In the wake of the Jeep Gladiator’s 10Best win for its debut model year, our hopes were high as we welcomed a 2020 Mojave model into our long-term fleet. Despite not being our top pick for pure pickup duty, as a third-place finish in a comparison test proved, the Gladiator was (and still is) a bolt of freshness in the mid-size truck segment, a novel workhorse with rugged presence, a convertible top, and a solid-axle Jeep lineage. Unfortunately, our initial excitement began to fade as mechanical issues and day-to-day frustrations beset our Jeep pickup. The Gladiator would eventually leave us before it could complete its 40,000-mile test, having bumped up against Stellantis’s 12-month loan agreement limit. But we weren’t terribly sad to see it go.
We bear some of the brunt for our test truck’s disappointment. Choosing the Mojave’s six-speed manual transmission instead of its optional $2000 eight-speed automatic did the standard 285-hp 3.6-liter V-6 no favors. With fewer gear ratios and the engine’s 260 pound-feet of torque arriving at a high 4400 rpm, we had to really work our truck’s clunky shifter and clutch pedal to generate meaningful speed. That was fun at first but eventually grew tiring. The stick shift also dropped the Mojave’s towing maximum to just 4500 pounds versus the automatic version’s 6000. Our truck’s sleepy 8.5-second run to 60 mph made it slow, significant amounts of road and wind noise inside the cabin (71 decibels at 70 mph) made it taxing to pilot, and a dismal 15-mpg result on our 75-mph highway test and a 16-mpg average overall made it woefully inefficient.
The Gladiator’s optional 260-hp 3.0-liter V-6 turbo diesel may have been a better fit for us, but it’s not available on the Mojave trim. After 30,000 miles, we’re convinced that the eight-speed auto is the way to go in any Gladiator, frustrating as that may be for savers of manuals and the Jeep faithful’s most devout members. What’s more, troubles with our truck’s transmission ultimately resulted in its full replacement under warranty at 8424 miles, a fix that took it out of service for a whopping 29 days.
For the full story, check out this article from Car And Driver.