Jeep's Design Boss Says The Gladiator Ain't Pretty

May 26, 2020 by Karl Furlong Design

Not many design bosses would say this out loud.

It took Jeep nearly 30 years to re-enter the pickup truck segment with the 2020 Gladiator, and most will agree that the wait has been worth it. The Gladiator offers superb off-road chops, along with the unique ability for its body panels and roof to be removed for a true outdoor experience. Even Hennessey saw so much potential in the Gladiator that they turned it into a 1,000 hp ultimate off-road machine for a cool $225,000.

A big part of the Gladiator's appeal is its unique proportions, but even Jeep's own head of design, Mark Allen, wasn't always sure about the styling. In a recent chat with CarsGuide, Allen admitted that it took the Jeep team "a long time to stomach the proportions." Well, that's as honest an assessment as any you're likely to hear.

"The Gladiator is odd when you stare at it in profile," elaborated Allen. "I incorrectly predicted that having a convertible top on a pick-up would be dumb. But now, it's my favorite feature. I say this a lot: It's not pretty. But it's pretty cool."

Now that Jeep is back in the pickup segment, Allen was also asked whether the brand would consider introducing a second, smaller truck option. While he wasn't averse to the idea, he admitted that it's unlikely, without ruling out the prospect entirely.

"I would like to take the challenge," he said. "It's probably not going to happen right away, but I do like small trucks. I always have."

While we agree with Allen's opinion that the Jeep Gladiator is distinctive rather than attractive, we like that it looks like nothing else, standing out among other midsize trucks like the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma. Besides, if anything is halting the Gladiator's progress now, it's not the way it looks - a recent class-action lawsuit was filed against Fiat Chrysler Autombiles (FCA) for a so-called "death wobble" that afflicts the pickup, a problem first identified on the Wrangler.

Let's hope that FCA can sort out this issue early on in the Gladiator's life, as we wouldn't want to see Jeep's return to the truck segment shrouded in controversy. It may be a bit of an oddball, but it deserves to succeed.