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The Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator series are among the labels that laid the groundwork for the American 4×4 and catapulted Jeep to success.
These vehicles are rugged, versatile, and many an enthusiast’s trusted off-roading companion. But if there is one thing that these four-wheelers aren’t, it is ‘interchangeable.’
Despite their superficial similarities, the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator are different beasts. The former is an SUV, while the latter is a pickup truck. Understandably, however, this distinction is growing more obscure due to recent developments in automotive technology.
Trims aside, several other factors make them unique. And while most of the qualities tend to intersect, they are not as blurred as the styling cues of these machines.
You may currently have no pressing need to tell these crown jewels apart. Nonetheless, it pays to have this kind of knowledge handy — whether for showing off your daily driver or deciding on your next overlanding rig.
Jeep Gladiator vs Wrangler Face-Off
To get the ball rolling, I’ll have you imagine a scenario most enthusiasts encounter when faced with a slew of Jeep offerings for the first time.
You stare at the grand selection of wheels, find yourself gravitating toward a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited, and exclaim, “That’s a handsome truck!” Then you pat yourself on the back for identifying the Rubicon as such — only to realize weeks later that you guessed wrong.
This will likely sound familiar because we all have gone through a similar situation at least once.
It is not necessarily a big deal for a newbie to get things mixed up. But for a seasoned adventurer, this blunder may well be part of the ten cardinal sins of off-roading!
We wouldn’t want to be caught dead not knowing the disparities between these 4x4s — hence, the list of differentiating attributes below:
The most apparent difference between the Jeep Gladiator and Jeep Wrangler is classification. Categorically, Jeep Gladiators are mid-size (SJ) and full-size (JT) pickup trucks. Meanwhile, Jeep Wranglers can be one of the following: small/compact (YJ), mid-size (TJ), or full-size SUVs (JK/JL).
Although the Gladiator is a spin-off of the Jeep Wrangler platform, these two do not fall under the same vehicle type. Pickups always have a cargo bed, a fixed cab, and a conventional exterior layout.
Conversely, SUVs like the Wrangler have a roll cage and a more versatile design. The label’s LWB models may sport an enclosed cabin and a bed, but their wheelbase will still fall short in length against a pickup truck.
Based on that last note, dimensions are the 2nd biggest difference between the Jeep Gladiator and Wrangler.
Similar to Jeep Cherokees and Grand Cherokees, there is at least a 19-inch difference in wheelbase and chassis measurements between the two. The gap increases by 25 inches when pitting a Jeep Wrangler TJ against a Jeep Gladiator JK/JL.
A 19-inch gap makes a world of difference in improving one’s overall riding experience. Plus, you can never get too much storage and cabin space — especially when traversing backcountry roads, immersing in a favorite pastime, or exploring the outdoors for weeks on end.
Here is a quick reference to Jeep Gladiator vs. Jeep Wrangler dimensions:
|Length||188.4 inches||218 inches|
|Width||73.9 inches||73.8 inches|
|Height||73.6 inches||76.1 inches|
|Wheelbase||118.4 inches||137.3 inches|
From 1986 to 1995, consumers who got a Jeep Wrangler could choose from the following:
- (1986—1995): 2.5-L AMC Inline-4 power mill mated to either a 3-speed 30RH A904 (TorqueFlite TF904) automatic gearbox or 5-speed Aisin AX-5 manual transmission
- (1986—1990): 4.2-L AMC Straight-6 engine mated to either a 3-speed A999 (TorqueFlite TF999) automatic gearbox or 5-speed Peugeot BA-10/Aisin AX-15 manual transmission
- (1991—1995): 4.0-L AMC Straight-6 engine mated to a 3-speed A999/32RH A999 automatic gearbox or 5-speed Aisin AX-15 manual transmission
The initial drivetrain options offered up to 112 hp (84 kW), while the 4.0-L engine introduced in 1991 spewed 190 hp (139 kW) — increasing power output by roughly 69%. Conversely, the standard 2023 Jeep Wrangler will receive a 3.6-L V6 engine with 285 hp (209 kW).
As for the Gladiator, its 1st gen SJ series received the 3.8-L AMC Tornado Straight-6 power mill offering 140 hp (102 kW). Jeep put forward other powerplants alongside it (including the 5.7-L Buick Dauntless and a 6.6-L AMC V8 engine) until it settled on its current 24-valve DOHC Pentastar engine.
Between the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator models, the latter offers more substantial cargo space. The only downside (if even considered one) is that this space is not 100% weatherproofed, as it is at the back of the truck.
The bed may work well for hauling bulky items and equipment but not for doing the same in inclement weather, even with a Rugged Ridge 13550.22 Armis Soft Rolling Bed Cover (view on Amazon).
Interestingly, there is not much difference in wiggle room (driver and passengers) for LWB versions.
With the Jeep Wrangler offering 2-door and 4-door trims, the series has closed the gap in how many people and stuff it can accommodate. However, this wouldn’t be the case if comparing pre-2000 models.
Maximizing the 104-cubic-foot passenger volume comes at a price for the Wrangler, despite the 60-40 split-folding rear seat feature it shares with the Gladiator.
If all seats are up and occupied, the interior cargo volume becomes limited to 31.7 cu. ft. But if the interior cargo volume is maximized, you will not be able to house as many passengers.
|Max. Interior Cargo Volume||31.7—72.4 cu. ft.||35.5 cu. ft. (exterior)|
|Legroom (F/R)||41.2 / 38.3 inches||41.2 / 38.3 inches|
|Headroom (F/R)||42.6 / 41.7 inches||42.8 / 42.8 inches|
|Hiproom (F/R)||53.9 / 56.7 inches||53.9 / 55.9 inches|
|Shoulder Room (F/R)||55.7 / 57.7 inches||55.7 / 55.7 inches|
|Passenger Volume||104 cu. ft.||104 cu. ft.|
Currently, both vehicles share the following entertainment and convenience features:
- Air conditioning
- Manual door locks
- Standard windows (F/R) with a light tint
- An external digital memory control
- Cruise Control with steering wheel controls (no distance pacing)
- Illuminated beverage holders (F/R)
- 12V DC power outlets
- Driver/passenger door bins
- Full floor console
- Locking glove box
- Driver/passenger vanity mirrors
- AM/FM/Satellite-prep radio
- Steering wheel and voice-activated audio controls
- Wireless phone connectivity
- 1st row LCD monitor
They are also equipped with the UConnect® 4 (standard on a 7-inch touchscreen and upgradeable to 8.4 inches).
This infotainment system comes with SiriusXM Guardian™ and UConnectR 4C/5C NAV — enabling remote control of the vehicle and access to security alerts, navigation, and roadside assistance.
However, there’s still a lot to be had for these four-wheelers in overall riding comfort. Case in point, both 4x4s lack the following innovations:
- Rear HVAC
- Remote engine start
- Rain detecting wipers
- Express window control
- 120V AC power outlet
- Cargo net (view on Amazon)
- Overhead console and storage
- Garage door transmitter
- Adjustable pedals
- CD-MP3 decoder
- Integrated navigation system
(Only available in expensive trims like the Gladiator Mojave and Wrangler Sport RHD)
- Power locks with 2-stage unlock
- Key fob for all doors
- Variable windshield wipers
- Fixed-interval rear windshield wipers
- Power windows (F/R)
Interestingly, the Jeep Wrangler Sport is slightly better equipped than the base Gladiator model. The former has variable windshield wipers and cargo tie-downs, whereas the latter only has an air filter to add to its slew of basic features.
This facet is where the Jeep Gladiator vs. Jeep Wrangler evens the scoreboard. Both labels boast a Trail Rated® badge — the mark of passing a five-phase test assessing a vehicle in the following categories: maneuverability, traction, ground clearance, articulation, and water fording.
But if it were up to savants and Jeep-dedicated forums, choosing one over the other is a matter of need, skill, and preference. Personally, I think so too.
Your choice of vehicle ultimately hinges on your priorities and what you are after in a four-wheeler.
Do you need spacious sleeping quarters out in the wild? Would you like to switch from enclosed trailing to al fresco driving at will? Or do you prize uninterrupted technical wheeling over comfort?
Your answers to these questions (among other considerations) will determine which of the two 4x4s is more suitable for you.
NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) gave the 2023 Jeep Wrangler 4 out of 5 stars in the frontal crash test and 3 out of 5 stars in the rollover test. Unfortunately, it has not fully crash-tested the 2023 Jeep Gladiator and has yet to give its overall safety ratings.
Based on these assessments, prospective buyers should give it careful thought before purchasing or upgrading to a Wrangler.
On this note, there are a few recalls you should be wary of. One is quite recent and involves a number of 2021-2023 Jeep Wrangler 4xes.
It is reported that the 2.0-L hybrid engines had a proclivity to shut down unceremoniously due to PCM/TCM errors. Another class action lawsuit points out that the affected vehicles cannot run on electric-only mode due to issues with its fuel and oil refresh mode (FORM) feature.
Other noteworthy cases have to do with defective clutches, disconnected sway bars (view on Amazon), and malfunctioning HEMI V8s and 3.6-L Pentastar power mills.
The Gladiator label has its fair share of recalls, too, some involving seatbelt retractor problems and its highly-acclaimed 3.0-L EcoDiesel engine.
However, this is not to say that the Blue Jeans of 4×4 is ill-fitted for off-roading and hard usage (the same goes for the Jeep Gladiator). These class-action lawsuits could be anecdotal (if not partly aggravated by the lack of upkeep or driver negligence).
Moreover, there has been a drastic, steady decline in reported problems and product recalls since 2015 — proof that Stellantis is hard at work in making the Jeep Gladiator and Wrangler models as safe as they can possibly be.
If these efforts do not suffice, know that the current iterations of these vehicles come standard with the following safety features:
- Front/side-impact airbag for driver and passenger
- Front passenger Airbag occupancy sensor
- Side impact beams
- Height-adjustable seatbelts and seatbelt tensioners at the front
- Adaptive high-beam headlamps
- ABS (available in 4WD trims)
- Predictive brake assist
- ABS and driveline traction control
- Electronic stability control with anti-roll
- Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go
- Manual rear child safety locks
- Panic alarm and security system (only in Jeep Wranglers)
- Blind Spot Monitoring and Red Cross Path Detection
- Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking
- PARKSENSE® Rear Park Assist System
- PARKVIEW® Rear Backup Camera
Differences in performance figures are close to negligible for these 4x4s when comparing similar trim packages. In the example below, the Jeep Gladiator seems to only have the upper hand in top speed (but at the expense of its gas mileage):
|Horsepower||285 hp @ 6,400 RPM||285 hp @ 6,400 RPM|
|Torque||260 lb-ft @ 4,800 RPM||260 lb-ft @ 4,800 RPM|
|Top Speed||100—112 mph (160—180 km/h)||130 mph (209.2 km/h)|
|Fuel Mileage (CTY/HWY/Combined)||17/25/20 MPG (13.8/9.4/11.8 L/100 km)||16/23/19 MPG (14.7/10.2/12.4 L/100 km)|
Because standard Gladiator and Wrangler models are fitted with the same 3.6-L Pentastar engine, torque and power outputs will naturally be the same. However, this changes when comparing higher-end models.
For instance, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 has a 6.4-L Hemi V8 power mill spewing 470 hp @ 6,000 RPM. Conversely, the Jeep Gladiator has a 3.0-L EcoDiesel option with a massive torque output of 442 lb-ft (600 Nm).
Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator models fall on the mid-range part of the price spectrum for their respective categories. The Gladiator is noticeably pricier by approximately $7,000—$10,000, as most of its trims are only available in a 4-door configuration.
This price gap narrows as you go higher in the package tier. But between the two labels, the Jeep Wrangler is still superior to the Gladiator in cost-effectiveness.
To some folks, however, a few thousand dollars is worth those extra 20 inches of length and 5 cu. ft. of space. If you belong to this group, chances are you will find the Gladiator gives better value for your hard-earned money.
Tip: In the used-car market, the Wrangler maintains a resale value between $10,960 and $73,370+. Meanwhile, the Gladiator’s price ranges from $28,900 to $78,050+. Secondhand units with chock-loads of add-ons and in near-mint or pristine condition typically sell for much higher.
Conclusion — Jeep Gladiator vs. Jeep Wrangler Comparison
After having gone through all these considerations, one of the questions that would probably be left unanswered is, “Does Jeep Gladiator ride better than Wrangler?”
Unfortunately, you will never get an objective reply to this query since everyone is extremely biased in their recommendations. Your quick test drive at the dealer isn’t going to give you much insight into what to expect, either.
It will take years of mundane city traffic and extreme outdoor fun to truly know the ride quality each vehicle has to offer — an experience that entails owning a Jeep.
As an ardent off-road enthusiast, the most you can really do is consider your circumstances and budget, pick your boon, and enjoy the life out of your rig — be it the Jeep Gladiator or the Jeep Wrangler you end up choosing.