The Jeep Gladiator made a splash when FCA announced it was coming for the 2020 model year. It means Jeep finally has a mid-size pickup to add to the competition, and it’s a convertible one to boot. Or is it more of an SUV with an unconventional short-box bed? At any rate, the Jeep Gladiator is a big deal.
One of the more impressive aspects of this new truck is the fact that it will have a manual transmission with the option to upgrade to automatic if you wish. Prior to this Jeep offering, you could only find the manual transmission with the Nissan Frontier and the Toyota Tacoma. At least in the mid-size market. Now that 2019 is ending, and reviewers had time to test it out, Jeep enthusiasts are eager to see how the manual in the Jeep Gladiator will hold up.
Jeep Gladiator speeds with manual transmission
All trims of the Gladiator have the manual transmission option. In MotorTrend’s testing, the manual transmission performed well with the Sport trim as far as speed goes. It went from 0 to 60 in about .2 seconds faster than the Rubicon or Overland trims, giving it about a 7.9 second acceleration time.
The switching of gears seemed smooth, unlike a few other vehicles running a manual stick shift. Fuel efficiency wasn’t too bad either. The Rubicon trim could get about 23 mpg, which is one more than the automatic versions could muster. The speed with the 2020 Jeep Gladiator was fairly impressive.
Why don’t reviewers like the manual transmission in the Jeep Gladiator more?
While the speed figures aren’t too bad for the 2020 Jeep Gladiator, it still isn’t well-liked with most reviewers. The Gladiator comes with just the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that runs 285hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. This engine, according to MotorTrend’s review, doesn’t pair well with the 6-speed manual transmission. One problem noted was the gears were too long with the manual option. The first gear would hit at 31 mph, the second at 60 and the third at 103 mph. This made the pickup lethargic to drive.
Some reviewers thought this manual transmission made it easy to stall. There’s little torque in first gear, and they said that you can’t feel the clutch engaging like you can with other manual pickups. So gear timing can be off. Towing isn’t great either. One reviewer reported that the Rubicon trim version he was testing could only get about 4,000 lbs towing capacity. Also, acceleration times suffered when hauling the max capacity. The time doubled to about 15.9 seconds.
How does it compare to the automatic transmission?
First, towing capacity significantly improves with automatic transmission, especially if you choose the 8-speed option. Towing capacity can then get up to 7,000 lbs. The automatic seems to work well with this engine because sluggishness isn’t a problem when you’re not trying to switch the gears manually.
You also don’t have to deal with the dead-pedal syndrome, when your left foot has no place to rest comfortably when you’re not engaging the clutch. Fuel efficiency is lower than the manual but only by one and overall the gear response is quicker and smoother with the automatic transmission.
To get the most out of a manual transmission ride, it looks like the Jeep Gladiator would have to pair their Aisin D478 manual with a peppier engine, like Ram’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 motor. Maybe then the sluggishness reviewers reported would go away and the Gladiator would be a fun truck to drive with the manual experience.