In Which The Author Is Almost Completely Wrong About Something

Guessing the future is a tricky business; just ask any of the major media collectives that predicted a President Hillary with certainty ranging from ninety-four to ninety-nine percent. As the man once said, the future’s uncertain and the end is always near. Another example: Back in August of 2015 I ruled out the possibility of a Wrangler pickup with such certainty that I blush in retrospect at the contemplation of it. About this time last year, I admitted defeat and tried to figure out who would buy the Gladiator. Having seen the specs, I’ve revised my ideas about the potential customers just a little.


To begin with, this is far “more truck” than anybody, including your humble author, suspected. Instead of being an Unlimited with a vestigial bed, it’s a thoroughly reinforced and re-engineered vehicle that gains 400 pounds for the cause and can apparently tow 7,650 pounds. There’s a diesel coming, although its lower tow rating and lesser performance will make it the exclusive province of diesel fetishists. I’m guessing that it will be the three-liter VM Motori unit that is sold as the EcoDiesel in half-ton Rams. Over at Turbo Diesel Register, the owners are eloquent about the VM diesel’s cooling issues. My suggestion? Avoid it.

The rest of the Gladiator appears to be an upper-deck home run. My only quibble with the thing is the five-foot bed. In theory, I could use a Gladiator to pull one of my cars to a NASA race; in practice, the short and narrow bed means I’d be packing awfully tight. As a BMX or mountain-bike support vehicle it makes a lot more sense, although after thirty years of driving myself back from the trails or skatepark with one or more injuries I don’t know how much patience I’d have with the Wrangler’s NVH levels in that situation.

Last year, I predicted the customer base at:

50 percent Wrangler owners and intenders who would have purchased a four-door Unlimited if the Gladiator didn’t exist.
25 percent Boomer-aged pickup-truck owners looking to downsize without shame.
15 percent Colorado Z71/Raptor/RAM Rebel intenders who want something for the oft-delayed day when they finally make it out to the dunes.
10 percent Zoolander glampers who are currently driving Outbacks.

The relative seriousness of the Gladiator inclines me to revise this a bit. The extra weight and capability, along with the nontrivial price premium it entails, will cut down on the percentage of buyers who would otherwise get a four-door Unlimited or a Subaru. (A few readers wondered what I mean by “Zoolander glamper” in the original piece: I meant this cosplay outdoorsman and others like him.) So let’s say 35 percent and 5 percent, respectively. The 10 percent we get back will go directly to the Boomer (and, to a lesser degree, Gen X) pickup-truck types. This thing can pull a boat and it has enough on-paper capability to get some people out of their Ram Rebels and Power Wagons.

The final 15 percent, the people who would buy a special-purpose pickup if the Gladiator was not around, are going to like how the Jeep stacks up against the ZR2 and the Raptor. It should offer equal or greater off-road cred at a price well below that of the Raptor. How will it compare to the Colorado? You can get a well-equipped ZR2 in the low forties. Don’t look for the Gladiator to be any cheaper than that. A middling-equipment Wrangler Unlimited is a $39,000 proposition now. If the pickup bed comes at anything less than a $4,999 premium, I’ll be very surprised. Don’t take my opinions on the subject too seriously, however. God knows that when it comes to the Wrangler, I’ve been wrong before.

45 Replies to “In Which The Author Is Almost Completely Wrong About Something”

  1. Patrick King

    My first impression is how the Gladiator dwarfs the Grand Wagonneer it’s towing. Then again, I’m always shocked when I see an old Accord that looks tiny compared to a current Civic.

    Reply
    • 1500cc

      I wonder if that’s the Grand Wagoneer from Wheeler Dealers. Looks like the same blue colour, which I didn’t think was a stock colour when I saw it on the show. Also has the same wheels and trim.

      Reply
  2. scottm

    My wife is a jeep girl. She’s had numerous Jeeps over the years, from clapped out CJs to our current JK. We traded our 2008 JKU in on a 2012 JK 2 door so we could have the new Penatstar. Plus she wanted a soft top again. By the way, we paid $29000 fornthe JKU and traded it in 4 years and 95000 miles later for $21000. Not bad in my book. Anyway, she’s wanted a Gladiator from the moment Jeep started seriously teasing about actually selling it. So put us down for one of the second year models. We’ve had generally good experiences with our new Jeeps but I still think giving them a year to sort things out is the prudent thing to do.

    Reply
  3. John C.

    When they added the 4 door and now the pickup bed, I worry that the powers that be are getting off track. The two door gradually becomes a tiny percentage of the vehicles and eventually goes away or at least looses the ability to impart credibility on the rest of the line. None of Jack’s potential buyers seem to be people that add credibility. Short term though they might pay the extra $5000.

    Reply
  4. Steve Ulfelder

    Having recently moved to Texas, I have Truck Envy. I want one BAD, in the lamest, most poser-ish fashion. Fortunately for me, I’ll never be able to afford one, so I’m forced to the other end of the spectrum: a $2500 work truck with 170K miles. Which is actually cooler anyway.

    Reply
  5. Paul M.

    Funny how every major can manufacturer in America has something to show at the LA auto show except for GM. Their only publicity during what is arguably now the most important auto show in America is about them closing factories, hiring coders, firing engineers they no longer need, and how they want to be the next Uber or Google. Just like they want to be a different car company (Hello Saturn).

    Meanwhile, every other manufacturer is showing new iron, ENGINEERED by ENGINEERS, and exciting the crowds and enjoying the returns. Please do not buy GM vehicles until they bring Silverado and new Blazer production to America or Canada.

    Reply
    • Acd

      GM seems to be going the save their way into a profit route by not designing new cars, eliminating positions and closing factories.

      Reply
  6. Josh Howard

    Am I the only person who is bothered by how much the truck is squatting with that trailer? It’s a lot of weight. I get it. While it’s an incredible marketing opportunity, anyone who has used a truck to tow something large will be worried by this.

    Jack, you point out most of the things I thought of from bed size to how they re-engineered the back half of the chassis to beef it up enough. That said, I’m not sure this is really for “truck people”. The specs are decent, but it’s just not honed enough in any one area to seem great. Maybe I’m letting good be the enemy of great?

    It’s fun and interesting to have another option in the future. I’m sure this will keep Toledo humming for a while. That’s more than GM can say right now. I just hope it’s not 2 years too late.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Honestly the idea of a Gladiator pulling what has to be three tons is right up there with the Tacoma that pulled a 747 at 0.5mph. I would use a Gladiator to pull Marilyn on my ATC aluminum open deck but that’s the limit.

      Reply
    • Danio

      Think about it this way. Way back in 2003 when no one adhered to a standardized SAE towing test, the F150 4×4 with the 4.6L engine had a max tow capacity of 6,800lbs on a reg cab and 6,100 in SuperCrew guise. That truck has less HP, slightly more torque and half the speeds in the transmission. How far we’ve come.

      I have no doubt that since the JT’s rating was developed under SAE J2807, that it can safely tow that rating all day long under 99th percentile conditions. The engine will be working, but it’ll feel like an Ox compared to most of the things we towed with in decades past.

      Reply
      • Josh Howard

        It’s not the engine I’m worried about. It’s the axles, suspension, and tires. Look at the squat. Offroad tires are quite different than tires that tow. I feel like there might be more than a few sad people with flats and blowouts (not to mention axle issues) if they try to tow and treat this like their kitchen sink modded wrangler. Managing heat is going to be an issue. In stock configuration, I’m sure it’ll live long enough. For the money, that squat doesn’t look great or confidence inspiring.

        Reply
        • danio3834

          The key to towing safely is not exceeding Gross Axle Weight Ratings and Gross Combined Weight Ratings. The tires are matched to that. The suspension should squat with the proper tongue weight on it, but not to the bump stops. That doesn’t look to be the case. When towing a JGW as seen, my concern would be proper placement on the trailer to manage tongue weight. If sketchy, do up the load distributing bars and go.

          Reply
    • Cdotson

      I noticed the rear squat too but I thought it appeared worse in the marketing photo showing the Gladiator towing an Airstream.

      In the Grand Wagoneer photo you can tell that there’s no weight distribution hitch of any kind despite the low-res photo on this blog. The GW is nearly three tons by itself. That flatbed doesn’t appear aluminum so it probably adds another 1500+ in total weight. Even if I’m overestimating the total towed weight it’s towing nearly the published limit of 7700 lbs. This is far too much to tow safely without weight distribution in a non-HD truck.

      Reply
      • gtem

        “The GW is nearly three tons by itsel”

        Curb weight of a grand Wagoneer is about 4500lb, fwiw. So it’s probably within its limits and with attention to setup could tow that safely, but it would definitely not feel as pleasant doing it as a heavier, longer, more powerful halfton with a stiffer leafpack.

        Reply
  7. Danny

    It’s a weird era we live in when you can buy a new V8 muscle car with decent features for less money than a “midsize” truck.

    Reply
  8. Disinterested-Observer

    I made the mistake of clicking on the Siler link. The whole site is hilarious, so I guess in that sense it wasn’t a mistake, but the knife is the best. However old it may or may not be, he either hasn’t taken care of it or deliberately ruined it just to make it look like that. In short, I will be subscribing to his newsletter and from now on will exclusively buy my shotguns via the link on his page.

    Reply
    • gtem

      I recognized the name from a few articles on jalopnik about taking an Outback and an F150 offroad, but it is fascinating to put a name with a face.

      I thought I was familiar with the “glamping” term from reading adventure motorcycle forums, guys on GS1200 Bimmers wearing Aerostitch gear with nice cooking setups with steaks and scotch at the campsite, something I’d love to do once funds allow.

      But this type of “glamping” looks to be something else entirely. It seems entirely about curating a perfect image with perfect photos of vintage gear. Now I know about this weird niche.

      My own “glamping” the last 2 years was quite excellent: walking around the woods sort of hunting (unsuccessfully), then target shooting my arsenal at rotten frozen pumpkins until sun down before retiring to my brother’s wood-stove heated garage. Cooking up and eating some excellent homemade stew (pound of bacon instead of the missing harvested game), and sitting on the old ’89 MPV’s center bench seat in front of the stove, downing Four Roses bourbon and talking shop deep into the winter night while DJ-ing a youtube playlist of L.O.X.

      Reply
      • Compaq Deskpro

        We gon R-U, double F, R-Y-D-E
        A revolver, semiautomatic and a PG

        It sounds like you accomplished far more than this guy already. Are you sure you didn’t get in a fight with a mountain lion?

        Reply
        • gtem

          No, for better or for worse the pumpkins were quite defenseless, although the insanely frigid temperatures and their advanced state of liquefying decay had them frozen up incredibly solid so they put up a surprising fight, as much of a fight as a pumpkin can against 00 buck anyways. Hoping my brother’s farmer neighbor did a field of pumpkins again this year, we’ll see.

          I gotta say getting away to some kind of cabin/garage type setting in the winter months with the guys is the most therapeutic thing I’ve ever done. Most recently I went to help a friend tear down an old cabin on his family’s property, old enough to predate Indiana as a state (will be reassembled with a few replaced logs elsewhere on the property). Hard work demoing and learning/using some cool equipment while the sun’s up, then cooking some cheap steaks from the local IGA and drinking Evan Williams bourbon in front of our massive burn pile into the evening. Made a bit of time to blow the cobwebs out of my Mosin carbine as well (to clarify: in daylight and prior to any drinking).

          Reply
          • -Nate

            Sad to think that this sort of thing isn’t a regular detail for to – day’s children .

            Whether dodging cat sized rats in 1800’s buildings in South Boston or doing this sort of thing in Rural New England, sapping, treeing, digging sewer lines by hand in January, on and on, one learns so much about life in general and the people you meet in particular .

            -Nate

          • gtem

            “one learns so much about life in general and the people you meet in particular .”

            Amen Nate. It was cool to get to know a bit more about my friend’s dad who was our foreman that weekend. Never went to college, instead did an apprenticeship and got a union gig at the Rolls Royce engine plant as a tool and die maker, and at some point branched out and started his own machining business on the side, as well as buying another building he rents out. Now has a crew of guys that work for him while he still punches in at Rolls every day, drives a Tesla Model S, tackles serious construction projects like it’s nothing and is handy with just about any tool and any job. It’s inspirational to meet people like that.

            And now I’ve got some seat time in a skid steer and telehandler 🙂

      • safe as milk

        my neice’s husband fits the glamping profile to a tee. the thing is, as much as i would like to make fun of him, he is also a kind considerate thoughtful person and devoted husband and father. so what’s worse his fetish for artisnal shotguns and vintage bourbon, or my judgemental snickering?

        Reply
  9. bluebarchetta

    I bet they sell more Gladiators in the first year of production than they sold CJ-8 Scramblers over that truck’s entire production run. Why do you suppose the Scrambler wasn’t a bigger hit? Right truck, wrong time? Or was the CJ just too crude an implement for average suburbanites to drive daily?

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      It was an era where people didn’t haul empty air unless that empty air was in the trunk of a personal luxury coupe. Jeep buyers didnt want a truck. Truck drivers needed an 8 foot bed.

      Reply
  10. jc

    Too bad they won’t let us have a 8 foot bed. Or even 6.5 feet, extending to 8 with the gate down. Is it even 48 in. between wheel wells?

    As far as I’m concerned, if I can’t put a sheet of plywood or drywall in it, it isn’t going to be in my driveway.

    Sure would be nice if they would offer a single cab long bed version. Jeep Comanche!

    Reply
    • Josh Howard

      The days of regular cabs are over unless they’re strictly fleet or rv use. Speaking of which, how cool would this be as a basis for a smaller RV?

      Reply
      • danio3834

        It would be a cool overlander with a drop in camper.

        I also kinda want the JT as a full wagon back SUV with 3 rows so I can take the whole crew to the top of the mountain.

        Reply
    • Compaq Deskpro

      If you want a two door long bed you can put drywall in, your at the wrong corner of the dealership. FCA specifically took RAM out of Dodge for that reason. We should just be lucky it has more substance than an Avalanche’d Wrangler Unlimited.

      Reply
  11. mrwiizrd

    That siler link is just amazing.

    Interesting info on the ecodiesel engine, as I would really like a diesel SUV for my next ride. There are a boatload of 2018 ecodiesel grand cherokees sitting on the lots and the discounts appear to getting pretty attractive.

    I think I’ll wait and see how the reliability shakes out on GM’s new 6 cylinder duramax, I have to think that GM will eventually offer a diesel tahoe in 2020 or 2021.

    Reply
  12. John Phelps

    I really want to like the Gladiator, but I struggle to understand its purpose. The Wrangler makes a lot of compromises in comfort and drivability in the interest of excellent off-road ability, but with its extra-long wheelbase the Gladiator isn’t an ideal off-roader. This can be remedied somewhat by a bro-sized lift and larger tires, but it then loses much of its utility as a pickup. A regular cab Gladiator would make more sense, but who wants one of those these days?

    Reply
    • gtem

      Plenty of people take quite long Tacomas offroad.

      I can see the Carmel-ites (wealthy suburbs North of the 465 loop in Indy) lining up for this thing, they snap up JKUs like crazy, and THOSE are a compromise offroad compared to the 2 door Wranglers, and likewise are quite compromised on-road compared to something like a CUV, or even an IFS metal-top SUV like a 4Runner or GX/Tahoe/etc. It’s the perfect cool looking accessory to go with their Northface gear, and can haul the kids to soccer/hockey practice, now with more room for gear than the JKU, AND it can do the spring-time mulch haul and some pavers.

      I think they totally nailed this niche, and the Gladiator will print money for FCA.

      Reply
      • John Phelps

        Oh I don’t doubt it will sell well based on image, but I would lean towards the more comfortable Colorado, Tacoma, or Ranger given that the Gladiator will never be able to truly make use of all of its offroad hardware, especially on the higher spec’d models. It’s kind of like having snow tires on a Ferrari.

        Reply
        • gtem

          Again, the precedent is that folks are looking past the packaging/comfort inconveniences and lining up to buy the JKUs in lieu of more practical crossovers in the ritzy burbs, I don’t doubt that some will similarly be swayed to this pickup variant over a more traditional truck.

          Reply
  13. -Nate

    Interesting .

    I’d see the utility on a basic cab fleet version, maybe as a plow rig but not ever for me I should think .

    Basic trucks are where it’s at, who cares about showing off in your rig ? .

    -Nate

    Reply
  14. dr_ribs_revere

    I like it. Can definitely see it as a replacement for my F-150 eventually. A 4 door convertible with a six speed trans make put it in that orange color and sign me up. As long as it will haul the boards, bikes, sandy/wet messy things and the tailgate hold up to the weight of a Harley I’ll be thrilled. Besides its a Convertible and can be bought in a stick.

    Truth be told the 5ft bed doesn’t thrill me but the majority of the buyers for these get full size trucks with tiny bed on the upside it doesn’t look like the bed sides overly high like the others so loading should be easy. As far a towing like most internet experts and long haul truckers in America apparently anyone towing anything should really have at least a 3/4 ton truck because nothing else is designed to haul that weight or safe in the process…

    Reply
  15. Wulfgar

    I had my best laughs of the day looking at that guys site. Every staged photo he is wearing the same “outfit” and he’s the one that made Vanson famous like him? Right, dude. I will be in the market for a truck in a couple of years and would like to consider the Gladiator but it seems to me they made too many compromises with bed size so as not to conflict with the RAM market.

    Reply
  16. JustPassinThru

    It takes maturity to admit error.

    That said, I don’t think Jack was wrong. He laid out the reasons why the Jeep pickup would be a redundant faux-pas; and I – reluctantly, as a onetime Jeep addict – had to agree with.

    To dredge out the old argument: Jeep owners are making a lifestyle statement. Truck owners are making a lifestyle statement. A Jeep TRUCK makes the same statement, redundant, with the sacrifices of both designs fed on themselves.

    Ah, but – as I noted, back when I sold my last Jeep, as FCA was changing the locks in Toledo…Jeep of today is not Jeep of yore. Jeep has been fluid, all along.

    I got my love of the breed from my father…who was, after V-E Day in Europe, a driver and clerk to the Allied Occupational Forces officer corps. Because he was a dual national who grew up in Germany, and then fought in the American Army uniform. He knew the language and the land – and he could get those Willys MBs and Ford GPWs, to trundle right along, with their VIP cargo.

    He got home, got serious, and got to be 45 before he could afford a car that was more whimsey than practical. He chose the Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer – the audacity of Henry Kaiser’s company, coupled to Jeep traditions.

    Anyone who knows anything about Jeeps of that era, can know how disappointed he was.

    I did much the same, at the same age. More adventurous, and never having driven an open Jeep before, I opted for a well-preserved used YJ. Made after Chrysler had improved on AMC’s solid start.

    Willys was so dead no one knew how to spell it; AMC was long gone; and Chrysler had the best Jeep products out there, we’ll ever see. Since then, Daimler and Fiat – bad and badder – have hammered the hapless Jeep into its own image.

    Daimler, it later became apparent, had given up the durable timeless engineering it had its own legend rooted in. Fiat…well, the less said, the better.

    So, what you have there, is a Fiat chassis, with a marginally-acceptable pickup box – behind the de-rigeur four doors – towing the timeless brilliance of Peak Willys, the SJ (J-Series before AMC) Wagoneer.

    Gag me with a spoon.

    Reply

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