Which Jeep Gladiator Trim Is The Best Pick For Combining On-Road Comfort And Off-Road Fun?
As popular a choice as the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon might be among those seeking an off-road capable pickup, it's not exactly the best solution for drivers who spend the majority of their time on asphalt. With large, aggressive all-terrain tires, a hybrid chassis that mixes Wrangler components with an extended frame, and a suspension that's better suited for munching rocks than rolling over tarmac, the Rubicon can be tiring to drive long distances and a handful in cold or wet weather.
Fortunately, the most hardcore off-road model in the Gladiator line-up is far from the only choice available in the Jeep showroom. While every version of the mid-sizer can confidently leave the pavement behind, here's a look at which Jeep Gladiator trim levels are a better choice at blending daily on-road driving with tackling tough conditions, and how they stack up against key pickup rivals
Spartan, But Affordable Entry-Point
The most affordable version of the Jeep Gladiator is the Sport, which checks in at just under $40,000. If commuter comfort is what you're looking for you're unlikely to find it here, even by the more generous standards of the traditional Jeep buyer. An older infotainment system, fabric top, and steel wheels are some of the vehicle's highlights, and while it does offer a push-button start you're dealing with wind-up windows on all four doors.
Next up is the Willys Sport, which for only a few thousand more adds items such as aluminum rims, a limited-slip rear differential, and a slicker overall look thanks to body-colored fender flares and a black grille. It's really the $43,000 Sport S, however, that starts to pile on the comfort gear: full power accessories (including a locking tailgate), keyless entry, a larger infotainment screen that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a more generous list of options.
More Manageable Mud Pit Machine
A lot of Jeep fans pass over other mid-size pickups because they want the rugged capabilities promised by the Gladiator. Is it possible to target a version of the truck that features above-average trail skills without going all-in on the Rubicon?
The answer lies in the Gladiator Willys trim. In addition to bringing with it the same features as the Sport S it maintains the limited-slip from the Willys Sport, as well as its 32-inch mud tires, all for roughly $47,000. Those rock rails are borrowed from the Rubicon, as are the Willys shocks, but when paired with the more modestly-sized tires (the Rubicon features 33-inch A/Ts as standard), the impact on street comfort and handling isn't nearly as noticeable.
There's no leather available in the Willys, but if you're determined to own the plushest Gladiator in the box, for nearly the same money you can pick up the Overland trim. This model trades the Willys' specialized hardware for a (somewhat) more upscale interior, a longer list of available active safety features (including adaptive cruise control), and the option of a full-time four-wheel drive system. It's worth pointing out that both the Willys and Overland cost $5k less than the Rubicon.
What To Look For Elsewhere
What would you pay for a Willys-equivalent off-roader that better balances street and stream when looking inside competitor showrooms? While no other mid-size truck can be had with a solid front axle or a removable top like the Jeep, there are a surprising number of similar compromise-oriented models out there.
Chevrolet offers the Z71 package Colorado as a step-down from its top-tier ZR2, and it brings with it a suspension upgrade, a locking rear differential, and comparable options and features to the Willys, for a substantial $10k discount. The GMC Canyon AT4 is closer in price ($42,000), and offers several upgrades over the Colorado's gear (including 31-inch tires).
The Toyota Tacoma is another popular choice among pickup fans, with the TRD Off-Road at $35,000 splitting the difference between all-terrain toughness and daily driving reality. It's not quite as modern or smooth as the Colorado or the Canyon, however, and in that way is similar to the somewhat plain Ford Ranger XLT Tremor, which at nearly $44,000 is the most expensive Willy alternative on this list (with an even more pricy Lariat model also available).
Splitting the difference between the two is the $39,000 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X, which presents better than the Ranger while coming close to the Tacoma in terms of off-road tech and equipment.
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