For more than half a century few vehicle brands have remained so instantly recognizable as Jeep. Remove all the chrome insignias, these days, and it’s hard to tell a Ford from a Chevy from a Toyota…and so on. But thanks to the distinctive look of the grill, the fenders and other features, it’s easy to see the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport is the great, great grandchild of the “jeeps” which were rolled out by the millions as military all-purpose vehicles long ago.

            I tested the Jeep Gladiator Sport as a tow vehicle slash all purpose ride for a week back in late May, thinking it could be the perfect choice for Great Lakes anglers who are also Great Lakes hunters, Great Lakes commuters and perhaps Great Lakes family people. Would it be as all purpose here as it was for the GIs in Europe, Korea and other places around the world?

            My daily commute from home to the lake routes me on country roads, two-lane highways, several miles on an Interstate highway and ends up on busy expressways leading to Chicago. Just one trip is an all purpose test track. The Jeep passed all the tests.

            Though the Gladiator is lighter than the Suburban or the older model, full size Chevy pick-up which is usually pulling my 5000 pound-ish boat and trailer, I didn’t feel as though the boat was in control of the ride. It handled the load just fine and I had no problems getting the rig up to speed on the highways or up the ramp at the end of the trip. With the “Max Tow” package, it has a 7650 pounds rated, 3.6L, V6 gasoline, 305 horse powerhouse.

            When I got the loaner vehicle it had 3600 miles on it and the overall gas mileage readout on the dash display showed a 19 MPG average – just as advertised on the sticker. On a road trip sans the boat it registered consistently around 25 on the highway and with my boat in tow on a straight and level road the instant readout usually showed 11 MPG.

            I didn’t take the Gladiator off road but with multiple 4X4 options and traction settings, I’m sure it’s as nimble off the road or on Great Lakes winter highways as any comparable truck. It’s a nice feature, both for winter driving as well as on algae-slick launch ramps during the summer months.

            The Gladiator Sport I drove is the “base” model. Others are the Sport S, Overland and Rubicon. Each level reflects increased level of interior trim, audio systems, lighting etc. Even in the basic Sport, “must haves” such as A/C, power windows, seat warmers (for my wife) plus many more features are available as options.  

            The rear seating is sized just fine for most women and small kids. Full-sized men will fit okay for short to medium trips. I’d hate to ride more than a couple hours back there without a stop. The rear seats will flip up to increase the interior storage area.

            Though I didn’t remove them, the metal doors and fiberglass roof easily come off to give the Gladiator more of the look of the original Willy’s models. That would be a fun ride around town at Put-In-Bay or cruising to the House of Flavors for an evening ice cream cone in Ludington.

            In short, if you are looking for a general purpose, rugged, but cool looking truck to use around town, in the country and to head for the lake, take a look at the Jeep Gladiator. It won top awards at many auto shows across the country in it’s inaugural year, 2019, and has been voted the North American Truck of the Year for 2020.

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