2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon: What We Love (and Hate) About It So Far07/22/2021
We’ve driven our 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon almost 8,000 miles. In that time, we’ve spent hundreds of miles on the dirt, thousands of miles on the interstates, and plenty of time putzing around town—and we’ve found a few things that are quite annoying, and plenty more that we love. Let’s dig in.
Backing the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon’s 3.6L Pentastar V-6 is the Aisin D478 six-speed manual transmission. Although we were excited to drive one of the few trucks available today with a manual transmission, we often found ourselves longing for the quick, smooth shifts of the eight-speed slushbox. Rowing the shifter was never an issue, but the friction point was notably later in the stroke. We also found that releasing the clutch at idling speeds (like the fast-food order line) sometimes produced shudders and shakes that we hadn’t experienced since our teenage days learning to drive stick. However, these instances diminished as we piled on the miles. Our last manual-transmission-related gripe is about space for the driver’s left foot. After a few hours on the highway, it was difficult finding a comfortable place for our size 11 boot underneath and around the clutch pedal. Thankfully, there’s one Gladiator-specific fix for this—the removable doors!
Everything in the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is familiar and functional, and we were especially thankful for the forward-facing TrailCam, which gives a live view of what’s in front of the truck. Although it’s not a replacement for a spotter, our passengers were relieved of “go look and see if anything’s over this hill” duty. Our Gladiator came fitted with a hard top color-matched to the Hydro Blue exterior, and we thoroughly enjoyed being able to remove the Freedom Top panels on nicer days—and knowing that this is the only truck on the market where that’s possible. With the hard top, typical road noise was reduced, and we could scarcely pick up the murmur of the factory-equipped Falken Wildpeak A/T3W all-terrain tires.
Preparing the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon for the 2021 Overland Adventure was simple—it had everything necessary to survive multiple days off-road, so all we had to do was pack. Duffel bags and other gear fit easily inside the cab and beneath the Mopar Tri-Fold Tonneau, but our Dometic CFX 35W was too tall. Moving the fridge to the Gladiator’s back seat allowed the tonneau to close, but neither the 115V AC outlet nor the 12V remained hot when the truck was parked for the night. Thankfully, we had aftermarket accessories for that. After a couple thousand pavement miles traveling to and from Overland Adventure, we were thankful for adaptive cruise control, which helped keep our fuel economy in check, sometimes flirting with 20 mpg. Jeep owners will not be surprised by the steering feel, braking, or road noise from the Gladiator, but we can say that the Falken Wildpeak A/T3W all-terrain tires boast one of the better combinations of off-road capability, looks, and on-road comfort.
We’ll argue that if you’re not buying this truck to use it off-road, you’re doing yourself a disservice because that’s where it truly comes alive. The Rubicon’s disconnecting front anti-roll bar, rock sliders, 4:1 reduction ratio in the transfer case, and Fox shocks make it hard to beat off the showroom floor. Whether your idea of off-road is activating both locking differentials to bump it over a slimy shale ledge laced with greasy roots, nimbly picking a line through a patch of boulders, or milking every inch of suspension articulation while you traverse washouts, the Gladiator Rubicon is your truck.
Miles to date: 7,810
Miles since last report: 3,518
Average mpg (this report): 15.36
Test best tank (mpg): 20.48
Test worst tank (mpg): 11.74 (all off-road, loaded with passenger and gear, exclusively four-wheel drive)
This period: Oil change and tire rotation
Problem areas: None
What’s Hot, What’s Not:
Hot: How easy is it to take the doors and roof off your truck?
Not: There are more comfortable trucks out there for this price.
“Packing is a challenge—I swear it’s easier to fit a week’s worth of gear into a Wrangler Unlimited.”
“There’s no other truck I’d want to drive over the rocks of Moab, Utah”
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