There’s a new mid-size truck entering the arena. The Jeep Gladiator marks Jeep’s official return to trucks,
providing a new contender for well-loved vehicles like the Toyota Tacoma. Both of these trucks easily combine fun
and utility, excelling at many different truck tasks. While the Gladiator does look like a Wrangler with a truck
bed, because it essentially is one, it is still a veritable truck that should be examined alongside its
competitors. With the information available at the moment, here are some points of comparison to help show how the
Gladiator stands against its seasoned competition.
There is an elephant in the room. This will be by no means the first time you read this comment, but the Jeep
Gladiator looks like a Wrangler accidentally drove through some toxic sludge and became a truck-Wrangler mutant.
The design is a bit divisive, but that could be in part because the legendary Jeep grille has only been found on a
specific body style for years. That being said, it will surely cause a few double takes on the highway, confusing
uninformed drivers into thinking that there’s a truck bed mod available for Jeeps now.
Like any other Wrangler, the Gladiator can come with a hard or a soft top, allowing it to drive both clothed and
“naked," as it is said in Jeep parlance. The signature seven slots on the Gladiator’s grille have been widened in
order to increase airflow as well as give the truck a bit more imposing appearance. This also means that the
headlight adjacent grille slots have to bend out of the way for the lights due to their new size. Besides the
flares over the wheels, and the slightly smoother hood, the Gladiator shares most of its design cues with the JL
The Toyota Tacoma looks much more like a conventional truck, which for most truck comparisons is a very unhelpful
comment. Compared to other mid-size trucks, the Tacoma has a more subdued appearance, with a smaller, trapezoidal
grille emblazoned with the Toyota logo. The TRD Pro trim level opts for a matte black grille with the word Toyota
written out, making it look similar to the Ford Raptor pickup. The front of the Tacoma is subtly angular, with many
contours and bulges that make this truck look a bit more futuristic and refined look than other mid-size trucks
that embrace a more rugged appearance. That is not to say the Tacoma isn’t rugged, it just may be the influence of
a Toyota being a Japanese company competing in the typically American truck marketplace. Unlike the Gladiator, the
Tacoma is flare-less. Some Tacoma’s are outfitted with a hood scoop that is unfortunately purely cosmetic. Another
note about the Tacoma that’s worth making is that it has a rather friendly looking front. While the Gladiator’s
front is rather neutral, some aftermarket grilles can take those benign-looking headlights and give them an angry
glare. The Toyota Tacoma, however, looks happy. Look at how its fascia curls up into a warm smile.
Remember, it’s what inside that counts. Inside the removable outer panels of the Gladiator is an interior that is
styled quite similarly to the JL Jeep Wrangler. Parts of the dash panels are colored to match the exterior color,
and in the center is a touchscreen infotainment system that supports pinch-zoom controls. This infotainment system,
called Uconnect, is the standard system used across the Jeep platform. It supports both Android and Apple phone
integration, so smart features are provided regardless of which cellular team you belong to. The big benefit to the
Gladiator’s interior is completely out of sight, its extensive storage options. Underneath and behind the rear
seats are a series of containers and cubbies that can store an impressive amount of gear. The rear seats can be
locked as well, providing a safe space to store your belongings when the Gladiator’s doors are removed.
The Toyota Tacoma has a quite handsome interior. It’s black across the board and doesn’t have as much visible
plastic as the Gladiator. There’s a screen mounted on the dash which is the brain for the infotainment system. It
supports both Alexa and Siri voice control and cooperates with Apple CarPlay only. Sorry Android users. Besides
that, there is a wireless charging area at the base of the center console, which leaves the remaining three USB
slots open to charge other phones.
In mid-size trucks, one of the more important things to consider is rear-seat legroom. If you ever plan on having
back seat passengers, then you should definitely consider this metric. The Toyota Tacoma struggles with rear-seat
legroom, only providing 32.6 inches, half a foot less than the Gladiator’s 38 inches.
In terms of brute power, the Gladiator come out on top. The trail tested 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that comes
default on the Gladiator sports higher power than the Tacoma’s 2.7-liter DOHC 4 cylinder and only lags behind its
3.5-liter V6 DOHC engine by the margin of error value of 5 horsepower. Both the Tacoma and the Gladiator come with the option for both manual and automatic transmissions. The manual options for both trucks is a 6-speed manual, and the Gladiator has an 8-speed automatic while the Tacoma has a 6-speed automatic. For trucks that are both slated to
be frequently used off roads, the manual is quite an important option to maintain.
|2.7-liter DOHC 4 cylinder
|3.5-liter V6 DOHC
|3.6-liter Pentastar V6
|3.0 liter EcoDiesel V6* (Not released at launch)
The Gladiator's mpg rating is 17 city and 22 highway. On the other hand, the Tacoma gets 18 city and 22 highway miles per gallon. Ultimately,
these two vehicles in all likeliness will have relatively similar mpg ratings, meaning that neither one has any
huge advantage over the other.
The dimensions of these two vehicles are quite similar. The Tacoma is noticeably longer and lighter than the
Gladiator, but that marks the extent of the major physical difference between the two.
||100.1 cu. ft.
||103 cu. ft.
Off pavement, both of these trucks are quite competent. Both the Tacoma and the Gladiator have specialized
off-roading trims, the TRD Pro and the Rubicon respectively. Again, the Gladiator comes out on top, with the stock
Gladiator besting the TRD pro in every category except breakover angle. That being said, off-roading capability
isn’t something that can be completely analyzed through numbers. There are a number of other features that do make
both mid-size pickups and their off-road focused trims valuable assets on the trail.
||Tacoma TRD Pro
One of the most visible additions to the TRD Pro is the desert air intake. This long snorkel snakes up above the
body of the truck to provide a higher space for air intake. This doesn’t mean that the TRD Pro can ford 6 feet of water, but it does mean that dust and sediment won't get sucked up into the air intake nearly as easily. There ’s also a skid plate, a cat-back exhaust, tuned Fox internal bypass shocks, and an electronically locking rear differential. One of the more impressive items in the TRD Pro’s off-roading toolbox is the multi-terrain system with crawl control. Using a series of sensors to detect tire slippage, the multi-terrain system automatically engages throttle and brakes in order to traverse difficult off-roading terrain with ease. In a sense, this is the equivalent of an off-road auto-pilot.
With the Gladiator, there’s no real question of its off-road acumen. Each Gladiator will don the coveted Jeep
“Trail Rated” badge which is more than just a pretty logo. The Rubicon has a solid front axle, an electronically
disconnecting sway bar, 33-inch tires, and a Rock-Trac 4X4 system with an 84:2:1 crawl ratio on manual and a 77:2:1
on automatic. There isn’t much to be said for the Gladiator’s off-road performance considering its shared lineage with the Wrangler line. Odds are, any Wrangler owner you ask will quickly attest to its capabilities.
The real difference between the two comes to light in terms of towing and hauling capacity. The Gladiator tops the
Tacoma’s respective capacities by a significant amount. The Gladiator is advertised as having best in class towing capacity, so that claim is certainly well founded. That being said, the Tacoma is on the lower end of the towing
capability of mid-size pickup trucks, only beating the Honda Ridgeline in terms of towing capacity by 1,500 lbs.
The Tacoma, unfortunately, has the worst in class payload rating by around one hundred lbs.
Towing and Payload Capacity
All in all, the Gladiator bests the Tacoma in many categories. That being said, the Tacoma is ostensibly the leader
in terms of pricing. While the price for the Gladiator has not been released, it’s approximated to be within the range of $37,000-59,000. The starting price for the Tacoma, however, is $25,550 for the standard model and $42,660
for the TRD Pro. While the saying “you get what you pay for” does have many exceptions, this seems to be the case with the Gladiator and the Tacoma. Even though the Tacoma lags behind the Gladiator in several categories, that doesn’t mean that it is by any means a bad vehicle. It is quite a popular vehicle, and there are plenty of avid
“Taco” fans out there. Additionally, most of what we currently know about the Gladiator remains speculation, so
until there are legions of Gladiators carving up America’s backroads, we will not know how this warrior will fare
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Sources: 2020 Tacoma Brochure, Toyota | Midsize Trump Comparo: Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevy Colorado, Jeep Gladiator, AutoBlog | 2020 Jeep Gladiator vs 2020 Toyota Tacoma, The Car Connection | Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Goes Against Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, Motor1 | 2020 Jeep Gladiator Review, CNet