CHATHAM, Mass. – Jeep has added a 3-liter V6 diesel to the Gladiator line of midsize pickup trucks for 2021 providing both outstanding low-end torque and superb fuel economy.
Like most modern automotive diesels, the Gladiator drives like a gasoline-engined truck with little of the diesel clatter making its way into the well-equipped cabin of the Overland model we spent last week driving around Cape Cod.
In August we spent time in a gasoline-engined Gladiator Mojave, a truck equipped for the challenges of performing in sandy conditions. This time, around we got to sample the latest iteration of the truck, one with a compression-ignition powerplant.
Modern diesel powerplant performs
Despite very cold December temperatures, the Gladiator’s diesel started instantaneously (something not true of automotive diesels in the past) and ran flawlessly while cold. The inclusion of remote starting capability (just two pushes of the key-fob button), which started the engine, turned on the steering-wheel and driver’s-seat heater as well as the window defroster, was much appreciated when heading out in the Cape’s first major nor’easter. Nothing like getting into a toasty-warm truck when the weather outside is frightful!
The V6 diesel produces 260 horsepower and 442 pounds-feet of torque, which in this Overland configuration can provide the ability to tow a trailer of up to 6,500 pounds. The power gets to the road through an eight-speed automatic transmission then through a two-speed part-time four-wheel-drive system.
Going anywhere on or off road is part of the Gladiator’s DNA. Remember its first name is Jeep and, in essence, it is a pickup-truck version of the most capable off-roader in the brand’s portfolio, the Jeep Wrangler. As such, it shares with its iconic sibling: four-wheel-drive system, suspension design (solid axles, coil springs, stabilizer bars, gas-charged monotube shock absorbers with Multi-tuned Valve technology front and rear), interior and exterior cabin design as well as the ability to take off the doors.
Underneath the Overland are 18×7.5-inch painted aluminum wheels with 255/70R18 Bridgestone Dueler on/off-road black sidewall tires. Inside those aluminum wheels are disc brakes at each corner: 12.9-inch vented rotors with twin-piston floating calipers in the front and 13.6-inch vented rotors with single-piston floating calipers in the rear. Of course, anti-lock technology comes standard along with traction control, electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, trailer-sway control and Hill-start Assist.
A variety of engineering and technological advances, including the eight-speed auto transmission, play a significant part in the Gladiator’s ability to get compact-car-like fuel economy.
The number we saw after several hundred miles of driving on highways as well as rural roads was 27.4 miles per gallon, some 3.4 mpg better than the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the Gladiator diesel will get in combined city and highway driving. In those two types of driving, the EPA predicts 22 and 28 mpg respectively, but I think the numbers will be even higher! The Gladiator holds 18.3 gallons of fuel which translates into more than 500 miles of highway driving on a single tankful – you’ll need bathroom and limb-stretching breaks more often than fuel stops on a long road trip!
Like the Wrangler, you can get the Gladiator with a convertible roof, hardtop (with removable panels) or both which allows you to switch when the seasons change.
Inside comfort and convenience features fill the cabin
Technology fills the Wrangler-like interior making it a comfortable, enjoyable space for any kind of trip, especially in the very-well equipped Overland version we had. Some of these features included leather covering the seats (which are heated), shift knob, parking-brake handle and (heated) steering wheel.
Infotainment is handled by the very intuitive and comprehensive Uconnect®4C GPS navigation system with an 8.4-inch color touch screen controlling not only systems like the dual-zone automatic climate control and advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) but also entertainment and information services.
Standard are AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite/Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/Bluetooth streaming as some of the sources for the Alpine® Premium Audio System. Also part of the Uconnect4C-based system are SiriusXM Travel Link and Traffic Plus services which even bring the location of nearby fuel stations and the local weather to the screen.
USB (and a 110-Volt) outlets are positioned near all seating positions so the up-to-five occupants can keep their mobile devices fully powered and, thanks to a built-in WiFi hotspot, connected during their ride.
Their ride will be comfortable. Headroom in the squared-off interior is generous, as is leg and hip room. The ride is firm without being harsh and, as mentioned earlier, the diesel engine’s distinctive sound is not intrusive even under hard acceleration. This is a very livable daily driver!
Modern technology makes the Gladiator Overland a safer truck
The image of a Jeep Wrangler once might have been one of rudimentary transportation, but that is completely out of date and inaccurate. This Gladiator, like its Wrangler brethren, are filled with the most modern of technology to help make driving on and off road both safer and more enjoyable.
The Jeep Active Safety Group brings rear parking assist and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic monitoring. The Adaptive Cruise Control(ACC)/with Forward Collision Warning Plus includes full-speed forward-collision warning plus, the ACC with stop and automatic high-beam control. In addition, a standard rearview camera lets the driver know what might be behind while reversing.
The premium LED Lighting Group provides LED premium reflector headlamps, LED front fog lamps and LED taillamps.
All this technology and capability brought the price of this 2021 Jeep Gladiator Overland 4X4 to $61,485 (including a $1,495 destination charge) from the Overland base price of $40,395.
There are eight Gladiator models, all with different roles, ranging in base price from the Gladiator Sport at $31,529 to the Gladiator Mojave at $44,140. Two different engines, two transfer cases, three transmissions and a myriad of optional packages, options and accessories allow you to build just the version you want.
And if you want a mid-size pickup truck which can truly conquer virtually all road and off-road surfaces, one of the Jeep Gladiator versions can be just right for your needs and your pocketbook.