Jeep's new Gladiator pickup, Wrangler SUV offer hidden tech

No vehicle in the marketplace stands out quite as much as the Jeep Wrangler. Its popularity not only endures, it keeps growing.

And now, the Wrangler is joined by a sibling with added practicality. The new Gladiator is Wrangler in the front, pickup truck in the back.

"It's been a long time, and a new Jeep pickup truck is something our enthusiasts in the Jeep community have been asking for, for a very long time. And I like to say that the Gladiator is 100% truck and 100% Jeep," said Brandon Girmus, product planner for the Jeep Gladiator.

There are already waiting lists for Jeep's first pickup in many years, and demand for the Wrangler remains strong.

But while these vehicles intentionally look basic and crude, they're surprisingly modern under the skin. Starting with a new engine option on the Wrangler this year: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder with a mild hybrid system to provide low-end torque, and ultimately save fuel.

"It does have electrification, so Jeep is definitely thinking 'green'," said Brian Leyes, a Jeep engineer.

Other examples of tech in these modern-era Jeeps abound. Sure, you can still take the hard doors off either the Wrangler or Gladiator, but they also offer keyless entry like other vehicles today. And there's safety and comfort tech, too.

"It looks like an old vehicle. But there are expectations in today's world that a vehicle has to have certain technologies," noted Leyes.

And the Jeep engineering team keeps coming up with new things to make living with a Wrangler easier.

For years, Jeeps could be had with a soft top or a hard top. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Now, there's an option that combines the two called Sky One-Touch. You hit a button on the dashboard to slide back the folding roof, then remove hard side panels at the back. It gives an open-air experience, but with the insulating qualities of a hard roof when the weather gets extreme.

So if you love the idea of driving something that has an essence of a simpler time, these Jeeps pretty much stand out on their own. But if you still want your modern tech too, you can get that. Jeep has just done a great job of hiding it.
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