The all-new Jeep Gladiator is easily the hottest new truck to hit the market this year. The nearly $63,000 Launch Edition sold out in less than twenty-four hours. Demand is so robust for the Gladiator that some dealers across the country are marking up these trucks by thousands of dollars. That’s frustrating and that practice will likely end once production ramps up. But until then, you can save a few bucks by figuring out precisely what options you need and which ones you can live without. We decided to do exactly that. We spec’d-out two unique 2020 Gladiators, one a Sport with a plan to keep it relatively stock and a Rubicon that would eventually become more hardcore. Yes, each has different missions and budgets in mind. Here’s what each one looked like and how much damage they did to our wallets.
2020 Gladiator Sport S: $43,915
This is the Gladiator we’d order if we were on a more modest budget. But we didn’t pick the cheapest model. If we were buying a Gladiator to be ripped apart and used as a hardcore trail rig with a complete drivetrain swap, massive axles, a custom suspension, bumpers, and more, we’d be tempted to buy the cheapest Sport. A base soft-top model can be had (in theory) for just over $35,000. But we’re going to assume that this rig will wear a mild lift, modest-sized tires, and be upgraded slowly. It will probably stay stock until the factory tires wear out. If we’re going to live with a stocker, it can’t be a stripper. So that meant spending a little extra for the S version made sense.
The Sport S is a $3,000 step up from the Sport and adds stuff we value like power windows, locks, and keyless entry. But it also comes with some cool-looking 17-inch five-star wheels. We dig these wheels so much we would keep them even after we lifted the truck. They would look great wrapped with taller rubber.
Neither the Sport nor the Sport S can be ordered with a body-color-painted hard top. But since this truck would likely log quite a few freeway miles as a commuter, the black hard top at just over a $1,000 was a priority. For the freeways and insane traffic of Southern California we absolutely had to have the 8-speed automatic. Be sure that transmission is a priority before you check the option box because it costs a hefty $2,000.
The new sandy-tan “Gobi” exterior paint not only looks like a perfect Jeep color, but it contrasts well with black and looks good with those silver wheels too. In terms of interior luxuries, the standard 5-inch infotainment display is totally livable for us. We simply added the SiriusXM activation for $295, but even that isn’t a necessity.
Lots of other options are easy to skip. The $695 side steps should never be bolted to any Jeep. The only other options on this truck are ones that add capability, beefiness, and utility like the $995 Max Tow Package. It’s a bargain and comes with wider 4.10:1-geared Dana 44 axles, 245/75R17 tires, a 240-amp alternator, heavy-duty engine cooling, and a hitch. We also added the Aux Switch Group ($295) so that we’d have factory switches for lights and other future aftermarket electronics. And finally, we splurged on the $895 cargo management system because we plan to use this Gladiator’s bed for all sorts of hauling chores. It is a debatable upgrade, but worth it to us as it adds versatility to the truck bed.
Now if this were our truck, a small 2-inch lift would eventually find its way onto the chassis. And the tire diameter would be kept streetable somewhere around 33 inches tall. We saved money by opting for an open differential in the rear. Our plan would be to add a traction adding diff that works way more positively than the weak-kneed factory Trac-Lok limited slip. And that, combined with front sway bar disconnects, would turn this into a sort of “Rubicon Light” in terms of trail capability.
2020 Gladiator Rubicon: $49,080
It’s not hard to pile on the options when buying a Rubicon. After all, Jeep makes all the goodies available in its top trail machine. But with some restraint, one can keep the price below $50,000.
We picked a Rubicon color (Gator) that not only looks good with unpainted flares, but it’s also the only “green” that Jeep has available for the Gladiator. And the green sprayed on the classic Gladiators of 1960s just looked right to us. Now, we did spend the dough for the painted 3-piece top ($2,295) because it looks great and makes the Gladiator look more finished like a traditional pickup, which is cool. But we kept the flares black instead of having the factory paint them for around $500. And that’s because a set of aftermarket ones with big tire clearance will be in our future. So why spend money on paint when the flares are coming off eventually anyway?
Jeep offers a pretty sweet steel bumper that for $695 is not a bad deal. But we’ll shop the aftermarket and find our own, so we stand out from the stockers. And to that bumper we’ll add some trail lights and a winch. The factory trail camera system seemed like a solid investment for $595. However, it requires the Uconnect 4C Nav with the 8.4-inch display and that’s a $1,595 option. We would skip it and stick with the base (for the Rubicon) 7-inch display. It isn’t as sexy, but it gets the job done.
The standard 17-inch Rubicon wheels are just fine for us. Yes, the optional wheel for $995 looks very nice. But our plan with this Rubicon includes much larger wheels and taller tires in the 37-inch tire range. We did opt for the no-charge-change to 33-inch mud tires over the all-terrain ones. Because why not maximize traction right off the showroom floor?
If we were building a 2021 Gladiator, it would absolutely have the new Ecodiesel under its hood with its 260 horsepower and grunty 442 lb-ft of torque. But the only engine option for Gladiators right now is the 285 horsepower 3.6-liter V6. To make the most of it and add a little driving involvement, we decided to retain the six-speed manual here and save $2,000. The six-speed is all new and has a low first gear that combined with the 4.0:1 transfer case yields a super low 84.2:1 crawl ratio. That’s better than any other truck with a bed. Even if we did upgrade to bigger axles eventually, this transmission and transfer case could compliment them nicely.
We skipped the leather interior for $1,500 or so. We’d instead invest that money into 4X4 parts later. We also left off the heated seats and steering wheel because we are in Southern California. But if we had to endure even one Midwest winter season, we’d for sure add those in too. We took a hard pass on most of the tech like blind-spot warning and cross path detection. And we don’t need adaptive cruise control for $795. This is a truck that will spend a lot of time on the trail, so not having complicated and expensive electronics on board makes sense.
Even when you go light on the options, the Gladiator isn’t an inexpensive truck. But it has a capable off-road platform unlike any other mid-size truck. And no matter what trim level you start from, it’s a tremendous new truck to build for trail use.