Base Camp: 2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport S
Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one that earns a passing grade
For years, the Jeep cognoscenti wailed into their u-joints and beadlock wheels about the lack of a pickup truck from the most off-road of North American brands. With the introduction of the Gladiator for the 2020 model year, fans of the company got what they wanted.
What began as a three truck lineup has quickly grown to seven different trims. Its entry-level model is called the Sport S, setting an opening bid of $49,840. Sharing much with its Wrangler cousin, at least in terms of styling and cabin accommodations, this trim comes standard with the familiar 3.6L V6 engine making about 300 horsepower. A row-yer-own 6-speed manual transmission is present, with the option of an 8-speed automatic dinging the balance sheet for $2,410.
Spotting an entry-level Gladiator in traffic is trickier than doing the same with its Wrangler cousin, thanks to the Glad’s body-colour two-piece fender flares and deep-tint windows. Of the eight available paint shades, three are no-charge (including Firecracker Red, shown here) but we’d be sorely tempted to wantonly spend $100 on Snazzberry Pearl simply because it is fun to say. The black Sunrider soft top turns this pickup into a convertible whenever the mood strikes.
Cloth front buckets are available in black or tan. Its infotainment system is the sad-sack 7-inch touchscreen at this low end of the Gladiator food chain, though economies of scale do provide a total of 8 speakers. Popping $295 for the quartet of auxiliary switches is a good idea if one plans to add accessories such as lights or a winch to their new Jeep (a more robust alternator and battery are part of the deal). Air conditioning is standard, as are power locks and push button start.
Gladiator sets itself apart from the Wrangler thanks to a beefier frame, permitting the Sport S to tow a hefty 7,650 lbs when equipped with the $995 Max Tow package and an automatic transmission. Absent those options, it is limited to 4,000 lbs.
What We’d Choose
It’s a $2,900 walk to the next-rung Willys trim, a model which simply brings some styling changes and brawnier shocks in addition to LT-grade tires. For that price, we’d stick with the Sport S but add the auxiliary switches mentioned above, plus $395 for the removable Bluetooth speaker simply because it’s cool.
If towing anything heavier than a small trailer is in the cards, go for the automatic transmission. This pains us to say, given we are card carrying members of our Save the Manuals chapter. Still, when combined with the Max Tow package (which also includes a limited-slip rear differential), one has a machine that is ready to work while looking good doing it.
Provided you opted for the Snazzberry paint, of course.