Two upcoming pickup trucks face off
Earlier this year, Ford revealed the U.S.-spec version of the Ranger pickup truck at the Detroit auto show, marking its return to the North American market after a seven-year absence. And although we knew the Ranger would need to compete with other midsizers such as the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, it will soon face even stiffer competition from Jeep. After years of speculation, Jeep finally introduced a Wrangler-based pickup truck called the Gladiator. Now that we’ve seen both trucks, here are our initial impressions on how they compare.
This is a tough one. Jeep didn’t try anything daring with the Gladiator’s design, giving us exactly what we’d imagine a Wrangler-based pickup would look like. On the other hand, Ford did very little to update the Ranger’s look when it brought the truck to the U.S., which means it feels less fresh than your typical new vehicle does. But even though we know opinions will probably be split, we give the edge to the Gladiator, because just look at it.
Again, it’s difficult to pick a winner here. Each truck appeals to a different crowd, especially because Ford’s said it has no plans to bring the Ranger Raptor to the North America. The Ranger’s interior is more straightforward, and it wouldn’t look out of place in a crossover. If you’re looking for comfort and refinement, it’s probably the winner there, too. But although the Gladiator’s cabin looks to be an exact copy of the Wrangler’s, we’re big fans of its more memorable design. And based on our experience with the Wrangler (which we just named SUV of the Year, by the way), it’s probably more comfortable than you’d expect.
To make sure the Gladiator can handle actual truck duties, Jeep added 31 inches to the Wrangler Unlimited’s frame and gave it a 5-foot bed. With the tailgate down, that should be enough to haul two dirt bikes. The base Ranger’s bed matches the Gladiator’s at 5 feet, but Ford takes the win in this category because it offers a 6-foot option for buyers who need the additional capability.
At launch, the Gladiator will come with a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Later, it will add a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 good for 260 hp and 442 lb-ft. A six-speed manual comes standard, and an eight-speed automatic is optional. As far as we know, the only engine the Ranger will get is Ford’s 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 270 hp and 310 lb-ft. A 10-speed automatic will be the only transmission. We like the Ranger’s torque advantage, but with more engine options and an available manual transmission, we give the nod to the Gladiator.
With the optional tow package, the Ranger can tow up to 7,500 pounds (3,402 kg), an impressive 700 pounds (317 kg) more than the Toyota Tacoma. The Gladiator’s tow rating is even more impressive, though, rated at 7,650 pounds (3,470 kg) when properly equipped. But if you’re loading up the bed, the Gladiator’s 1,600-pound (725-kg) payload rating can’t match the Ranger’s 1,860-pound (844-kg) maximum. For us, that’s enough to declare this category a tie.
At the moment, Jeep hasn’t announced Gladiator pricing, but we do know the base price of a crew cab Ford Ranger is $27,615 USD. But considering the Wrangler Unlimited starts at $32,940 USD, we think the Gladiator will cost at least that much, if not more. When you add the Ranger’s $4,160 USD four-wheel-drive option to match the Gladiator’s standard four-wheel drive, the gap closes considerably, though we’d guess the Ranger will still have the price advantage.
We can’t wait to drive the new Gladiator and Ranger, especially because they’re such different trucks. No matter which one we end up liking better, more competition in the midsize truck segment can only be a good thing.