The Jeep Gladiator debuted with a lot of interest and excitement. It’s since gone on to become one of Jeep’s best selling models. Powered by the same Pentastar V6 engine that operates the Wrangler, the Gladiator upped the output a bit to accommodate more towing and hauling, but was otherwise very much like the Wrangler in terms of power. When the diesel engine debuted for the Wrangler, though, many of us were chomping at the bit for them to drop that torquey diesel into the Gladiator.
It’s finally happened, and we’re happy to say that it’s brouhahawesome. The EcoDiesel engine adds a little more torque and muscle to the Gladiator when off-roading while giving some fuel efficiency on the road. It’s a nice mixture and, to be honest, a diesel engine in a pickup truck just makes sense. We will note, however, that the diesel engine has a lower tow rating overall, dropping that to 6,500 pounds versus the 7,650 maximum that the gasoline option has. This is mostly due to the Gladiator’s design and accommodations made for the diesel engine’s weight and girth. Payload in the Rubicon model doesn’t change, staying at 1,160 pounds.
The 3.0-liter diesel engine should be familiar to Ram and Jeep fans as the go-to powerplant for most diesel applications in their model lines. In the 2021 Gladiator, that 3.0 EcoDiesel V6 puts out 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. The diesel engine adds about 25% or so to the Gladiator’s range versus the V6 gasoline, pushing some Gladiator models to 500 miles and beyond on a single tank of fuel. In Rubicon trim, it’s a bit less than 500 miles in all, especially if any 4WD happens in there, but it’s still a big leap ahead comparatively. More important though, is that extra torque, which comes in real handy when off-roading.
The chief complaint heard from Jeep fans about the Gladiator is that it’s not as capable off the road as is the Wrangler. Those complaints are based entirely on straight comparisons between the two, but ignore one simple fact: the Gladiator is bigger than even the four-door Wrangler in almost every respect. It has a longer wheelbase, bigger profile, etc. It’s a truck. Unlike the Wrangler in any of its configurations, the Gladiator can haul things in the bed, tow more stuff behind, and all the other things trucks can do that sport utilities cannot. The loss of breakover percentage (the number one complaint note) is a direct result of the Gladiator being a pickup truck instead of an SUV. All pickups suffer this loss because all pickups must have longer framing to accommodate that load bed. Otherwise, the Jeep Gladiator is very much like the its Wrangler sibling, especially when comparing the Rubicon models.
On a separate note, since we’re comparing Wranglers with Gladiators, the diesel application in the Gladiator is much more refined. The Wrangler diesel is one of the loudest vehicles I’ve ever driven–and I’ve driven Hellcats and Polaris three-wheelers. It’s ear-shatteringly loud. In the Gladiator, though, while louder than the gasoline engine, the diesel is far smoother and a lot less decibellic. In short, while the diesel is a welcome addition to either platform, it’s a lot less “slapped in” in the pickup than it is the SUV.
With the diesel engine in the 2021 Jeep Gladiator, the eight-speed automatic transmission is the only option, which may disappoint some diehards who want a manual transmission with their Jeep. But the Rubicon model still has the 4.10 Dana rear axles, 33-inch all-terrain tires, increased fender clearances, locking differentials at front and rear, Fox shocks, disconnecting front stabilizer, and so forth. So nothing in terms of capability is lost and, thanks to the added grunt of the diesel, a few things are definitely gained. More power at the lower end means more climbing, mud bogging, etc. are possible.
For us, the 2021 Gladiator with the diesel engine is the best of everything. You get the off-road performance of the Jeep Wrangler legend, the usefulness of a small pickup truck, and the cool factor (both literally and perceived) of removable doors, top, and folding front glass. What else could you possibly want?
Pricing for the Jeep Gladiator starts at about $37,000, with our Rubicon diesel model ringing in at $66,000 (ouch!) with options and delivery.