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How Safe Is the Jeep Gladiator?

The highly anticipated 2020 Jeep Gladiator hit the market in April 2019 and was met with rave reviews. As the only soft-top pickup truck on the market, the Gladiator is in a class all its own. Shortly after its release, the Gladiator was ranked in Car and Driver’s 10 Best list for 2020, and it was a finalist for MotorTrend’s 2020 truck of the year. There is no doubt that the Gladiator is popular, but how does it rate for safety?

2020 Gladiator Safety Features

Although the NHTSA and IIHS have not yet provided safety ratings for the 2019 Gladiator, it shares parts with the 2018 Jeep Wrangler, which received poor marks from Consumer Reports for vehicle handling and braking. Since it also has parts in common with the higher-rated Ram 1500, including superior rear suspension, it can be hoped that the Gladiator will show some improvement over the Wrangler. 

According to Kelly Blue Book, the Gladiator offers advanced safety features in higher trims but is virtually devoid of safety technology in the base model. Safety features available in higher trims include forward collision warning, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.

Steering and Maneuverability Concerns

Despite the fact that the Gladiator has not been formally rated for safety, the majority of customer complaints to date on the NHTSA site relate to the vehicle’s steering. This comes as no surprise, given the 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s issues. Consumer Reports indicates that the Gladiator displays sluggish and unresponsive steering during testing in normal road conditions, but offers enhanced off-road capabilities typical of Jeep vehicles. They rated the Gladiator only a 2 out of 5 for emergency handling. 

Jeep keeps it simple with a 3.6-liter V6 engine and both manual and automatic transmission options. In road tests, drivers expressed dissatisfaction with the Gladiator’s wide transmission ratio, which made it difficult to shift when running off-road. This could be a safety issue for manual drivers accustomed to the standard transmission ratios. Braking was standard on both wet and dry surfaces, according to Kelly Blue Book’s road testing.

Child Safety Features

Car seats for children are easy to install and secure with lower seat belts, but top tether anchors are difficult to access and adjust. This may result in parents simply avoiding the use of the tether strap altogether. The back seat is not sufficiently large for three child seats, so families with multiple small children may not find the Gladiator convenient for the whole family.

Headlight Functionality

The headlights display the signature round shape of previous Jeep models. While they provide sufficient light directly in front of the vehicle, they do not illuminate very far ahead, which can make it difficult for drivers to see far enough to stop for obstacles at night. The high beams are somewhat brighter but do not illuminate as well as high beams on other vehicles.

Overall Safety Projections

The Jeep Gladiator appears to be moderately safe, although definitive safety ratings are hard to determine before crash testing has been completed. Concerns about the Gladiator’s slow steering and wide transmission may lower the vehicle’s overall ranking when compared with other vehicles in the same class.

With two years to improve the steering issues with the 2018 Jeep Wrangler, it is possible that they have had time to work out the kinks for better functionality in the 2020 Wrangler and Gladiator models. However, recent consumer complaints through the NHTSA indicate that the majority of the issues encountered to date involve steering, which does not bode well. High-tech safety features available in the higher trims will help boost the Gladiator’s safety ratings.