Because of its dying popularity and difficulty to produce, manual transmissions just aren’t as common in cars anymore. It’s estimated that only 2% of new vehicles last year included the old-school gearbox. You used to able to at least get the option for a manual instead of the automatic alternative, but automakers deemed this practice too expensive.
However, some cars are keeping the stick-driving tradition alive and well. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator surprised everyone with its inclusion of a six-speed manual transmission as the truck as the standard option. While this may delight some nostalgic drivers, our friends at Motortrend absolutely hated it. Here’s what they had to say.
Subpar acceleration and towing
Most of the testers found that the stick required very long throws in order to switch gears. It’s certainly not a manual for those who’ve never driven one before, and one editor gave up on it altogether. It also noticeably struggled while trying to climb hills. Its acceleration time is somewhat sluggish for a compact truck, 0-60 in 7.9 seconds.
The Gladiator boasts a maximum towing capacity of 7,650 pounds. However, given the difficulty to switch between gears, the possibility of being able to hit that number is very slim. When hitched up to a 4,000-pound trailer, all the power was transmitted to the front of the car rather than the back. Its acceleration time also doubled during this process.
A bad match for the Jeep Gladiator’s engine
One reason critics think the manual performs so poorly is because of the paired engine. The standard offering is a 3.6-liter V6 capable of 285 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. The combination is fine for daily driving, but the truck struggles to perform with any task that requires more effort.
The V6 itself lacks a lot of torque, and the gear spacing is terribly uneven. It makes towing a trailer up a hill impossible unless you’re an expert. Even then, shifting the gears at the wrong moment may get the car stuck during its climb.
A good truck for speed
While it’s not the fastest truck available, it performed better than other trims. The Jeep Gladiator used in this test was the Sport version. It managed to beat three other Rubicons with automatic transmissions. This is because the first gear in the Sport’s manual gearbox is shorter than the one in the automatic.
The Sport also had a cloth top on the roof, which cuts out an extra few hundred pounds. This makes the truck more agile and able to round tight corners with ease. As long as the truck bed isn’t empty, the suspension won’t be too wobbly.
Other transmission options for the Jeep Gladiator
If you don’t want to deal with the stick-shift, you can opt for an eight-speed automatic transmission. In the near future, a V6 turbocharged EcoDiesel engine will also be available. It has an output of 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque, which will definitely improve its towing power. This engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
An excellent off-roader
Despite its struggles in the towing department, the Jeep Gladiator ultimately upholds Jeep’s off-roading reputation. It gets at least 10 inches of ground clearance and can drive in water up to 30 inches. For a little more excitement, the windshield can be folded down and the doors are removable.
Skid plates and 4WD are standard across all trims. The Rubicon’s 4WD system has the most features, including front and back locking differentials and a front sway bar. Each version also has an off-roading mode that can be engaged while driving over rocks and sand. Whatever the terrain is, any trim of the Jeep Gladiator can handle it.