There are certain vehicles that just stand out once you lay your eyes on them because they look like the definitive epitome of automotive excellence. What’s more, is that sometimes these vehicles go the extra mile and pump up their value by having comprehensive performance specs that match their incomparable aesthetics. The 2021 Jeep Gladiator is one of those vehicles. If the name itself doesn’t strike your fancy, and the design hasn’t won you over, what’s under the hood surely will.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Gladiator model, it’s Jeep’s newest foray into the pickup truck category. It’s essentially a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited on a longer wheelbase with a pickup bed in place of the cargo area. This gives the Gladiator all the off-road capabilities of the traditional Wrangler and the utilitarian means to function as a full-on pickup truck, complete with cargo hauling and trailering capabilities. But we’re here to talk about the performance of this particular four-wheel giant, and there’s certainly a lot to talk about.
What Powers the 2021 Jeep Gladiator
There are two main powertrain options that provide propulsion for the 2021 Jeep Gladiator. The first is the default 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that produces up to 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It can tow or trailer up to 7,650 pounds when properly equipped, which is much higher than the 3,500-pound maximum of the regular Jeep Wrangler.
The co-star in the 2021 Jeep Gladiator’s powertrain offerings is the new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6, which offers a bit less horsepower than its gasoline counterpart. However, 260 horsepower is nothing to look down on, and the diesel more than makes up for such a small shortcoming with its very impressive 442 pound-feet of torque.
Because of its higher cooling requirements, the EcoDiesel doesn’t quite manage the same tow ratings as the Pentastar and tops out at 6,500 pounds when equipped with the Max Tow Package. But the EcoDiesel compensates for this in spades with a much more efficient fuel economy rating. At 22 miles per gallon in the city and up to 28 miles per gallon on the highway, the Gladiator is easily one of the better midsize trucks when it comes to long range and low fuel bills.
What Makes the Gladiator’s Performance So Special
While many vehicles come with gas and diesel-powered options, it’s not simply the classification that makes the difference but the application of the mechanics that change the way the vehicle behaves. In essence, it’s the combination of mechanical operations that give the 2021 Jeep Gladiator its own standout personality.
The Gladiator manages 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 7.6 seconds, thanks to the high torque of its diesel engine. That’s impressive for a four-door 4×4 truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of up to 6,250 pounds. Obviously, though, the Gladiator isn’t a sports car, a supercar, or a muscle car – it’s an off-road Jeep with the body of a pickup truck.
Even still, the performance for the Gladiator is noted to be as impressive as it is thanks to how it distributes torque. The truck was engineered from the ground up to make full use of its torque band. For the EcoDiesel in particular, it’s paired with the TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission that was specifically designed to help optimize lots of low-end torque to get off the line quickly without needing a high rev range to generate that boost off the line.
One might wonder how the Gladiator can manage a lot of low-end torque in order to produce crawl speeds and off-road adventures without burning through fuel quickly, but this is thanks to improved compression ratios to reduce fuel consumption and redesigned fuel injector nozzles for high-pressure direct-injection, all of which help improve combustion within the chamber. This means that you get great off-road crawl performance with a lot of low-end torque generated without it expending a lot of fuel in the process, hence the great fuel economy ratings for the 2021 Jeep Gladiator.
How the Gladiator Improved Use of Torque Across All Trims
We talk a lot about torque, generating torque, and the transfer of torque, but there’s more to it than a vehicle simply making torque. It has to come from somewhere and go somewhere in order for it to be utilized. This fundamental development is actually a very complex and layered process that involves a lot of communication between the powertrain and the drivetrain, but mostly in how power is transferred through the drivetrain.
The low-end torque capabilities of the Gladiator are made possible through a default rear axle ratio of 3.73:1, which means that the driveshaft rotates three and quarter times before transferring the power from the transmission to the axles. Every trim line also comes standard with the Selec-Trac two-speed transfer case for part-time, four-wheel drive support at an optional ratio of 2:72:1, which means you still gain plenty of crawl performance without burning through fuel as quickly.
Alternatively, if you absolutely need the best low-gear crawl ratios, the Gladiator Rubicon’s two-speed Rock-Trac transfer case bumps the ratio up to 4.0:1. This means that no matter how difficult or uneven the terrain may be, the torque generated from the engine will be expertly utilized through the driveshaft to the axles and distributed to each wheel to propel the vehicle forward, maximizing traction, no matter what the obstacle.
How the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Achieves Higher Tow Ratings
We covered the powertrain and drivetrain capabilities, but that only tells part of the story of how the Gladiator is capable of achieving improved tow ratings and performance over its smaller Wrangler sibling. Other important factors to consider are the chassis and suspension. The 2021 Jeep Gladiator is situated on a 137.30-inch wheelbase, which is nearly 16% longer than the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. The extra length is married to a reinforced suspension, including heavy-duty shocks and springs that are tuned for truck tasks.
With the wide Dana front and rear axles, combined with the optimized transference of torque, the standard Gladiator is ready for anything. This can be improved with options like the Rubicon trim and the Max Tow Package. With that latter package, you will get a 4.1:1 axle ratio, an anti-spin rear differential, a 240-amp alternator, and heavy duty engine cooling.
The Jeep Gladiator Is One-of-a-Kind
There’s a mechanical synergy that takes place that allows everything to work well together, from the software technology that enables drivers to manipulate how the suspension handles terrain and how the torque is moved through all four wheels, to the engine and transmission working together to generate torsional confluence. Because of this, the Gladiator is capable of not only conquering off-road feats but also capable of competing in the towing and hauling category. There have been some criticisms about the Gladiator’s towing performance when compared to more traditional trucks, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Gladiator is still capable of impressive towing feats for a vehicle designed primarily for 4×4 off-road adventures.
In essence, what makes the 2021 Jeep Gladiator so special is a combination of things, and Jeep’s engineers being insistent on utilizing every aspect of the vehicle to increase and improve its efficiency in areas from fuel economy to performance. And with nearly endless options to choose from, you can better customize your vehicle to suit your needs. The end result is the uncompromising, rugged off-road monster known as the Jeep Gladiator.