The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel mill has the potential, but is it worth $4,000 over the Pentastar V-6?

LISTEN 13:26

The Jeep Gladiator was one of the most anticipated vehicles for a very long time. Jeep had revealed the Gladiator concept back in 2005 but took almost 14 years to roll out the production model. But, we finally had a Jeep-branded truck after three long decades. The truck was launched with much pomp and show and it caught a lot of attention. The truck comes in a wide number of trims with uncountable packages and accessories to complement it. The automaker keeps the Gladiator fresh by launching special editions, too.

However, Jeep hasn’t been able to sell the Gladiator in big numbers. One reason could be the high pricing, and the other was offering it with just a single engine option – the old but reliable V-6 Pentastar. Jeep probably figured this out soon and launched an EcoDiesel engine as an option. A Gladiator dressed in the Overland trim with the new diesel mill under the hood arrived at TopSpeed, and here are our impressions of it.

Jeep Gladiator Diesel Drivetrain

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Drivetrain
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The oil-burning Jeep Gladiator comes with a 3.0-liter, V-6 EcoDiesel engine under the hood that dishes out 260 horses and 442 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Although Jeep has offered a diesel mill, it is designed to make it as environmental-friendly as possible. The engine features a water-cooled turbocharger with a variable geometry turbine for increased efficiency. Jeep says the EGR system is updated to a dual-loop system and a low-pressure circulation system that aids performance and fuel-efficiency.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel specifications
Engine 3.0-liter V-6
Power 260 hp @ 3,600 rpm
Torque 442 lb-ft @ 1,400-2,800 rpm
Transmission eight-speed automatic
2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Drivetrain
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Jeep offers four different 4x4 systems on the Gladiator.

The Overland trim comes with the CommandTrac 4x4 system as standard. The system comes with a 2.72:1 low-gear ratio as standard, but the EcoDiesel mill models come with a 3.73 axle ratio as standard. It also comes equipped with heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles. For additional moolah, you can opt for the Selec-Trac full-time 4x4 system. It comes with a smart lock feature that keeps the system engaged during off-roading or slippery road conditions.

The truck also comes with Selec-Speed Control that manages speeds of 0.6 mph to five mph in 4LO to make off-roading easier. This is available only with the eight-speed automatic transmission, though. You can opt for the Trac-Lok limited-slip differential on this trim.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Exterior
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The other two are the Rock-Trac and Rock-Trac full-time 4x4 system. Rock-Trac system comes as standard on the Rubicon trim and has a low-gear ratio of 4:1. The Rock-Trac full-time 4x4 system is available only on the Rubicon and features a full-time active transfer case. There are many other goodies like the front and rear locking differentials, front sway bar disconnect system, and off-road+ that are either standard or available on other trims, mainly the Rubicon.

Jeep Gladiator Diesel Fuel Economy

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Exterior
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In the city, the Gladiator diesel can deliver up to 22 miles per gallon and up to 28 miles per gallon on the highway. The diesel models come with a 5.1-gallon diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank located behind the fuel tank with a refill location next to the fuel filler. Levels are monitored via a DEF gauge in the front cluster. Jeep says a tank of urea is good for 10,000 miles.

For people wondering what a DEF is – it is essentially a fluid that is thrown into the exhaust stream of diesel vehicles to break down dangerous NOx emissions into harmless nitrogen and water. It never comes in touch with diesel directly and is stored in a separate tank altogether.

How Much Can the Jeep Gladiator Diesel Tow and Haul?

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Exterior
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In the Overland trim, the maximum towing capacity is rated at 4,000 pounds and the maximum payload capacity at 1,140 pounds.

The base trims, Sport and Sport S, however, have the best rating in the Gladiator lineup. They can tow up to 7,650 pounds and haul up to 1,600 pounds.

Jeep Gladiator Diesel Exterior Design

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Exterior
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The Gladiator comes with a five-foot cargo bed with four doors as the only body style across the range. The truck has the traditional Jeep face and you just cannot mistake it for anything else. The round headlights, the signature seven-slat grille, turn indicators on the fenders, and the boxy shape makes it look quite conventional, but still very desirable. The Overland comes with automatic halogen headlamps and manual fog lamps. The silver appliques on the bumper look sweet.

The Gladiator Overland rides on 18-inch Granite Crystal wheels wrapped in 255/70 section Bridgestone Dueler all-season tires as standard. Body-colored fender flares and side steps also come as standard here. Jeep has installed skid plates for the fuel tank and transfer case for added protection while off-roading. The truck also comes with two tow hooks up front and one at the rear.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Exterior
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The full-framed doors are removable on the Gladiator. You get a Torx tool kit to take them out. Soft-top black Sunrider roof comes as standard on this trim, but you can choose different roofs from the accessories. The truck bed comes with four tie-downs, LED lights, and a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet. The Gladiator is available in 10 different exterior shades:

  • Bright White
  • Black
  • Billet Silver
  • Granite Crystal
  • Snazzberry
  • Sarge
  • Nacho
  • Hydro Blue
  • Sting Gray
  • Firecracker Red

How Big Is The Jeep Gladiator Diesel?

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Exterior
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The Jeep Gladiator measures 218 inches in length, 73.8 inches in width, and 75 inches in height. The Colorado ZR2, in comparison, is neither as long as the Gladiator, nor as tall. It is wider, however. The ZR2 measures 212.4 inches in length, 76.7 inches in width, and 72.2 inches in height. The Gladiator’s wheelbase is 137.3 inches long, which is almost nine inches more than the Colorado’s 128.5-inch wheelbase.

2020 Jeep Gladiator exterior dimensions
Length 218.0 Inches
Width 73.8 Inches
Height 75.0 Inches
Wheelbase 137.3 Inches
Front Track 62.9 Inches
Rear Track 64.9 Inches
2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Exterior
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The front and rear tracks are 62.9 inches wide on the Gladiator. On the Colorado, they are 62.4- and 65.9 inches wide at the front and back. As for the ground clearance, the Gladiator Overland sits 10 inches off the ground, which is 1.1 inches higher than the Colorado’s 8.9-inch ground clearance rating.

The approach angle on the Gladiator is rated at 40.8 degrees, breakover angle at 18.4 degrees, and departure angle at 25 degrees.

The ZR2, on the other hand, boasts of an approach angle of 25.3 degrees, departure angle of 23.5 degrees, and breakover angle of also 23.5 degrees.

Jeep Gladiator Diesel Interior Design

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Interior
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The Gladiator Overland comes with an option of two cloth seats as standard, whereas leather-trimmed upholstery is available as an option. Behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel sits a digital-analog system with a seven-inch display between the gauges. It shows all the drive-related info along with some off-road data, too. Another interesting detail here is the washout interior. This trim comes with removable carpet and drain plugs which allows you to hose it down with ease. However, the upholstery is not water-resistant and you’ll have to be a tad-bit careful there.

The Overland trims feature a seven-inch touchscreen on the center console that runs on the UConnect 4 infotainment system. It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can upgrade to an 8.4-inch touchscreen system. If you opt for this, you can also go for the front-facing camera that is immensely helpful during off-roading. The Gladiator Overland also comes with seven USB ports around the cabin and an eight-speaker sounds system with an overhead sound-bar.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Interior
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The other standard features here include:

  • Power and heated mirrors
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Push-button start
  • Keyless entry
  • Cruise control
  • Rear back-up camera
  • Lockable behind-seat storage
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System

How Spacious Is The Jeep Gladiator Diesel?

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Interior
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At the front, the Gladiator offers 42.8 inches of headroom, 41.2 inches of legroom, 55.7 inches of shoulder room, and 53.9 inches of hip room. Thanks to the near-perfect symmetrical body, the dimensions for the second row are exactly the same as the front, except for legroom, which measures 38.3 inches. The five-foot bed offers a cargo area of 35.5 cubic feet.

2021 Jeep Gladiator interior dimensions
Jeep Gladiator
Front Headroom 42.8 Inches
Front Shoulder Room 55.7 Inches
Front Hip Room 53.9 Inches
Front Leg Room 41.2 Inches
Rear Headroom 42.8 Inches
Rear Shoulder Room 55.7 Inches
Rear Hip Room 55.9 Inches
Rear Leg Room 38.3 Inches
2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Interior
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The Colorado ZR2 offers 41.4 inches of headroom, 45 inches of legroom, 57.5 inches of shoulder room, and 55 inches of hip room at the front. At the rear, the measurements stand at 36.7-, 28.6-,57.3-, and 52.2 inches, respectively.

Jeep Gladiator Diesel Pricing

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Exterior
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The Overland trim that we had with us starts at $40,415 (including destination fees and some additional discounts) for the 2021 model at the time of penning this piece. The EcoDiesel option, however, doesn’t come cheap. It is priced at a premium of $4,000 over the V-6 Pentastar and can be had only with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which costs another $2,000.

Here is the starting price of the other trims:

  • Sport – $33,565
  • Willys Sport – $35,510
  • Sport S – $38,400
  • Willys – $39,505
  • 80th Anniversary – $42,005
  • Freedom – $41,665
  • Rubicon – $44,140
  • Mojave – $51,765

Is the Jeep Gladiator Diesel Better Than the Chevrolet Colorado?

2021 Chevrolet Colorado
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Given that Jeep is a strong off-roader, we’d pit it against Chevy’s best off-roading trim on the Colorado, the ZR2. It features a 3.6-liter, V-6 mill that makes 308 ponies and 275 pound-feet of torque as the standard trim, but can be had with the 2.8-liter, turbodiesel mill that churns out 186 horses and 369 pound-feet of twist. It has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,433 pounds. It comes with stuff like Multimatic shocks, front and rear electronic locking differentials, and add-ons like skid plates and rock sliders. The Colorado ZR2 starts at around $44,500.

Read our full review on the Chevrolet Colorado

Jeep Gladiator Diesel Driver-Assistance Features

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Interior
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The Gladiator comes with a few driver assistance features, some standard and some optional. They include:

  • Hill Start Assist
  • Blind-Spot Monitoring
  • Rear Cross Path Detection
  • Parksense Rear Park Assist System
  • Forward Collision Warning Plus
  • Electronic Stability Control

Jeep Gladiator Diesel Packages

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Exterior
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Jeep, along with Mopar, offers a myriad of packages and accessories for the Gladiator. Mopar had noted back in 2019 that a Gladiator owner spends an average of $1,000 (art186373) on accessories. Here are the packages available on the Overland trim:

  • Dual Top Group
  • Cargo Group with Trail Rail System
  • Trailer Tow Package
  • Cold Weather Group
  • Auxiliary Switch Group
  • 8.4-inch Radio and Premium Audio Group
  • Safety Group
  • Advanced Safety Group
  • Smoker’s Group

Final Thoughts

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel - Driven Exterior
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The Gladiator comes with its own set of pros and cons. It is tough, great off the roads, comes with a premium interior in the higher specs, and so on. However, pricing needs rectification. The EcoDiesel makes things worse in this aspect since you have to spend $6,000 for it. The cheapest model you can buy with this engine is the Sport S and it costs $45,000. That’s a little too steep for what’s essentially a base trim with a diesel mill. In theory, it would be a great fit as a work truck, but not at this price point. To give you a perspective, the much bigger 2021 Ford F-150 in the XL trim, Supercab body style with a 6.5-foot bed, and a 3.0-liter, V-6 turbodiesel engine under the hood costs $45,000.

But, that said, models that are dedicated to off-roading, like the Rubicon, are worth it. Stuff like front and rear diffs, low gear ratio, front sway bar disconnect, etc., make it a great off-roader. It will please the hardcore Jeep fans and folks who would love to customize it to their needs. The Chevy Colorado ZR2 is a great alternative, too, but it’s no Jeep. Nevertheless, the Gladiator needs a price correction since the Bronco pickup is also on the way and will be a thorn in the Gladiator’s garden, just like the standard Bronco did with the Wrangler.

  • Leave it
    • $6,000 for the engine+transmission combo
    • Only enthusiasts will buy it
    • Not the best option as a work truck

Source: Photo Credit: Phil Daix

Sidd Dhimaan
Sidd Dhimaan
Senior Editor, Truck Expert, EV Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. Fast forward to today, and he is currently serving as a senior editor, pickup truck expert, and EV expert.  Read full bio
About the author

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