Aren’t Your Glad(iator) There’s a New Jeep Pickup Truck?
While there are arguably several models on the road today with more off-road capability and performance ability, the Jeep Wrangler has long been a held up as the symbol of adventure and strength across rough terrain. The seven-slot grille has become synonymous with a top-down, mountain-climbing, sleeping-bags-in-the-back lifestyle that we all love to live vicariously through.
And now they’ve taken it one step further–or maybe one step back.
Because Jeep recently unveiled the new 2020 Jeep Gladiator and it’s everything we could have wanted from a new Jeep pickup truck, like towing capability over 7,500 pounds and the same great off-road features and systems we’ve come to expect from Jeep.
But though the Wrangler and, to a lesser extent, the Cherokee, have long become the symbol of the Jeep brand, this is far from the origin story for the Jeep pickup truck. In fact, it’s more akin to playing their greatest hits on the revival tour.
Jeep produced trucks for decades, with cabs to fit their unique models. In some cases, such as the Jeep Comanche, there’s a smoothness to the vehicle that almost makes it seem as though the pickup truck bed is an intentional design feature. In many of these striking models through the years, however, the truck seems like an odd, if endearing add-on. In the Jeep Scrambler, an early ancestor of the modern Gladiator (Jeep’s already had several of those!) the hood of the vehicle is nearly as long as the bed, making that Wrangler cab look like a strange little mountain on a flat horizon.
To look through the history of Jeep trucks is to embrace war vehicles, workhorses, and adventure machines at every stage. Some of them are, undoubtedly, odd looking. The Jeep FC series from the 1950s and 1960s looks a little like a kid took the body off one toy truck and put it on the wheels of a slightly smaller toy truck. It has the squished face of a bulldog and that inescapable Jeep aesthetic of always looking like it’s about to fall over, despite having all four tiny tires flat on the ground.
The early Jeep Gladiator J-Series that ran from 1963 to 1987 almost gets the pickup look right, but a distinctly car-shaped front end has you scanning back and forth to see which part is truck and which part is all auto. And, of course, what’s not to love about the Jeep Jeepster Commando, the small sprite of the late sixties and early seventies that plays tricks on the eyes. With its small, low body and why-did-you-bother bed, it looks like the love child of a Ford Bronco and Volkswagen Thing. If you want to really feel like you ate the wrong mushrooms at dinner, take a look at the wagon version.
The thing is, these vehicles are all a little silly. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator may be the silliest of all–and that’s exactly what we love about it. Sure, the new gem in the Jeep lineup looks like a Lego toy, but that’s half the fun. Jeep, throughout history, has competently executed its jobs, while never taking itself too seriously.
The Jeep lineup is hardly lacking. If you’re on the search for serious power on and off the road, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee comes with an available supercharged 6.2L V8 engine for up to 707 horsepower, 645 pound-feet of torque and towing over 7,000 pounds. You can rely on that.
But we also rely on Jeep to give us silly cars, to give us stretched out or top heavy cars, to give us cars in mojito! green, firecracker red and hellayella yellow. Beyond the true capability and performance of Jeep, you get the Jeep lifestyle, the adventure, the possibility, the open road ahead and the starry sky above.
And the new Jeep Gladiator, wrapped in history and fun, does just that. It gives us the best parts of the Jeep brand, the visions of old Jeeps we’ve long forgotten, the colors and big trim and high stance, and it subtly slips in new technology, new safety features, and new performance options. There is no doubt that this new Gladiator will be a success. In fact, the only question left to ask is–what adventure will you take first?