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How We'd Spec It: 2023 Jeep Gladiator

Driving a Jeep Gladiator is fun, but the enjoyment comes at a significant price premium

2023 Jeep Gladiator Mojave parked in the desert at sunset.
  • The Jeep Gladiator offers a midsize truck driving experience unlike any other.
  • We recommend the one that marries comfort, convenience and daily drivability.
  • There is an alternative offering maximum capability and a lower price, but it’s basic.
  • If your budget is bigger, consider what we think is the most emotionally appealing model.

You might write off the Jeep Gladiator as a Wrangler with a cargo bed, but this midsize pickup truck is something more than that. You can get all the details in an Edmunds video outlining the differences between the Gladiator and the Wrangler.

If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the short version: the Gladiator’s frame, suspension and brakes are made for trucking, not Jeeping. And that’s how the Gladiator's max towing capacity of 7,700 pounds far surpasses the 2023 Wrangler's max of 3,500 pounds (the 2024 Rubicon has a new max of 5,000 pounds) and can handle a maximum payload capacity of up to 1,710 pounds.

While we’ve shown that the Gladiator isn’t quite as capable off-road as a Wrangler due to its shallower breakover and departure angles, it nevertheless remains impressive when the going gets tough. Plus, unlike every other truck on the market, you can remove the Gladiator’s top and doors and even drop the windshield, giving you all the open-air driving sensations of the Wrangler but with the added towing and hauling capability of a pickup.

Naturally, this leads to the question of which Gladiator to choose. Below, you’ll find three recommendations, but as is always true when choosing a truck, the right one for you is the one that gets the job done.

The recommended spec

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A red 2023 Jeep Gladiator Overland tows a boat on a road next to a lake.

2023 Jeep Gladiator Overland

For most people, we recommend the Gladiator Overland because it is best at blending daily-driving comfort and convenience with capability. Out of the box, the automatic-equipped model provides 1,120 pounds of payload capacity and a 6,000-pound tow rating. The base price is $48,625, including the destination charge of $1,795.

Every paint color except for Bright White costs $495 extra, so we’d add one of those. Plus, we would fit our Overland with Mopar-sourced heavy-duty rock sliders, a body-color hardtop, a spray-in bedliner, and a Trac-Lok anti-spin differential (read: limited-slip differential). In addition, we would get the Cold Weather Group (remote engine start, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel) and the Active Safety Group (blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, rear parking sensors). Those extras would bring the price to $57,125, including the destination charge.

Business owners will also want the Trailer Tow package, but not necessarily for maximum towing capacity. Apparently, according to Jeep, this option makes the Overland eligible for substantial tax benefits when purchasing the truck as a business vehicle. This package adds $895 to the Gladiator’s price.

The worthy alternative

Rear quarter view of a silver 2023 Jeep Gladiator Willys Sport with the optional hardtop

2023 Jeep Gladiator Willys Sport

If you want to save money when buying a Gladiator, consider the Willys Sport. It is one step up from the base Sport trim, and it adds some of the things we would get as options, like aluminum wheels, 32-inch mud-terrain tires, rock rails and Trac-Lok. Plus, it boasts a maximum payload of 1,740 pounds, which is better than most Gladiators. The base price is $43,095, including the destination charge.

Since saving money is the point of getting the Willys Sport, we would stick with the free Bright White paint job and fabric top. To this, we would add a spray-in bedliner and an automatic transmission. The automatic is a pricey upgrade, but it bumps towing capacity from 4,000 pounds to 7,700 pounds. Unfortunately, you can’t get the Cold Weather Group or the Active Safety Group on the Willys Sport, so bundle up and keep an eye out for other vehicles.

As optioned, our Willys Sport runs $45,620, including the destination charge. As is true with the Overland, business owners choosing this truck for work will want to check out the Trailer Tow package, which could make it eligible for tax benefits. That option tacks $895 onto the price above.

The emotional choice

2023 Jeep Gladiator Mojave interior showing the dashboard and a desert sunset through the windshield

2023 Jeep Gladiator Mojave interior

It’s not easy to choose between the Gladiator Rubicon and Gladiator Mojave. They share a base price of $53,040 (including destination charges) but serve different purposes. The Rubicon is made for navigating technical trails at low speeds, while the Mojave is made for high-speed desert running.

We’ve found, though, the Mojave’s exclusive Fox 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks with external reservoirs and front hydraulic jounce bumpers also pay big dividends in the real world where you’re going to spend most of your time driving. Compared to the Rubicon, the Mojave’s ride in town and on the highway is sublime. So, unless you really need the Rubicon’s off-roading talent, we think the Mojave is the way to go. Plus, cool hood scoop, bruh.

We’d build our Mojave with extra-cost paint, a body-color hardtop, a forward-facing Trail Cam, rock sliders, a spray-in bedliner, the Active Safety Group, the Cold Weather Group, the Premium LED Lighting Group and an automatic transmission. As with the Willys Sport, the automatic bumps towing capacity on this truck. Here, it rises from 4,500 pounds to 6,000 pounds. The window sticker of our dream Gladiator Mojave would read $65,235, including the destination charge.

Jeep says the Mojave automatically qualifies for substantial tax benefits when you buy one as a business vehicle without requiring the Trailer Tow package.

Edmunds says

The Gladiator's price has always been a challenge. For example, the Mojave described above costs significantly more than a Chevy Colorado ZR2, Ford Ranger Raptor, GMC Canyon AT4X or Tacoma TRD Pro.

While it’s true the Gladiator offers an open-air driving experience unlike anything in its class, it is also less refined than its rivals. So, due to its uncompetitive pricing and rough-and-tumble nature, the Gladiator’s appeal is limited to people who want a Wrangler but need a truck. And there are only so many customers like that who are willing to pay a big premium for the privilege.