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2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Review

Reviewing the Gladiator and Flat Towing Mods
Article Date: November, 2019


Interior Details

Rubicons get a few extra switches for engaging the electronic locking front and rear differentials. They also get a switch to unlock the front anti-sway bar, which is a handy feature when wheeling in the rocks off-road. The console holds the shift lever for the 8 speed automatic as well as the four wheel drive transfer case lever. The shifter can be bumper to the left to enter manual mode. It can then be nudged forward or backward to manually select gears. Unlike earlier versions that selected the maximum gear the transmission would shift into, this version actually selects that gear so if you select 6th gear, for example, it will stay in that gear as you slow down unless you bump the shifter to select another gear. However, it is smart so it will manually kick down to 1st gear if you come to a stop to prevent stalling the engine.

The interior features red trim on the instrument panel, steering wheel and seats.

The console also has decent storage. A rear-hinged padded lid is comfortable and at just the right height to use as an armrest. The lids opens in two parts. The first paddle switch just opens the very top to expose a shallow tray capable of holding coins, key fobs or other short items. The second paddle opens the deep main portion, which also is equipped with an illuminated USB port connected to the Uconnect entertainment center. You can connect your smart phone and control it via the in-dash screen or you can plug in a jump drive to play music files through the system. There are a total of three USB ports connected in this manner. In addition to the hidden console port there is also one in the center of the dash beneath the radio and a third at the rear of the console that can be accessed by back seat passengers.

The rear seating area is also quite comfortable and rear seat legroom has been improved in the Gladiator. The seat backs fold forward to reveal storage pockets in the back wall as well as car seat anchors. The seat belt buckles are mounted so that you don't have to fish around to find them and the seat cushions flip up to exposed a full width lockable storage area. In our Wrangler stuff would come sliding out from beneath the seat when driving. This compartment prevents that from happening, is lockable and holds much more cargo. The rear of the console also holds a pair of A/C ducts to help keep the rear occupants comfortable in hot weather. In the past we had to divert out front dash vent to shoot over the console to keep our grandkids cool when wheeling in Moab in summer. That will no longer be necessary. The rear window in the hardtop does have a rear window defroster but it is a manual sliding window. I wish that it was available as a power window so that I could control it from the dash when driving.

Console and center controls panel.

Rear seat area has plenty of legroom.

Exterior Details

The exterior of the Gladiator is striking. When approaching a Gladiator from the front it looks just like a JL series Wrangler, which is undoubtedly why I am continuing to get the Jeep wave from fellow Jeepers approaching in the other lane. The Rubicon adds vented louvers in the hood, which gives it a touch of attitude as well as the usual red trim accents and the red outlined Rubicon hood decals. The increased height of the Gladiator gives it more ground clearance than the Wrangler but it also gives it a higher hood profile. The Gladiator's rear tail lights are fairly large and easy to see and they are extended out a bit rather than flush to the sides in order to accommodate the lane deviation warning feature that is part of the Active Safety Group.

I did order the optional LED lighting package on our Gladiator and found there is a noticeable difference. The tail lights are much brighter, which was one of my concerns when towing our JK Wranglers behind the motorhome at night. The front turn signals are also a big improvement. Our JK Wrangler turn signals were small, not as bright and buried down low in the front grill, which made them harder to see if you have a nice off-road bumper on the front. The JL and Gladiator embed the turn signals in the front fenders and the LED version are quite bright. When driving during the daytime there are LED accent rings around the headlights and the fender lights, which serve as white DRLs. Whenever a turn signal is activated that particular fender DRL switches over to a bright amber flashing turn signal that is hard to miss. The LED headlights do a great job of filling out the desired area and tend to go to a set distance and stop. The high beams project farther down the road but both the high and low beams do a good job of filling in the areas to the side of the road. Add in the LED fog lights and it's a big benefit when driving at night during the fall rut when deer tend to pop out from alongside the road at the last minute. Even the bed lights are LED.

Red Rubicon badging on the hood.

The rear tailgate showing the red accents.

Speaking of the bed, Jeep did a pretty good job engineering the bed's cargo area to make it functional. Most full size trucks sold no longer have 8' beds unless they are work trucks. The trend is to go with shorter 5-6' beds with rear seating in the cab. Just like these trucks, the Gladiator's 5' bed isn't long enough to contain a full 8' sheet of plywood. What Jeep did was to design a tailgate that would fold down flat but also be able to lock in at a 45 degree angle. The height of the gate is equal to the height of the wheel wells in the bed when locked in at that position. The bed width allows for a 4' wide sheet of plywood to rest across the fenders and tailgate. Jeep has placed notches in the bed that accommodate 2x4s to span this area and supply additional support for thinner materials that could otherwise sag. This allows you to carry multiple sheets of full size plywood in the Gladiator's bed.

I also ordered the cargo management system, which consists of trail rails that line the upper length of the bed's sides. A number of tie-down latches are placed in these rails and can easily be slide from front to rear to place tie-down points where they are needed for each particular cargo. The top of the bed was covered by a roll-up tonneau cover. This cover rolls up and can be secured at the front of the bed by a pair of straps or can extend the length of the bed to securely cover it's contents. I can assert that the cover seals well because after driving through a car wash the bed was still dry. The tonneau cover has an 8" flip up extension at the end which allows you to leave long pieces of lumber, conduit or whatever to extend out over the top of the tailgate while still allowing the rest of the bed to remain covered.

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