If you are looking for an off-road capable truck and are hoping to find one of the best in the midsize segment, your search will most likely come down to this: 2020 Jeep Gladiator vs 2020 Ford Ranger. These are two great options. Both trucks are relatively new to the segment—the Gladiator is new for the 2020 model year after a 25-year absence, and the Ranger debuted with the 2019 model year after an 8-year absence—so you didn’t have either choice just a couple of years ago.
The midsize truck segment just got a lot more interesting. And it was already a popular segment, though with Toyota mostly dominating. Until 2014, at least, when the Chevy Colorado jumped onto the scene. And now things have certainly changed with the re-introduction of two iconic models. While Toyota has enjoyed a lot of success of late, the Gladiator and Ranger have made things much more interesting for truck buyers. Now you have real contenders in the race with Jeep and Ford along for the ride.
Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of this comparison; there is a lot to talk about. Both only have one powertrain option, though Jeep will introduce a much-anticipated diesel option early this year, and both have serious payload and towing capacity. It’s hard not to be biased going into this comparison, though, as the Jeep is essentially a Wrangler with a pick-up bed, and the Ranger is another midsize truck. But let’s try to put any brand loyalty aside and see what the numbers tell us.
Again, there is only one option for both trucks, for now. The Gladiator will soon be offering a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 with 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. If it had this option now, the competition would be over, hands down. This is an exciting option with tons of torque and tons of possibilities. You’re probably dying to take this out on the trail, but you’ll have to wait a little longer—this powertrain option is expected to hit dealer lots early 2020.
So what we have to look at are two dependable engines. The Ford Ranger comes with a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-4 as the only choice. With this engine, you get 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The Ranger is the only of the four significant trucks in the segment to only offer a four-cylinder engine. It puts up competitive numbers, however, in terms of payload and towing, so you could do worse. You’re looking at a 7,500-pound max tow rating and best-in-class payload numbers. The engine comes paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The Gladiator jumps onto the scene with a 3.6-liter V6 that gets 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s the most sophisticated powertrain in the segment. You can choose from a 6-speed manual transmission or an 8-speed automatic transmission. When the diesel engine comes out, it will be paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. With this engine, you’ll find plenty of low-end torque to crawl over rocks, While off-road performance has never been in question with Jeeps, you’ll also find the Gladiator is surprisingly refined and gets excellent fuel efficiency at 23 MPG (highway).
So the Ranger brings a competent engine to the segment, but unfortunately, it’s not enough to compete with the Gladiator. No diesel, no V6, no manual transmission—these are things truck buyers want, and Jeep knows this.
Late to the Party
If it seems Ford is more concerned with appealing to entry-level truck buyers, it’s because the new Ranger is not new at all. It’s essentially a refreshed version of the Ranger “T6” that has been on the world market since 2011. Ford is clearly not trying to draw the attention of truck enthusiasts with the new Ranger but is hoping to capture the attention of buyers who are looking at SUVs and want more capability from their vehicle.
The Jeep Gladiator, however, seems to capture everyone’s imagination, whether you are an avid off-roader or new to the truck world. Where the Ranger leaves you uninspired and wanting more, the Gladiator delivers. If you want a truck that can carry your gear and take you off the pavement on weekends, then the Ranger might be what you’re looking for. But if you want a truck that can do anything, anywhere, anytime, then you might want to consider a Gladiator.
It’s just fun to drive. And there’s no better feeling than driving on a backroad with the roof and doors off. The front window is hinged, so you can also lay the window flat on the hood for off-street driving. If you want, you can remove the window too. The Gladiator does a lot that no other truck can do.
There is a lot that you get with the Gladiator that you won’t find on other trucks, such as standard four-wheel drive, a solid front axle, and, of course, the removable doors and roof (and window). The list of features is seemingly endless.
Lots and Lots of Features
So how do they compare in terms of available options? On the surface, it would seem that the Gladiator has the edge, but let’s take a look and see if the Ranger can be customized like the Gladiator.
Loading up the Ranger at the top trim level will bring lots of tech and SUV-like comfort: leather interior, an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, and 18-inch wheels. There’s also navigation and adaptive cruise control available. You and your family will appreciate the creature comforts, especially if you find yourself using the Ranger for your children’s carpool or as a daily driver.
The Gladiator has similar amenities: 18-inch wheels, a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, and a 115-volt outlet in the center console. But as you climb to the top trim, the differences in the two become more apparent. The Gladiator offers out-of-this-world off-road features that no other truck can compete with: Rock-Trac 4×4 system with 84:1 crawl ratio, electronic sway bar disconnect, locking front and rear differentials, as well as rock rails, front skid plate, and tow hooks.
The Ranger counters this with an FX2 off-road package. This is a little bit of a head-scratcher from Ford, as the package is for rear-wheel-drive models. If you plan on taking your rear-wheel-drive truck off-roading, then at least you will have a better chance with this package. The package includes an electronic locking rear differential, skid plates, and off-road wheels and tires. The instrument cluster also displays yaw, pitch, and roll in real-time.
The Gladiator might have won you over before you even started researching your options. It has the charm that vehicles nowadays seem to lack, which was why its debut was so highly anticipated. Not only do you get the off-road capability of a Wrangler, but you also get the added utility of a truck bed. It’s not often a vehicle can be so enjoyable to drive that it can put a smile on your face. The Jeep Gladiator does, and it delivers everything you could ask for in a truck, and then some.