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Jeep Wrangler vs. Jeep Gladiator - Differences and Comparisons

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The long-awaited arrival of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator begs an obvious question: How does it differ from the Jeep Wrangler we already know? We happen to have a four-door 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon in our long-term test fleet, which we were able to test against the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon we recently got our hands on. They matched up so exactly — right down to the color — that we were instantly able to pick out and explain their differences.

The Gladiator is indeed a Jeep pickup truck, but it's much more than just a Jeep Wrangler with the back cut off and a pickup truck bed welded on. This side-by-side Jeep comparison does indeed show that the two are virtually identical from the rear doors forward. But the frame beneath the Gladiator is both longer and stronger, and its rear suspension is similar to the link-coil suspension found in a Ram 1500 pickup.

Perched above is a legitimate 5-foot truck bed that's as capable as any other midsize pickup, and our Gladiator Rubicon can tow 7,000 pounds — double what a Wrangler Rubicon can tow. Yes, the Gladiator's longer wheelbase worsens its breakover and departure angles compared to a Wrangler Unlimited. But the Rubicon running gear they both share still gives the Jeep truck impressive off-road abilities compared to competing off-road pickups. So, yeah, a Wrangler is better off-road, but the practical difference isn't as big as you'd think. It could be just the thing if you're one of those people who've always wanted a Wrangler but never went through with it because you needed a truck.

About the 2018 Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep Wrangler needs no introduction, as this iconic vehicle is the very heart and soul of the Jeep brand. The 2018 Jeep Wrangler represents a complete redesign, and it is by far the best example Jeep has ever made. The impressive 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 returns, and there's a new optional 2.0-liter turbocharged mild hybrid four-cylinder that offers better mpg, more torque and better overall performance at high altitude. A six-speed manual with a revised shift mechanism is standard, and a new eight-speed automatic that we like quite a bit replaces the last model's unloved five-speed automatic.

As before, the chassis is a traditional ladder frame with solid front axles and coil springs at each end. This year the safety cage is more smoothly integrated into the body, improving the function of the removable doors and folding windshield. But the improved interior represents perhaps the most striking difference, with its higher grade of materials, upgraded switchgear, and high degree of infotainment technology. As before, the Wrangler is available in Sport, Sport S, Sahara and the off-road optimized Rubicon, and you have your choice of two doors or four.

Read our Jeep Wrangler review: https://www.edmunds.com/jeep/wrangler/2018/
Watch our Jeep Wrangler video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsPxgUdnHSM

About the 2020 Jeep Gladiator

The new Gladiator may just be the perfect vehicle for those who want a Jeep but need a truck. It benefits from the Wrangler's well-sorted V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission combination, and it has the same impressive-to-look-at and easy-to-use interior as the newest Wrangler. And its pickup credentials are real: The Sport S can tow 7,650 pounds and has a 1,600-pound payload, but even the Rubicon can tow 7,000 pounds.

Yes, the driving experience does suffer a bit from the very Jeepy solid front axle, but a smooth-riding coil-spring rear suspension offsets that. And it's true that the Gladiator's wheelbase is a bit long compared to other crew-cab pickups. That's a mixed bag because it smooths out the ride and tracks it straighter on the road, but it also reduces breakover clearance and makes it more likely to drag its belly off-road. This aspect is meaningful if you compare it to a Wrangler, but it's less significant when compared to other midsize trucks.

Read our Jeep Gladiator review: https://www.edmunds.com/jeep/gladiator/2020/
Watch our 2020 Jeep Gladiator video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bK2pP4yThck

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