroit, Mich. — North American automotive journalists, voting in secret ballots,  revealed on January 13, 2020 that they had selected two quintessentially U.S. vehicles and one from South Korea — but built in the U.S. — as the best newcomers of the past year.

In an announcement at TCF Arena, usually the home of the North American International Auto Show at this time of the year but now moving to June, the journalists picked the all-new mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette Stingray as the Car of the Year and the Jeep Gladiator as Truck of the Year. The Gladiator is manufactured by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

2020 TellurideThe all-new Kia Telluride, a midsize three-row crossover sport utility vehicle from the South Korean company but built in a plant in West Point, GA, was awarded Utility of the Year.

The 50 professional automotive journalists who made the selections are dues-paying members of the North American Car of the Year organization. They represent newspapers, magazines and other publications, as well as television, radio and online outlets in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. All NACTOY officers and jurors are volunteers; there are no paid staff positions.

NACTOY describes itself as the premier independent organization that judges excellence in automotive design, technology safety, performance, driver satisfaction, technology and value. (The writer of this article is a member).

Voting is done by secret ballot. A starting list of eligible vehicles, substantially new or redesigned, is drawn up by the leadership. Members then vote for semi-finalists, finalists and winners in the three categories. Votes are tallied by Deloitte, world-wide financial and accounting firm.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette StingrayThe Corvette Stingray, the Car of the Year, is the first in the brand’s 65-year history to feature a mid-engine design. Its 490-horsepower, 6.2-liter engine is mounted in back, ahead of the rear axle. Previous Corvettes had front engines and rear-wheel drive. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic that can be manually shifted. Prices start at $67,495.

Runners-up for Car of the Year were the all-new 2020 Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan and the 2020 Toyota Supra sports coupe, which uses an engine and drive train from BMW of Germany.

The Utility of the Year, the Kia Telluride, beat its fraternal twin, the Hyundai Palisade, in the voting. Kia is partly owned by Hyundai and the two brands share engines and transmissions, though they operate independently and do their designs.

The Telluride’s prices start at around $32,000 and climb to more than $47,000. It is powered by a 291-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Besides the Hyundai Palisade, the third nominee in the utility category was the 2020 Lincoln Aviator, a luxury three-row SUV with prices that range up to $83,540.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator North EditioThe Jeep Gladiator’s two competitors for Truck of the Year were the midsize 2020 Ford Ranger and 2020 Ram Heavy Duty, with the Gladiator all pickup trucks but different in personalities, design and execution.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

You can almost hear the cheering from far-flung outposts of off-road and truck country, welcoming the 2020 Jeep Gladiator, the famed brand’s first pickup truck in 28 years.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Launch Edition

The original Jeep — a name derived from GP, for general purpose military vehicle, made its debut in 1941 for duty in World War II. It was originally built by Ford and the Willys-Overland vehicle manufacturers. Eventually it became the Willys Jeep and, later, was owned by American Motors and Chrysler, and now by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

From 1947 to 1992, Jeep marketed a variety of trucks, the last of which was the Comanche pickup. Now, after years of entreaties from both Jeep owners and truck enthusiasts, especially those with off-road interests, the Gladiator arrives as a complete package that can be customized for almost any motoring taste.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon

But the Jeep folks are not catering only to the faithful. They expect that the Gladiator will attract new customers for midsize pickup trucks like the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado, and especially those who have gravitated toward the most popular midsize, the Toyota Tacoma.

The Gladiator slots in firmly as a competitor of the Tacoma TRD Off-Road, which comes in standard and long bed versions. It is 18 feet 2 inches long, four inches longer than the Tacoma standard bed and eight inches shorter than the long bed.

Its 3.6-liter V6 engine delivers 285 hp with 260 lb-ft of torque compared to the Tacoma’s 278 and 265. The Gladiator’s automatic transmission is an eight-speed; the Tacoma’s is a six-speed.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon

The new Gladiator inevitably will be compared to the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, which has become Jeep’s best-selling model. But the Gladiator is bigger, stronger and more capable in many ways with a heftier payload, towing capability and price tag.

There are four Gladiator models, each of which is available with a six-speed manual gearbox as well as the eight-speed automatic transmission. Base prices range from $35,040, including the destination charge, for the base Sport model, to $38,240 for the Sport S, $41,890 for the Overland and $45,040 for the top-line Rubicon.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

But those are starting points. At the Gladiator’s national introduction, Jeep officials estimated that a Rubicon loaded with options could easily top $60,000. And that doesn’t include the many extras from the Mopar aftermarket company to tempt well-heeled enthusiasts.

Chosen for this review was the base Sport with the six-speed manual gearbox and four options: trailer towing package ($250), anti-spin rear differential ($595), SXM satellite radio ($295) and Mopar rubber slush floor mats ($150). That brought the tested price to $36,330, which is about the average price of a new car in the U.S. these days and a lot of truck for the bucks.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

But don’t expect much in the way of frills. Though it had all of the fundamentals for serious off-roading, this Gladiator came with comfortable cloth upholstery but without power locks, seats, windows and mirrors, and automatic climate control. But, so what? You have to hand-crank the windows but you can remove the doors anyway. Reach out the windows to adjust the outside mirrors and fiddle with the air conditioning and heating controls to get comfortable.

Many Jeep adventurers don’t bother with that anyway. The Gladiator’s doors all can be removed and the windshield folded down for open-air adventures in the boondocks. Same for the fabric roof, which can easily be flipped back to open to the sky. The framework and truck bed are steel but the doors, fenders, hood and tailgate are aluminum.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

With solid axles front and rear, and an array of off-road assists, including a grille-mounted forward camera, the Gladiator easily conquered a serious off-road course at a ranch near a town with the neat name of Cool, California. Its disadvantage is size; a two-door Jeep Wrangler would do better. The course was complicated by mud with a peanut butter consistency from heavy rains.

The Gladiator also performed admirably on paved roads, except for light steering that required frequent corrections to keep a straight line. That was the price of a compromise to handle difficult off-road maneuvers. Instead of the ubiquitous rack-and-pinion steering, the Gladiator uses a recirculating-ball setup.

The surprise was the low intrusion of mechanical and road noise with the soft top. Though there was more wind noise than in a closed truck, the Gladiator was reasonably and amiably quiet at highway speeds.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Launch Edition

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport midsize pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6; 285 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual with four-wheel drive, high and low range.
  • Overall length: 18 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume:103/36 cubic feet.
  • Cargo box length: 5 feet.
  • Weight: 4,650 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,600 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,650 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/23/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,040.
  • Price as tested: $36,330.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Overland

Photos (c) FCA North America

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