Just so we’re clear, the Gladiator may seem innovative and different, but the Gladiator isn’t Jeep’s first attempt at a pickup. The CJ-8 (or Scrambler), a longer wheel based version of the CJ-7, made its way into the Jeep lineup in 1981. It had the face of a Jeep CJ, but had a pick-up truck bed in place of rear seats.
A little later, Jeep chopped off the rear end of a Cherokee and stuck a bed on the back, which they called the Comanche. The Comanche was wildly capable and just as popular, making them incredibly difficult to find. For cheap, anyway.
So, there are two other pick-up inspired Jeeps that paved the way for the Gladiator. It’s not totally relevant, but it grinds my gears when I hear people say, “Wow, it’s about time Jeep made a pick-up!” No. Stop that. Stop that right now.
With that out of the way, let’s dig into the Roman combatant. First off, it’s got a much longer wheelbase than both of its predecessors. The Scrambler had a wheelbase of 103.1 inches long, and the Comanche’s longest wheelbase was 119.9 inches long. Those numbers compared to modern vehicles aren’t shocking, but when compared to the Wrangler of the age, they’re pretty surprising.
For example, the CJ-7’s wheelbase was 93.3 inches long. The Cherokee’s was only 101 inches long. Sure, a few inches doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal. In the off-roading world, size really does matter. Shorter wheelbases make maneuvering around obstacles and executing tight turns much easier. Long wheelbases force drivers to turn wider, and compromise ground clearance.
The Gladiator, which is based off the modern Wrangler, has a wheelbase of 137.3 inches long. Compared to the Wrangler, which measures at 96.8 inches, it’s a difference of 40.5 inches. It does come with a long list of off-road worthy features, but the long wheel base might make taking the roads less traveled a little harder.
It does come with quick disconnect sway bar links in the front, locking front and rear differentials, higher intake to avoid hydro locking, steel skid plates, 11.1 inches of ground clearance (on Rubicon models) and a 4:1 transfer case. As of right now, it only comes with a 3.6 liter V6 that makes 285 horsepower and 260 foot pounds of torque. Transmission wise, it comes with a 10 speed automatic. Jeep announced that “eventually” it’ll come with an optional diesel engine that would make more power and a manual transmission, but we’ll see.
Personally, I don’t have much interest in the Gladiator. I admire all the features and lineage it comes from, but the length of the wheelbase makes me cringe. After prowling on YouTube watching videos of them going off-road, I’ve deduced that they definitely can do what they’re meant to, drivers just need to go a lot slower and add a few modifications. Which, to be fair, can be said about almost any off-road ready vehicle, so I can’t hold that against it.