Auto Show Face-Off: Jeep Gladiator Mojave Vs. Ford F-150 Raptor Vs. Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

Illustration of Jeep Gladiator Mojave, Ford F-150 Raptor and Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 illustration by Desiree Farkas

By Aaron Bragman

Jeep's new Desert Rated 2020 Gladiator Mojave debuted at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, and it looks like a fun package tuned for high-speed cross-country blitzes, much like two other pickups currently on the market: the Ford F-150 Raptor and the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. And while we can't make a definitive call on which pickup truck does it better until we've driven all three back to back, we were able to compare their gear on the show floor to see which one starts with an equipment advantage.

Related: More 2020 Chicago Auto Show Coverage

Now, this is not an entirely apples-to-apples comparison. The Raptor is a full-size truck, considerably larger than the Gladiator or the Colorado. But size differences aside, all three of these trucks have a similar mission: to travel across relatively flat, open country at elevated speeds tackling soft terrain like gravel or deep sand, instead of low-speed boulder scaling and tight trail climbing. That's not to say they can't do those things, just that that isn't their primary purpose in life.

Dedicated Off-Road Suspensions

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Suspension photo by Christian Lantry

All three trucks have unique suspension parts designed to help survive harsh off-road impacts with minimum fuss for drivers. The new Jeep Gladiator Mojave has 2.5-inch aluminum Fox shock absorbers with remote reservoirs, while the Raptor has similar but electronically adaptive Fox 3.0-inch versions. The Colorado has shocks developed by Multimatic, called Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve dampers, and we can attest that they work beautifully. Both the Raptor and the ZR2 feel like they're made for jumping — the last Gladiator we tried to do this with didn't feel quite as robust, but with Jeep's new dampers and hydraulic jounce bumpers, we're hoping the playing field has been leveled.

Tire Strategy

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Falken Wildpeak A/TTires photo by Christian Lantry

All three trucks have off-road specific tires, but the Gladiator Mojave's Falken Wildpeak A/T rubber is specifically selected to be good at desert running through deep sand and loose material. The other two pickups have excellent off-road tires, to be sure, but the Goodyear DuraTracs on the Colorado and the Raptor-specific BFGoodrich KO2s are more multisurface off-road tires, great for slippery rocks, dirt trails and more. Again, we'll have to test the Mojave against competitor trucks, but on paper these seem like the right tires if we're judging based on desert running.

Shoulda Had a V-8?

2020 Jeep Gladiator 3.6-liter V-6Engine photo by Christian Lantry

The weakest link in the Jeep Gladiator Mojave's specs list is its powertrain. I'd call it merely adequate to move around the nearly 5,000 pounds of truck in the best of conditions, but it often runs out of steam with only 285 horsepower from its 3.6-liter V-6. We'd love to see a Hemi V-8 in the Gladiator, but Jeep says that the crash results make it a no-go. The lighter Colorado ZR2 can be had with a 308-hp V-6 or a turbo-diesel four-cylinder making 369 pounds-feet of torque, while the heavier Raptor blows them all away with its twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 that cranks out a whopping 450 hp and 510 pounds-feet of torque.

Advanced Four-Wheel-Drive Systems

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Skid Plates

The Mojave uses the 2.72:1 Command-Trac part-time four-wheel-drive system from the Gladiator Sport and Overland instead of the more aggressive 4:1 Rock-Trac 4x4 system in the Rubicon, which should be better for maintaining speed in low range over soft sand. Like all Gladiators, the Mojave keeps the solid front and rear axles, while the F-150 Raptor and Colorado ZR2 have independent front suspensions. The Gladiator Mojave also has an Off-Road Plus mode meant to help tune the truck's systems for better performance — but the Raptor has a full-time automatic four-wheel-drive system and six different drive modes including Deep Snow/Sand and a Baja mode specifically meant for high-speed desert running. The Colorado also has multiple settings for its systems, but again, nothing specifically for Baja-style desert running.

Comfy Cabins

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Side Profile, Top and Doors Off

It's hard to pick a winner in this category, but it's not hard to pick the loser — the Colorado ZR2 may be massively capable off-road, but it's still decidedly low rent inside, with not much flash or flair to the cabin materials. At least it might be easy to clean. The F-150 Raptor and Gladiator Mojave both gets special trim bits, colors and materials that are much nicer than the Colorado's. The Raptor obviously has the size advantage, being a massive, full-sized truck, but that bulk can sometimes count against it when you're negotiating tight spots off-road and trying not to scrape the paint. But the Gladiator Mojave has an advantage no other pickup in the world can match: a standard convertible top, a windshield that folds down and doors that are removable. Absolutely nothing beats that open-air feeling when you're flying through the open desert. The hours you later spend with a Q-tip cleaning all the dust out of the nooks and crannies of the interior are worth it.

Stay tuned for our first drive of the new Gladiator Mojave in March from the deserts of Southern California to see how it tackles the dunes.

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