2020 Jeep Gladiator MPG: Not the Worst, Not the Best

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Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

By Aaron Bragman

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is about to hit the streets, and now we know the mid-size pickup truck's official EPA fuel economy ratings. There's only one engine for the 2020 Gladiator, a 285-horsepower, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, as the promised turbo-diesel 3.0-liter won't be available until 2020. Part-time four-wheel drive is standard on all Gladiators — the automatic Select-Trac all-wheel drive seen on the Wrangler Sahara is not available — so fuel economy on the Gladiator is broken out by transmission choice. The standard six-speed manual transmission Gladiator is rated at 16/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined, while the optional ZF eight-speed automatic version comes in at 17/22/19 mpg.

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Does it look odd to you that the eight-speed automatic, with its taller final gear and two extra cogs gets worse highway fuel economy than the six-speed manual? Looked wonky to us, too, but Gladiator chief engineer Pete Milosavlevski told us that the results are more a matter of tuning the powertrain to EPA testing cycle quirks than simply gears and ratios.

"Gear ratios and top gear ratio are not an absolute indicator of fuel efficiency," he wrote in a text message to PickupTrucks.com. "The ability to use and time in each of those gears, balancing efficiency, reserve torque for drivability, and meeting EPA regulations drives different efficiencies between the transmissions on different drive cycles."

So yeah, the manual transmission gets better highway fuel economy, while the automatic gets better city mileage.

How does the Gladiator stack up against competitor trucks? It's pretty comparable, actually. The leader in the field is the Ford Ranger 4x4, which posts a 20/24/22 mpg city/highway/combined rating thanks to its smaller turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and standard 10-speed automatic, but we have reason to suspect that the Ford's EPA numbers may optimistic (more on that later), at least when talking about the FX4 Off-Road version. Chevrolet's Colorado 4x4 is rated at a more evenly matched 17/24/19 mpg with its 3.6-liter V-6 and standard eight-speed automatic transmission, but you can also opt for a turbo-diesel 2.8-liter in the Colorado, which nets you 19/28/22 mpg and can even be had in the most off-road capable version, the Colorado ZR2 (where it sadly only gets 18/22/19 mpg, no better than the Gladiator's gasoline V-6). The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro comes with a 3.5-liter V-6, but like the Gladiator offers a manual or automatic transmission. The six-speed manual is rated at 17/20/18 mpg, slightly worse than the Gladiator, and the six-speed automatic version is rated at 18/22/20 mpg, slightly better than the automatic Gladiator. You can compare them yourself here. I don't really consider the Honda Ridgeline to be a Gladiator competitor — it's a totally different kind of truck, with the only real similarity being you can seat five people, and it has a standard V-6 and a pickup bed, but for comparison's sake, it gets 19/26/22 mpg.

One big factor in this situation is weight: The Gladiator is a heavy truck, nearly 350 to 590 pounds heavier than a Jeep Wrangler four-door, depending on trim level. The Gladiator Rubicon weighs just more than 5,000 pounds, or nearly 600 pounds more than a loaded Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro or Ford Ranger Lariat SuperCrew 4x4 and 300 pounds more than a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. See how they all stack up here. Despite the aluminum hood, fenders and doors on the Gladiator, the steel box, beefed up frame, chunkier wheels and heavy-duty Dana 44 axles front and rear do take their toll at the scales and the pump.

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