“Gladiator” was the name of Jeep pickups in the 1960s, but this concept actually harkens back further to the more militaristic Jeep Truck of the 1950s. In essence, the Gladiator marries a Wrangler front end with a very small extended cab and a seven-foot cargo box. The ultra-long, 138-inch wheelbase makes room for the jaunty, side-mounted spare. Jeep has fitted the Liberty’s new 2.8-liter diesel under the hood, and the Gladiator naturally features four-wheel drive and solid axles front and rear. The rear axle is not located by leaf springs, which wouldn’t allow for the short rear overhang, but instead uses coil-over dampers. The cab has the usual rear-hinged access door on the passenger side, but driver’s side access to the rear seat is via a small “dog door” roughly two feet square. That’s appropriate because the rear bench is better suited to canines than to people. The Gladiator also offers a twist on the Midgate theme: the cab rear window powers down, the rear-seat squab tucks down to the floor, and the rear bulkhead then slides forward, like a drawer, to increase the cargo bed to a full eight feet in length. Regardless of whether or not that trick could be engineered for production, this good-looking pickup would be a great, and fitting, addition to the Jeep line.
This pickup-truck version of the Wrangler is a more natural Jeep brand extension than the Commander, the Compass, and the Patriot combined. Previewed at the 2005 Detroit auto show, the Gladiator uses a stretched Dodge Dakota chassis, an extended cab with two rear jump seats, and a five-foot, eight-inch cargo box. Expect the Gladiator in 2008.