ZR2 vs Gladiator Sport S

Redheddedwonder

Active member
I have seen a ton of reviews and vs. videos between gladiator rubicon and ZR2. But if you go based on price a better comparison is the Sport S. Granted the diesel gladiator will jump in price a little, it will still be closer to a ZR2 than a $60k plus rubicon. Those that have driven both, what are your thoughts? Anything the ZR2 can handle over the gladiator sport?
My thoughts are the ZR2 will hands down win in higher speed scenarios. But slow speed crawling is where I’m not sure. ZR2 has lockers, but straight axle and some simple mods to the gladiator might take the win.

When I buy I will be looking at the diesel option in both, so Dana 44s on the gladiator and the easy ability to run bigger tires. Towing at most a small camper that either could easily handle.
 

spectre6000

Observer
I've driven both, but not off road. If you consider a JKUR a reasonable facsimile, then... Well, I still haven't driven both off road because I got my Bison just a week or so before my wife had our baby, then there was this whole pandemic thing...

I have driven a Gladiator on road, but only briefly. Assuming you consider the Wrangler a reasonable facsimile, then I have extensive experience, and there's a huge difference between the two on the road where it's assumed you'll be doing the majority of your driving. The ZR2 is, hands down, the best handling truck I've ever driven. It's all the more astounding when you consider its off road capability. I live in the mountains above Denver, so every drive anywhere involves twisting canyon roads. There's a section of road on the way to the grocery store that I've driven both trucks up enough times to really know how they do. The speed limit is 30-35, and in the ZR2 I just set the cruise control to a mile or two over. In the Jeep, the speed limit is very uncomfortable through most corners. It's my wife's Jeep, and she is waiting to get through the factory tires before lifting and getting larger tires (I'm similarly waiting to get at least part way through the warranty on mine). I used to daily a 2002 BMW 330i with all the sporty boxes checked. Of all the cars I've owned or driven, that's the one that the ZR2 reminded me of when I first drove one. The DSSV dampers have that same controlled feel. It's definitely slower, and there's more body lean; that's not what I'm talking about. It's that taut, controlled feel that makes the truck feel very planted and confident. Much more confident than a big, heavy, lifted truck has any right to be.

On dirt roads below what you'd call a proper trail, it's a similar situation. The ZR2 just eats it up, while the Wrangler gets uncomfortable much more quickly (even with the sway bar disconnected). The Wrangler is more likely to keep you at a speed that's more appropriate to such a road, while the ZR2 makes you feel more comfortable going faster than is probably appropriate. If you want to really go nuts with the rock crawling, and you don't really care about much else, the Gladiator is almost assuredly the better truck. If you're willing to compromise some amount of rock crawling capability to allow competence (if not superiority) in most other use cases, the ZR2 is about as good as it gets.
 

Redheddedwonder

Active member
I've driven both, but not off road. If you consider a JKUR a reasonable facsimile, then... Well, I still haven't driven both off road because I got my Bison just a week or so before my wife had our baby, then there was this whole pandemic thing...

I have driven a Gladiator on road, but only briefly. Assuming you consider the Wrangler a reasonable facsimile, then I have extensive experience, and there's a huge difference between the two on the road where it's assumed you'll be doing the majority of your driving. The ZR2 is, hands down, the best handling truck I've ever driven. It's all the more astounding when you consider its off road capability. I live in the mountains above Denver, so every drive anywhere involves twisting canyon roads. There's a section of road on the way to the grocery store that I've driven both trucks up enough times to really know how they do. The speed limit is 30-35, and in the ZR2 I just set the cruise control to a mile or two over. In the Jeep, the speed limit is very uncomfortable through most corners. It's my wife's Jeep, and she is waiting to get through the factory tires before lifting and getting larger tires (I'm similarly waiting to get at least part way through the warranty on mine). I used to daily a 2002 BMW 330i with all the sporty boxes checked. Of all the cars I've owned or driven, that's the one that the ZR2 reminded me of when I first drove one. The DSSV dampers have that same controlled feel. It's definitely slower, and there's more body lean; that's not what I'm talking about. It's that taut, controlled feel that makes the truck feel very planted and confident. Much more confident than a big, heavy, lifted truck has any right to be.

On dirt roads below what you'd call a proper trail, it's a similar situation. The ZR2 just eats it up, while the Wrangler gets uncomfortable much more quickly (even with the sway bar disconnected). The Wrangler is more likely to keep you at a speed that's more appropriate to such a road, while the ZR2 makes you feel more comfortable going faster than is probably appropriate. If you want to really go nuts with the rock crawling, and you don't really care about much else, the Gladiator is almost assuredly the better truck. If you're willing to compromise some amount of rock crawling capability to allow competence (if not superiority) in most other use cases, the ZR2 is about as good as it gets.
That is exactly what I was wondering! We are moving to Bailey, so it seems like we will be living in the same area, with the same trails. I do plan on going to Moab occasionally but don’t see myself doing anything too hardcore. It will be a daily driver. I will be driving to the airport about twice a week one direction. So far I am thinking the ZR2 fits what I will need most. I have always been a Jeep guy, have owned pretty much every version of wrangler minus the JL. So it’s hard for me to want to switch, but I’m leaning ZR2 right now.
 

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spectre6000

Observer
Well then, pre-welcome to the neighborhood. I'm just outside Conifer, below you a bit. I'm sure I'll see you around Aspen Park! Check the link in my signature, and you'll know me when you see me around town. There's also a link in the first post of that thread where I do a pretty comprehensive writeup of the mid-size off road oriented truck market about a year ago. Only meaningful difference would be the diesel availability in the Gladiator now/soon. There's a local FB group that does trails from time to time (this may or may not be new information to you depending on where you're coming from). I've joined the group, but haven't gone on any trails with them yet.
 

04Ram2500Hemi

Observer
I vote for the ZR2 as well. My wife has one for a daily driver (V-6), and it’s a great little truck. We looked at the Gladiator, but only for 60 seconds. At 6’8” I’m a bit of an ogre, and there was no way I was ever going to be comfortable in the Jeep. The ZR2 is a whole different (and honestly shocking) story. I have a lot of leg and head room. Gas or diesel, I think you’ll be much happier in the ZR2.
 

Redheddedwonder

Active member
Well then, pre-welcome to the neighborhood. I'm just outside Conifer, below you a bit. I'm sure I'll see you around Aspen Park! Check the link in my signature, and you'll know me when you see me around town. There's also a link in the first post of that thread where I do a pretty comprehensive writeup of the mid-size off road oriented truck market about a year ago. Only meaningful difference would be the diesel availability in the Gladiator now/soon. There's a local FB group that does trails from time to time (this may or may not be new information to you depending on where you're coming from). I've joined the group, but haven't gone on any trails with them yet.
Thanks, I’ll keep an eye out for you! We are coming from Washington, but have explored the area a little, our house is going up for sale end of the month so it’s coming up quick that we will be down there! I did join that Facebook group as well, I was curious what trails if any that the ZR2 crowd had to bypass or skip, but doesn’t sound like there is much down there other than the really challenging trails that I would skip in a gladiator as well.
 

Redheddedwonder

Active member
I vote for the ZR2 as well. My wife has one for a daily driver (V-6), and it’s a great little truck. We looked at the Gladiator, but only for 60 seconds. At 6’8” I’m a bit of an ogre, and there was no way I was ever going to be comfortable in the Jeep. The ZR2 is a whole different (and honestly shocking) story. I have a lot of leg and head room. Gas or diesel, I think you’ll be much happier in the ZR2.
Well you got about a foot on me so I don’t think my height will be a problem! But still leaning ZR2, thanks!
 

85_Ranger4x4

Well-known member
Drive both, I have driven neither but just sitting in them I really liked the Gladiator better. Interior blew away GM, overall the truck looks nicer too (IMO)

It is kinda long (wheelbase isn't far from a extended cab fullsize) and I would prefer the removable top was optional but for me it would be the Gladiator's fight to lose.
 

spectre6000

Observer
Agreed. If you're buying new, no reason not to take the time to thoroughly assess all options. It's a lot of money. You may be surprised. I know I was. I initially thought I was going to buy a Tacoma. Then I was sure I was going to buy a Gladiator. Colorado won out in the end.

I don't disagree that the Gladiator's interior seems better. I even said as much when I did my comparison writeup a little under a year ago, and it was a bit of a sticking point. The interior on the Colorado isn't bad, but the Gladiator's doesn't have anything really working against it. Things that stuck out to me as bad in the Colorado were that the headliner felt cheap, the Bison I was able to lay hands on had a deep gouge in the dash (could have come from the lot), and the floor mats had been incorrectly installed such that they jammed up under the door and did a weird crease thing (definitely a dealer problem, I did not buy from that dealer). I recently (after 10 months of ownership) noticed a weird bulge under the leather in my steering wheel. As long as it took me to notice, it either isn't a big deal or I did it somehow.

Saying it's "kinda long" is "kinda" an understatement though... It's a quarter inch LONGER than a Ford Excursion.

OP's handle is "Redheddedwonder". If I interpret that correctly, he may have similar challenges to myself when it comes to driving topless. There's a picture up in the banner advertising an article involving a desert scene, and I'm reaching for sunscreen.
 

85_Ranger4x4

Well-known member
Gladiator wheelbase is within an inch of my Supercab Shortbox F-150, I was comparing more for maneuverability vs what I already have.

Gladiator has the dash tucked up tight against the firewall, not a big waterfall/blob of black plastic like most newer trucks. It just felt like "home" It took me awhile to put my finger on why I like that but it hit me my old Ranger is the same way. I also like the manual 4wd.

The idea of pulling the roof off my truck does nothing for me, neither does having the internal rollcage that eats interior room and almost makes me claustrophobic.
 

Redheddedwonder

Active member
I definitely plan to test drive both. We had a gladiator sport rental when we went to Yosemite but didn’t get to off-road it at all. I’ve sat in a ZR2 but haven’t driven.

I agree the gladiator is long, but it is easier to lift and fit bigger tires. The removable top is cool, but a feature I won’t use often, due to where we plan to live along with my red hair! :LOL:

One thing I have noticed is the ZR2 seems to come with a lot of features standard you have to add and pay for on the gladiator. Which ends up jacking the price up.

I have been daily driving a e350 van, and a 04 trailblazer, either interior is for sure going to be a step up!
 

TwinStick

Explorer
We have a 19' ZR2 diesel. I absolutely love it. The cons are space. We came from a Power Wagon. But we manage. Also, the wireless phone charger is absolutely useless. Nobody's phone fits. Not sure wtf they were thinking. If you are thinking hardcore offroad, the Gladiator is the better choice because of all the aftermarket support. The diesel engine is also the way to go. Ours literally has idled over most things offroad. It's been to MOAB. For normal things the ZR2 is the way to go. You can put up to 35's reliably with lift &/or AEV fender flares. 4.10's & 4.56's are available for the ZR2 aftermarket. We tow a 4k lb camper about 75% of the time. No regrets. We couldn't afford a Gladiator Rubicon diesel anyway. But if we could, I would certainly go test drive one & check it out.
 

spectre6000

Observer
I was strictly a classic car guy for many years. I got in a really bad accident in 2016, and have been in more modern cars since. I was always a big fan of the VW-esque philosophy where you have everything you need, and not a hp more. Clever engineering beats features every time. I have to admit to really liking the heated seats and steering wheel though... I almost assuredly wouldn't have paid extra for them or the leather interior, but I certainly do not regret their existence! My first post-accident car was a 2002 BMW 330i with all the sporty boxes checked. I don't have any experience with newer BMWs, and I'm sure they've continued moving up scale, but the interior features and quality in my truck are on par with the BMW from nearly 20 years ago. I lost rain sensing wipers and wood trim, and gained a heated steering wheel and... I think it was the automatic climate control? I forget what the BMW creature comfort set was, but it was one for one. I was never a huge fan of the leather BMW used, and I don't especially care for GM's hides for all the same reasons. The ride quality is very similar as well. The BMW typically got 30mpg, and I'm getting 24mpg in the truck (supposedly that will improve as it breaks in the rest of the way), but diesel is cheaper than premium (cheaper than regular most days). The BMW was obviously faster, handled better, and the inline 6 was smoother than the 4 cylinder diesel, but the ZR2 goes anywhere and can tow 5K pounds. Same 5 seats, but the tool boxes in my topper mean I get the same trunk space (if not a hair more) plus a bed. Definitely an unusual comparison, but a surprisingly close one.

Pro tip if you special order (or even if you don't since the dealer will play the obvious games), there are three infotainment upgrades: Premium, nav, and Bose. Either of the latter two options default you into the first. Nav isn't worth a dime with CarPlay/Android Auto, and the price difference between the Bose and the premium check boxes was $5.

Since you'll be in my neck of the woods, one big (huge) argument for the ZR2 over the Gladiator is the ZR2's trick transfer case. The Gladiator has your standard issue manual lever actuated transfer case. This is plenty for the vast majority of cases. HOWEVER!!! If you're living in Bailey, you'll be going down to Denver frequently. That means transitional ice and canyons. You get snow at the house, but it's raining down in the flats.* Somewhere in the middle thar be dragons in the form of ice. 285 backs up regularly in the winter for this reason. Canyons have similar, but more widespread issues in that parts of the road will be thawed and dry, and then a section will be shaded some or all of the time due to orientation/canyon walls/trees/etc. More dragons. If you have a manual transfer case on these variably iced windy roads, you can imagine the inevitable binding and handling squirreliness. The ZR2 transfer case is electronically actuated by way of a knob that's a PITA to get used to because it hides behind the steering wheel and can't be seen very easily while driving, but one of the settings is AUTO. That enables an electronically controlled clutch that senses drivetrain bind, and releases the front driveshaft to keep the drivetrain in tact and keep handling tight and predictable. It works very well. Supposedly, you can leave it on 24/7, but I go between that and 2WD like I would normally use 2/4wd and save 4WD for when the snow on the roads is deep enough that I don't expect any dry patches.

Also, I don't know the laws in Washington, but tire studs are legal in Colorado, and if you're up here, they're excellent to the point of it being kinda dumb not to have them. It's very difficult to find studded/studable snows larger than 33", so the Gladiator's large tire ability becomes a bit of a liability unless you like doing that level of wrenching between seasons. Studded 33" Nokian Hakkapeliitta are the tire of choice. A Colorado can be made to work with 35" tires just fine, but the effort/cost for the gain doesn't add up in my book. 33" have been the sweet spot on every truck I've ever had, so it works out quite beautifully.

*Local tip: "The flats" is what locals call everything east of the Hogbacks. The Hogbacks are a rocky ridge on the flats side of a small narrow park that runs along the face of the mountains west of Denver containing the town of Morrison and Red Rocks. A park is a flat area in the middle of the mountains. Mountains are big rocky things that are very pretty and a lot of fun. ;-) Also, everyone navigates by way of cardinal directions in much the same way that people in LA navigate by way of rattling off numbered highways; the mountains run more or less due N/S, and are always to your west when you're in the flats.

Responding to the above post that came while I was penning the above novella: My iPhone 8 fits the charger perfectly, and I think the upcoming iPhone 12 mini will too. I'm not a fan of big phones, and may upgrade in the near future now that they've come to their collective senses... There's a dongle you can get to make the CarPlay work wirelessly as well for the slickest of setups. The other piece, is that lift kits for the ZR2 are challenging, because a big part of the awesomeness is the DSSV shocks. There is a long travel set available now, but spendy and you don't actually gain much height. If you're aiming for a rock crawling rig, stock height might be a bit of a liability. If you're overlanding, and that's what this forum is about, rock crawling is something you might have to do to get where you're going, but it is not the end goal and generally to be avoided if possible to avoid damage far away from anything. No big loss.
 

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Redheddedwonder

Active member
@spectre6000 If I got the ZR2 I think I would be happy with 33s. Gladiator would be hard to hold back from going to 35s. The studded tire issue is a great point, we live in eastern Washington now and you can have studs but they are really not needed. I will be making that drive often and we have made that drive already but only in summer, thanks for the local info! What are the off-roading opportunities in winter there? I wouldn’t want to off-road on studs only to mess them up, may be worth keeping an extra vehicle to keep studs on for winter. Our trailblazer doesn’t bluebook for much and has fairly low miles.

The most important package for me audio wise is Bose, don’t care for nav either. Thanks for all the info

@TwinStick Space I feel will be hard to get used to coming from the van, but both options will have the same issue. Right now I am thinking a truck bed camping setup using eztoppers nomad tent for trips that a camp trailer couldn’t handle. Then a camp trailer for longer trips etc. But good to know it tows a camper nicely! A diesel gladiator rubicon is most likely out of our budget as well.
 
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spectre6000

Observer
Most of the trails I know close seasonally. When I go off roading, it's usually to get to a camp site. I'm not a huge fan of winter camping. There are people that go snow bashing, but I've not tested those waters (other things going on over winter).
 
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