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“What truck should I buy?” It’s a question consumers ask themselves every day, but what would features editor Scott Evans drive? Keep reading for the answer, and see other editors’ picks here.
You should love a vehicle you spend tens of thousands of dollars on, and in order to love a vehicle, it has to have character. We’ll all disagree on what intangibles count as character, but no one who’s driven a 2020 Jeep Gladiator will argue it doesn’t have any.
There are trucks that get better fuel economy, or tow more, or haul more, or have more high-tech features, or are quieter inside, but none of them makes me smile like the Gladiator while still satisfying my actual needs. Much as the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram 2500 Power Wagon make me smile, they’re simply gigantic and I, like the vast majority of Americans, live in an urban area. I’m neither a desert racer or towing tractors, so I don’t rationally need what those trucks offer.
Much as I love the Gladiator for its unabashed style and attitude, it suits my truck needs perfectly. Four-wheel drive is standard unlike other trucks, so when my wife wants to go explore a Forest Service road, there’s no hesitation. The 7,400 pounds of towing capacity is as much as I’d likely need to pull a toy like a side by side, a camping trailer, or a boat and more than anything else in the class. Likewise, 1,600 pounds of payload is as good as anything else this size and plenty for my weekend trips to the big box hardware store and garden center. The five-foot bed isn’t as big as a full-size truck’s, but it’s again class-competitive and more than enough space for the kind of stuff a weekend warrior hauls. In fact, I’m more likely to be hauling shopping bags and friends and family, so having the biggest back seat in the class is a bigger bonus, doubly so if I were planning to have kids.
I’m not inclined to spend more than $50,000 on a vehicle and I’m not going to use a Gladiator Rubicon’s capability anyway, so I’d take a step down to the Gladiator Overland, which will handle all the trails I’m likely to attempt. With ten grand to play with between an Overland’s base price and my $50,000 cap, I’d stick with the stick shift and save myself two thousand bucks. I’d do the same with the roof options and keep the base soft top. I already own a convertible, so I don’t mind the wind noise and I won’t have to find some place to store the hard top when it’s off (not that it’s that much quieter anyway).
I’d throw most of my discretionary budget at the 8.4-inch Radio and Premium Audio Group with the bigger screen, better stereo, GPS navigation for trails that don’t get cell service, and auto-dimming rearview mirror. Next, I’d grab the Adaptive Cruise Control/Forward Collision Warning Plus system because adaptive cruise control is a top-five technology of the past decade on the highway out to the trailhead. Adding it makes you take the Active Safety Group, too, which, fine. I won’t complain about rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, and LED taillights. I’m not ponying up for the LED lighting dress-up package, though. I will, however, spend on the Cold Weather Group and the keyless entry option, because keyless entry and heated seats and steering wheel are awesome.
Functionally, a spray-in bedliner is a must in any truck and it’s not expensive. Give me the tow package for the same reason. I’d also take the Cargo Management Group with Trail Rail system for the extra tie downs, power inverter, bed-mounted 115-volt electrical outlet, and locking storage under the rear seats.
Finish it off with easy to clean all-weather floor mats, brown cloth seats, and “Gator” olive drab green paint and I’m ready to hit the road, the trail, or the mall for $48,850. Trying to find the same features on a full-size truck for the same money is like trying to find a place to parallel park that full-size truck downtown. The Gladiator is the right-sized, right-equipped hauler for me, and on top of that, it makes me smile just getting behind the wheel, and you can’t put a price on that.