Welcome to the biggest competition of the year. You’ll want to sit down for this one because it’s going to be a tight race. Today we are going to put two of the best name-brand pickups in the ring and see which one comes out on top. I am speaking, of course, of the competition that you never thought could be: the 2021 Jeep Gladiator vs 2021 Ford Ranger. Two fine trucks, to be sure. We will be judging them based upon three criteria: performance capabilities, off-roading capabilities, and style. We will have a winner at the end – this will not be a tie (spoiler alert) – so stay with us and see which one comes out the victor.
Well, let’s begin with the thing that makes them both run: the engine. The Jeep Gladiator offers two different engines: the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine and the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine. With the Pentastar, the Gladiator offers 285 horsepower and a torque capacity of 260 pound-feet. To make matters better, the Pentastar provides a towing capacity of 7,650 pounds and a payload of 1,700 pounds. These are impressive numbers.
Moving to the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine, the vehicle will lose some horsepower and come in at just 260. The torque, however, will skyrocket all the way up to 442 pound-feet, making the Gladiator the best in its class as far as torque capacity goes. Horsepower won’t be the only thing lost, though, as the towing capacity will be reduced to 6,500 pounds. The two big benefits of the EcoDiesel engine are, of course, the increased torque as well as its comparative eco-friendliness. If you’re going for directly increased performance, however, the Gladiator is likely to perform at a higher level with the Pentastar engine.
Now, let’s shift gears and check out the competition. The Ford Ranger features the 2.3-liter EcoBoost Turbo I-4 engine. The vehicle comes rolling in at 270 horsepower and 310 pounds-feet of torque. This is a happy medium between the higher and lower capabilities of the Gladiator, but it does not reach its highest capabilities on either front. It does, however, offer a nice combination of the best features on both engine options for the Gladiator. The EcoBoost also equips the Ranger with a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds and a payload of 1,860 pounds. The Ranger’s payload is where the Gladiator begins to sweat. However, the Ranger’s only engine option neither dips as low as the Gladiator’s lowest nor reaches as high as its highest. Does this mean a happy medium or compromise?
Well, obviously, if you’re looking either at a Gladiator or a Ranger, you’re going to want to do some off-roading; or, even if you don’t right now, you probably will once you get behind the wheel. Performance capabilities are only one piece of the capabilities puzzle, as off-roading capabilities are a very important component of purchasing a pickup, and especially of purchasing a pickup at the level of either the Gladiator or the Ranger. So, with that being said, let’s take a look at the off-roading capabilities of both vehicles.
Where does one begin with the off-roading capabilities of the Gladiator? You’ll find the most profound features in the Gladiator Rubicon. It all begins with the very construction of the Rubicon. The Rock-Trac transfer case upon which the Gladiator rests possesses a 4:1 low range, allowing it to deliver a potential 84:1 crawl ratio. So, rocks and obstacles are no problem for the Gladiator.
What’s more, the presence of wheel-to-wheel stock rock rails, in addition to steel rock rails behind the wheels, help protect the car from rock damage; combine this with the Gladiator’s high-strength steel skid plates, and you should have little reason to worry about the Gladiator suffering damage from a day off the road. With the Tru-Lok Electronic Locking Differentials on the Gladiator Rubicon, the vehicle provides excellent power delivery to the wheels, causing it to perform excellently on difficult terrain while maintaining high levels of traction. In the 2021 model, the rear axle is able to be locked in 4HI mode, allowing the vehicle to reach higher speeds.
Speaking of higher speeds, the gladiator hosts branded FOX aluminum-bodied shocks (race-proven) damping control, making sure that the work occurs outside the car and you get to enjoy a smooth ride. To cap it all off, the Gladiator maintains excellent articulation, keeping the wheels planted firmly on the ground by way of its sway bar. This little baby provides a 30% increase in front-wheel articulation, which is no small matter.
That’s not where the Gladiator’s off-roading capabilities end, though. The vehicle offers Off-Road+, which allows you to adjust throttle, admission, and traction with the simple push of a button. The vehicle also has heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear solid axles, giving the vehicle excellent durability. One last thing just to take the work off of you and put it onto the car–the Gladiator offers a forward-facing TrailCam, which provides gridlines displaying the best path in front of the vehicle to stay clear of any obstacles. So, no matter how you cut it, the Gladiator is built to give you the ride of your life.
The Ranger’s off-roading capabilities come in the form of two packages. First among them is the Tremor package. “The Tremor Off-Road Package includes new magnetic-painted alloy wheels, new skid plate, modified heavy-duty off-road suspension, and new front and rear tow hooks, as well as off-road hoop-step-style running boards and six new upfitter switches…For added confidence, Tremor includes Trail Control and the Terrain Management System to help ensure that you feel in command wherever your off-road adventures may take you.” Let’s dive deeper into some of the features they mentioned.
The Trail Control system maintains a constant speed, and while doing so, manages throttle and braking at individual wheels. This system is driver-activated and serves as a sort of off-road cruise control. The Terrain Management system is a technology that strives to give the driver more control off the road by providing four drive modes Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand. The system automatically calibrates engine responsiveness, transmission, and vehicle control to provide top-level traction and performance.
In addition to these two options, The 4X4 electronic shift-on-the-fly (ESOF) system lets you shift between four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive with the simple turn of a dial, making for ease of maneuverability while off the road. The Ranger, like the Gladiator, possesses electronic-locking rear differentials but lacks the presence of electronic-locking front differentials, which the Gladiator does possess. These two trucks are both off-road champions, and this continues to be a tight race.
This time we’ll let the Ranger go first. The Ranger looks strong. It has a very large stance, and its appearance shows forth the strength that it provides. It has a bulkier, thicker body, and its nine color scheme options can help to enhance its exterior. Its twin power dome hood works with its low-angled windshield to channel air over the roof and reduce wind noise, which is a definite perk of the vehicle’s structure. Inside, it is sleek but relatively plain and simple compared to many interiors at this point in time. Its front bucket seating is a nice feature, and it bears other features which will make the drive more comfortable. But, as far as appearance goes, it just can’t compare with the Gladiator.
The Gladiator simply excels in that it has the charm of the classic Jeep aesthetic. Its rectangular body, plated grille, and round headlights make it reminiscent of some of the vintage Jeeps from the brand’s earliest days, such as the CJ, the very first Jeep civilian vehicle ever made. The vehicle has a lean-but-strong stance and has the option of open-doors, half-doors, and removable hard or soft top. The Gladiator maintains a similar aesthetic inside with its contrast between rectangles and circles, giving it that same lean-but-strong appearance of the outside and providing darker complexions and more color accents than the Ranger.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for….the winner is….the Jeep Gladiator! Let’s pause for a second. Are you going to be disappointed with either vehicle? I highly doubt that. Is the Ranger a fantastic car? Absolutely. The Gladiator, though, provides two engine options that allow for higher capabilities than the Ranger and provides similar but slightly stronger off-roading capabilities. For me, though, the biggest selling point on the Gladiator is that it looks every bit like a classic Jeep. It is very much a throwback vehicle in the way it resembles its Jeep ancestors. Its strong, rectangular appearance gives it an intriguing and robust look while maintaining the leanness, efficiency, and sleekness of a Jeep; a perfect combination.