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  • Writer's pictureMarc Gonzalez

Jeep Gladiator Willys

The Jeep Gladiator has been on sale for four years and is a different experience from any other pickup. The Willys edition brings an even more rugged feeling to one of the toughest vehicles. Our test version had an MSRP of $68,860 and was assembled at the Toledo, OH, plant.

Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

We had the Jeep Gladiator Overland in 2020 and liked it a lot, but we will not deprive ourselves of the pleasure of talking about it again! The Gladiator is an exciting pickup for the cult following of the Wrangler. It looks like a Wrangler with a bed; sure enough, it's based on the Wrangler platform, which means you can tow more efficiently while keeping the classic Jeep DNA many love. The Willys version doubles down on the off-road capabilities with its Rubicon-inspired options, such as larger off-road wheels, rock rails and a different set of suspensions. We're big fans of the Snazzberry Pearl colour, which you rarely see. The noticeable difference here is the rest of the exterior resembles the Wrangler, except for the bed in the back. The removable doors and roof, which can be stored in a special pouch, are among the most significant advantages over its rivals. In the back, you will find the cool retro graphic of the four-wheel drive system next to the right taillight. The tonneau cover over the bed is also an excellent addition to this trim. Overall, it's just a great-looking midsize truck that offers the best capabilities off the pavement in its category!

If you're familiar with Jeep interiors of the last couple of years, you will feel right at home; it is a copy-paste of the current generation Wrangler. The accessibility can be challenging since the Gladiator sits a couple of inches higher off the ground and doesn't have large running boards. The cloth seats adjust manually; usually, this would be unacceptable at this price point, but this is a fully-focused off-roader. The cabin is roomy even though it isn't a full-size truck; it fits four adults. In the back, there is a surprising amount of chargers, even a regular household-style outlet which is surprising in a midsize truck. The rear bench can be folded in a 60/40 configuration, although the best use of the seats might be to fold the cushions upwards and instead store the more important stuff in the little storage cubbies. There is also a place to store the bolts and screws if you remove the doors under the rear driver-side seat. You can install car seats quickly in the back. Fold the seat down, attach the anchor, fold it back up, latch into the ISOFIX ports, then tighten all the straps. The process isn't straightforward like an SUV, but it is possible, and that's the most important here.

On a different topic, the steering wheel, the gauge cluster and all the toggles and switches are carried out from the Jeep Wrangler to emphasize that it's the best combination of off-road and pickup. The gauge cluster offers a mix of the classic with a touch of modernity. The 7-inch display tucks between the two, which shows the information needed with the complementary off-road pages available on the 8.4-inch infotainment display. Speaking of the center screen, you will find the excellent Uconnect system that, even though it isn't in its latest version in the Jeep Gladiator, is still working great and without too many hassles. The main drawback is the lack of wireless Apple Carplay or Android Auto, but its simplicity and conciseness are remarkable. The optional Alpine Sound system is also a nice benefit, allowing you to get a special branded Jeep portable speaker. Although it's a $300 option, you can brag with your friends that this isn't your typical boombox. The technology isn't the most advanced, but you still get the most important safety features with the Safety Group package (blind spot monitor, rear park assist and rear cross-path detection, to name a few).

Under the hood, the Jeep Gladiator offers two engine options; the 6-cylinder 3.0L EcoDiesel or the V6 3.6L Pentastar. The latter delivers 285hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, and you can get the six-speed manual or the eight-speed automatic transmission. This combination propels the truck to a 0-100kph time of about 8.5 seconds, not fast by any means, but the torque is present at low speeds for the offroad nature of the vehicle. Another advantage of the Gladiator is its towing capacity of up to 7,700lb with an adequate package. Our test version was the Willys, oriented to the hardcore off-road fans; it comes with 32-inch Mud-Terrain tires, heavy-duty front and rear shocks and skid plates for the fuel tank and transfer case, to name a few key characteristics. The truck is also Trail Rated and has an Active full-time 4x4 system and a locking rear differential. So the apparent lack of amenities inside the cabin is traded with off-road goodies.

Now, everyone wonders how the Jeep Gladiator Willys drive off the pavement. The answer is terrific; as you will see in the pictures, we had a lot of fun driving this vehicle in the mud, and we never seemed to get close to being in trouble. Some other midsize trucks are trying to get close to the top, but the Gladiator has an insurmountable advantage: a Wrangler with a five-foot bed. The steering is a little light to our liking, but the acceleration is easy to manage, and the shocks are efficient. Putting the gear in 4L will give you the confidence to get out of trouble, and overall, it is joyous to be driving this in a pit. That being said, on a highway, the ride is bouncy and full of outside noises. That is the price of driving an atypical vehicle; it also comes with muddy fuel consumption (we finished the week at 14.5L/100km). We hope to see a 4Xe version that would improve these figures. You can see our Wrangler 4Xe review here.

JEEP Gladiator
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Overall, the Jeep Gladiator Willys is a great-looking truck designed for the most hardcore off-road fans looking to enjoy the sun with the removable roof and doors typical to Jeep. It's large and loud inside, but it will leave you smiling whenever heading out to the trail.

Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

Jeep has lent us this vehicle as a press vehicle. We have no affiliation with Jeep Canada. The above reflects our personal opinion.

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