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Jeep Gladiator Diesel: What to Expect

It’s been nearly a year since FCA dropped the Jeep Gladiator bombshell, marking the first time a Jeep would be offered in pickup form in nearly three decades. Now, while we await the ability to order one with the all-new, third-generation 3.0L EcoDiesel under the hood, we’re getting speculative again… How will the compression-ignition version of the Gladiator compare to the only other diesel competitors in the mid-size truck game, the 2.8L Duramax-propelled Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon? Better yet, how will it compare to the mainstay Tacoma, the dated Nissan Frontier or the renewed Ranger—the high sellers (along with the Colorado) in the mid-size segment?

For starters, the Gladiator has the only solid front axle in the mid-size segment, front and rear electronic lockers, front and rear five-link suspension, a segment-exclusive electronic sway-bar disconnect and—thanks to the third-generation 3.0L EcoDiesel that’s on the way—will have the torquiest engine available. While the Wrangler-based Gladiator’s off-road prowess won’t surprise anyone, most will be pleasantly surprised with its near best-in-class tow rating and payload capacity. And what of its fuel economy? With the EcoDiesel in the mix, and the new Ram 1500 already capable of 32-mpg highway on 2x4 models, seeing 30-mpg isn’t out of the question.

EcoDiesel 3.0

001 2020 EcoDiesel Engine

This is the third version of the VM Motori-built 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel. It features the same overall architecture as the engines produced from ’14-’19, including the CGI block, bedplate and forged-steel connecting rods, but 80-percent of the rest of its parts are brand-new for 2020. New aluminum alloy pistons feature a revised piston bowl, low-friction skirt coating and thinner rings for reduced wear and offset piston pins to help reduce NVH. The injector nozzle spray pattern has also been changed to match the new piston bowl design. As for power, the EcoDiesel slated for ’20 Ram 1500’s will produce 260 hp (up from 240 hp) and a best-in-class 480 lb-ft of torque (vs. 420 lb-ft previously). In the Gladiator, the engine will be rated for 260 hp and 442 lb-ft.

Improved Drivability, Fuel Economy and Emissions

002 Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel V6

Keeping the EcoDiesel both eco-friendly and economical, a dual loop exhaust gas recirculation system has been added. The new EGR arrangement adds a low-pressure system to the mix, which pulls exhaust gases from downstream, after the diesel particulate filter (DPF). This minimizes turbocharger energy losses and helps increase fuel economy. The remainder of NOx emissions are curbed through the use of selective catalytic reduction (SCR). As for drivability, a new water-cooled variable geometry turbocharger makes use of an improved center section bearing assembly, while revised intake ports in the cylinder heads pave the way for more airflow.

Front-Runner Tow Rating, but…

003 2020 Gladiator EcoDiesel Towing

Believe it or not, the EcoDiesel version of the Gladiator will come with a lower tow rating than those powered by the 3.6L Pentastar V6. However, while FCA has made it clear that the EcoDiesel won’t be able to lug as much as the gas job (7,650 pounds), when ordered with the same Max Towing Package you can bet it will still be capable of towing more than 7,000 pounds. It’s also worth noting that the Pentastar’s 7,650-pound maximum trailer rating is only available on Sport models with the eight-speed automatic and a 4.10 axle ratio.

It’s All About Airflow

004 Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel Grille

The biggest reason behind the diesel-powered Gladiator’s inability to tow more than the gasser boils down to the inability to get enough air across the engine. Space is tight and the openings in that Wrangler (er, Gladiator) grille can only be opened up so much before the face of the vehicle becomes noticeably altered (yes the slats are a tad wider). Could this also be why the EcoDiesel in the Gladiator is expected to make 442 lb-ft of torque vs. the Ram 1500 models being offered with the best-in-class 480 lb-ft rating?

8-Speed Automatic

005 Jeep Gladiator 850RE Transmission

EcoDiesel Gladiators will come standard with FCA’s eight-speed 850RE automatic transmission, which has been specifically designed to handle the engine’s low-rpm torque output. Also specifically tailored to the EcoDiesel power plant is the torque converter and its electronically modulated converter clutch. The 850RE comes with an ultra-low 4.71 first gear and a 0.67 double overdrive ratio.

Selec-Speed Control

006 2020 Jeep Gladiator Interior

One unique feature that comes standard with the 850RE transmission is Selec-Speed Control. It manages vehicle speed in 4-Lo while navigating terrain and without requiring throttle or brake inputs from the driver. This driving mode is designed to allow the driver to concentrate solely on steering. Selec-Speed Control is activated by using a button on the dashboard and it can be adjusted from 1 to 5 mph by way of the AutoStick shift control.

Heavy-Duty Dana 44’s

007 2020 Jeep Gladiator Dana 44 Axles

Front and rear, you’ll find a coil sprung solid Dana 44 axle. The third-generation Dana 44’s under the Gladiator feature axle tubes that measure 10mm thicker than the versions found on the Wrangler. For improved articulation at the push of a button, a segment-exclusive electronic front sway bar disconnect is available.

Electronic Lockers

008 Jeep Gladiator Electronic Lockers

The on-demand, sway bar disconnect button resides next to the front and rear locker switch, located in front of the transfer-case range selector. Both Dana 44’s are graced with Tru-Lok lockers for maximum traction, with the rear D44 being equipped with a Trac-Lok limited slip differential.

The TrailCam (Option)

009 Jeep Gladiator Trail Cam

On Rubicon models, a forward-facing off-road camera can be optioned, providing added visibility while on the trail. Everything the TrailCam picks up can be viewed through the 7.0-inch or optional 8.4-inch LED touchscreen display. The camera can be cleaned by commanding the nozzle (via the touchscreen display) located directly beneath it to spray the lens with windshield washer fluid.

Five-Link Rear Suspension

010 Jeep Gladiator Five Link Rear Suspension

Borrowing parts from the Ram 1500 line, the Gladiator shares the traditional pickup’s five-link rear suspension. The system, yet again another exclusive for the mid-size truck segment, features two upper and two lower forged-steel control arms for utmost longitudinal control and a track bar for lateral axle control. Cosmetically pleasing, the control arms are located under the frame rails while the rear shocks are forward facing to provide consistent damping for both ride comfort and load management.

011 Jeep Gladiator Articulation

Will FCA release a Hercules version of the Jeep Gladiator? Check out the unit we spied back in early fall right here.

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