If we had told you a year ago at this time that we would be comparing the Ford Ranger and the Jeep Gladiator, you might have thought you were about to read a thirty-year-old article. Yet, here we are, in 2019 looking at the 2019 Ford Ranger vs 2020 Jeep Gladiator. This isn’t some alternate reality or time capsule piece. This is really happening.
The Ford Ranger has been missing from American highways since 2011, while the Jeep Gladiator is making its return since exiting in 1988. In their previous incarnations, they lived on opposite ends of the pickup truck spectrum. The old Jeep Gladiator was a full sized pickup truck based on the Wagoneer platform. The former Ford Ranger was a compact truck, but prior to the early 1980s, it was a special edition of the F250 (but in name only). In 2020, they will meet in the middle as mid-sized pickup trucks.
But these two pickup trucks are not your ordinary, run of the mill trucks. These two trucks are specifically designed for the more adventurous type. From their basic engineering to the features and trim levels, the 2019 Ford Ranger and the 2020 Jeep Gladiator will appeal to the most outdoorsy of the outdoors-men. Let’s take a look at a few of the key areas of these two sporty pickup trucks to see how they measure up.
The two engines you will find on the 2019 Ford Ranger and the 2020 Jeep Gladiator are remarkably similar in output, yet have strikingly similar numbers. Both are perfect for the intentions of the off-roading pickup trucks. They deliver the performance necessary without being confused for engines you might find in a work truck.
The 2019 Ford Ranger comes with a 2.3 liter inline 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine that gets 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed transmission. It can tow up to 7,500 pounds and has a hauling payload capacity of 1,650 pounds.
The 2019 Jeep Gladiator is equipped with a 3.6 liter V6 engine that gets 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It is paired with a six-speed transmission as well but can be upgraded to an eight-speed, if you are so inclined. Its payload is 1,600 pounds but its tow capacity is a best in class 7,650 pounds.
As you can see, there is a lot of give and take between these two engines and what they can do for their respective trucks. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator has a larger engine with more horsepower and greater towing capability, while the 2019 Ford Ranger has significantly more torque and a slightly better payload. Since these two are so comparable in engine performance, it might come down to something very specific that you will want out of your truck’s engine that is the deciding factor.
Putting it to The Off-Road Test
Chances are, you are not looking at the 2019 Ford Ranger or the 2020 Jeep Gladiator as a passenger or family vehicle. Even though pickup trucks are rising in popularity in both of those demographics, these two particular trucks are not designed as such. They are meant to be enjoyed in a more hands-on way.
As such, both the 2019 Ford Ranger and the 2020 Jeep Gladiator come with multiple ways to fortify them to take on the outdoors. The Gladiator starts out with standard features such as skid plates, fortified tow hooks (front and rear), and reinforced axles to ensure that the Gladiator can get through any terrain. Additionally, it has 11.1 inches of ground clearance and an exceptionally high air intake. This means that you can get through as much as 30 inches of water safely and easily.
If you move up to the Rubicon trim level, you add locking front and rear differentials, upgraded shock absorbers and rock rails, among other bonus features. Rock rails are the rails that run along the bottom edge of the cab and bed. These rails will keep jagged terrain from damaging the bottom of the doors and truck bed. You also get Jeep’s TrailCam Off-Road Camera. When you are on difficult terrain, gridlines will show up on your monitor, easily guiding you along the best path through your obstacles. No other midsize 4×4 pickup truck has this technology.
The 2019 Ford Ranger, on the other hand, knows that it will be more likely to split time, and fans, between on and off the road. The base trim level does not offer any features that are specifically designed for off-roading. However, Ford offers an off-road package that can be added to any trim level. These features include a skid plate and all-terrain tires. The 2019 Ford Ranger also features what Ford calls the Terrain Management System. This system allows you to select between four different types of terrain: Normal; Sand; Mud and Ruts, and Grass, Gravel and Snow. Each different mode will tweak the transmission, throttle, and steering accordingly to make your off-road experience safer and more enjoyable.
If you are looking for a truck that can go straight from the dealership lot to the woods, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is your best bet. From the base trim level to the top trim Rubicon, it is better equipped to handle the specifics of outdoor life. If you are looking for more of a truck with a city and country identity, with the ability to transition smoothly between the two worlds, take a closer look at the 2019 Ford Ranger.
Unlike cars and SUVs, the basic shape of the pickup truck has not changed much since its invention. You have a somewhat taller body with a broad hood and a truck bed. Sizes have changed, curves have become more refined, fascia has undergone facelifts on an annual basis, but a pickup truck is still very easily identified.
If you look at a 2020 Jeep Gladiator, you might see the classic Jeep Wrangler with a 5-foot truck bed attached to the rear. And you wouldn’t be wrong. That is more or less what you are getting, just a larger version. However, you do get the classic Jeep ability to remove the Gladiator’s top and doors. This drastically changes the look of the Gladiator and, by extension, the look of the modern truck. You could take the top of the 2019 Ford Ranger if you wanted to, but you could only do it once, and it would take the best welder in the world and very deep pockets to put it back on.
The 2019 Ford Ranger retains the traditional look of the truck, albeit more beefed up than the one that went away in 2011. It has the ability to look at home both on the blacktop city streets and the dirt and mud of the rural areas. As far as the aesthetic of your truck goes – do you want a classic look or do you want to stand out a little?
These new versions of the 2019 Ford Ranger and the 2020 Jeep Gladiator are in the first years of their respective generations after the reboots they both got. Both look and perform vastly different than their past namesakes, and both will undoubtedly receive specific changes in the next couple of years. But, for now, these are two of the more unique pickup trucks on the road today. Or, maybe, off the road would be more accurate.