Jeep fans had been eagerly awaiting the release of a Wrangler-based pickup truck for years before the Gladiator was finally officially announced. The last opportunity that the American public had to buy a Jeep pickup from the factory was in 1992, the last year of the Cherokee-based Comanche. The original Jeep Gladiator that lends the new model its namesake was sold from 1962-1971, before changing names to the J-series or simply “Jeep pickup.”
Although the Gladiator is based substantially on the Jeep Wrangler JL Unlimited, Jeep notes that less than 50% of total parts are shared between the two.
Here, we compare the new Gladiator to the Honda Ridgeline, which was redesigned in 2016. An oddball when stacked up against most trucks in the market, Honda’s unibody pickup is designed for everyday comfort and practicality, favoring nifty features over massive towing capability or off-road prowess. For those unfamiliar, it might be simpler to think of the Ridgeline as a Honda Pilot SUV with the rear converted into a truck bed (which in many ways, describes it perfectly). Although these two mid-size pickups are similar in many ways on paper, the Gladiator and Ridgeline are designed for very different real-world applications.
Gladiator vs Ridgeline: Quick Stats
||70.2/ 70.8 inches
||10.0/ 11.1 inches
||7.28/ 7.87 inches
|Horsepower + Engine
||285 hp 3.6 liter V6
||280 hp 3.5 liter V6
||22 hwy/17 city (auto)
||26 hwy/19 city (FWD)
25 hwy/18 city (AWD)
Gladiator vs. Ridgeline: Exterior
Perhaps one of the coolest and most unique exterior features of the Ridgeline is the class-exclusive, locking in-bed trunk. Large, waterproof, and washable, this 7.3 cubic ft space adds tons of versatility for carrying different types of cargo.
Another Honda-only feature that the Ridgeline touts is the two-way tailgate, which can swing out in addition to folding down. This can make it easier to reach farther into the bed and access the in-bed trunk. There’s even an optional speaker system that turns the entire bed into one big speaker, perfect for tailgating.
The Jeep Gladiator, on the other hand, proudly proclaims its title as the only open-air pickup truck on the market. With removable top, doors, and even a tilt-down windshield, there are numerous configurations that allow users to enjoy the 4x4 like it’s a convertible. When it comes to feeling close to your adventure, the Jeep simply can’t be matched in this arena. The best Honda can offer in this area is its optional power moonroof.
Although some fans have been critical of the Gladiator’s styling, it’s hard to deny that the new model maintains Jeep’s current design architecture. Noticeably longer than the Wrangler family, it nonetheless carries over the rugged exterior touches and classic Jeep styling cues. There will be no mistaking it for any other vehicle on the road. The Honda Ridgeline is much more conservative, with only a slightly different grille from its otherwise very similar looking Pilot cousin. The 2016 redesign gave the Ridgeline a much better-looking bed area and overall smoother, more modern appearance. There isn’t a whole lot of expressive character when compared to other pickup trucks on the market, but the Ridgeline drives its own path with understated looks.
Unlike the tougher body-on-frame Jeep, the Honda uses unibody construction. This typically allows for better comfort and handling with a tradeoff of not being as well-suited for heavy-duty towing and off-roading. While we wouldn’t hesitate to take the Ridgeline down a dirt trail, it simply won’t have the same rock-crawling ability as the Gladiator or its ilk.
The Ridgeline comes with 18-inch wheels and all-weather tires that are just under 30 inches. The Gladiator will sport a more off-road-ready 17-inch wheel setup with 33-inch tires. Moreover, 35-inch tires can be added with no modifications needed.
Gladiator vs. Ridgeline Interior
The Gladiator’s interior is virtually identical to that of the current Wrangler Unlimited. Expect the same choices of a 5-inch or 7-inch touchscreen. With a dashboard that looks plenty rugged and chunky, flanked by prominent grab-handles and exposed body-color panels, the interior stays true to Jeep’s character. Controls are logically laid-out and overall comfort and quality are greatly improved over previous Jeep generations.
The Ridgeline, meanwhile, features an interior quite similar to that of the Honda Pilot, as the two share much of the same architecture. The standard 5-inch touchscreen is small and looks dated, but the 8-inch optional upgrade works quite nicely. Unfortunately, though the similar Pilot has brought back the physical volume knob (as they should!), the upgraded infotainment in the Ridgeline still has not received it. The cabin is quieted by active noise cancellation.
Both trucks feature 60/40 folding rear seats in the back, but only the Gladiator has under-seat storage compartments right from the factory. The Gladiator’s generous 38.0 inches of rear legroom is class-leading, edging out the Ridgeline’s 36.7 inches.
Gladiator vs. Ridgeline: Engine and Driving
The only available engine on the Ridgeline is Honda’s tried-and-true 3.5 liter V6, producing 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. It is mated solely to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Wrangler will start by offering its long-time go-to 3.6 liter Pentastar V6, with either an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. The torquey EcoDiesel engine will arrive in 2020 but will be available only with the automatic transmission.
The Ridgeline has been widely noted for its excellent ride and handling, especially within the truck segment. Although Jeep has come a long way with the Wrangler, it seems safe to say that the off-road focus of the Gladiator means it won’t hold a candle to the Honda in terms of on-road manners. With that being said, the longer wheelbase of the Gladiator should give it a ride-comfort advantage over the two-door and four-door Wranglers, with the sacrifice of off-road capability.
When it comes to safety, both the Gladiator and Ridgeline offer brake assist and rear-view camera. Only the Honda provides optional lane-keeping assist and forward collision warning as well.
Based on the current Wrangler Unlimited AWD, we estimate the larger Gladiator’s fuel economy at approximately 22 highway/17 city, which can’t quite stand up to the AWD Ridgeline’s 25 highway/18 city MPG.
Image Credit: Jeep, Honda