ZR2 vs Gladiator Sport S

Todd n Natalie

Observer
I have been looking at all options, diesel is a big bonus. Big thing is we will be living at roughly 8,000ft, I want some sort of turbo, so the ranger would work. Every time we head west on a trip there are high elevation passes to deal with. My old van really struggled even being a 2013 with the modern computer system adjusting the fuel ratio. On vacation it was fine but not something I want to deal with daily. I also see us getting a camper at some point down the road, less than 4,000 lbs most likely.

The aftermarket support for the gladiator and zr2 is big plus. I feel like the ranger is getting more attention now though for sure. AEV flares give the zr2 the ability to run bigger tires which is important to me. I do plan to go test drive every option though. If I could get a crazy good deal on a ranger, a lift kit wouldn’t be out of the question to fit bigger tires.
Thanks for the input!
What kind of trailer? How much less than 4,000 lbs? Is that a wet or dry weight?

My trailer pictured below is 3,900 lbs dry. 23' hitch to bumper.

IMG_0051.JPG


I'd love to downsize my next truck, but no way I'd tow this trailer with a midsize. So, half ton it is for me.

If this type of trailer is what you have in mind, I would not recommend towing it with a midsize truck.

My payload is 1,800 lbs and with the 4 of us plus our dog and the truck packed, add in tongue weight and I'm getting near my payload limit. Something else to consider with a midsize.
 

jadmt

Well-known member
I was dead set on getting a gladiator but part of me thought a zr2 Bison would be nice. But just sitting in a zr2 told me long term that it would not work for me. Also none of the 3 dealerships that had a bison in stock would deal on them, all said the same thing, that they sold quickly for msrp.

The morning I went to make the deal on a gladiator i decided on a whim to test drive a power wagon. No comparison. My point? if you are stuck on a small truck don't test drive a Power Wagon.
 

spectre6000

Observer
Re: altitude. Since I drive all the same roads you will be driving, I can tell you with absolute authority the turbodiesel is great up here. I recall reading specifically that when they brought the 2.8L diesel to the US, they did a good chunk of their testing specifically in Colorado for the altitude and temperature extremes. The diesel checkbox gets you a lot of things, including the heavier duty suspension that all the gassers are after, and an electric heating element in the AC to boost heater output at startup. I use a block heater*, so the engine usually starts at a temperature higher than the electric heater would kick in at, but it's one of those things. My wife's gasser Rubicon (only flavor for the JKs) runs relatively high RPM, and can't always maintain the speed limit. Maybe downshifting and revving the snot out of it might be able to keep up, but I generally prefer the right lane option. The flip side to that equation is that naturally aspirated gassers typically exceed EPA fuel economy ratings up here. My manual 3rd gen 4Runner routinely averaged 23mpg over a tank (I think they're 16-18 or something along those lines). I drive like an 80 year old, and know how throttle position, engine speed, etc. effect fuel economy, and tend to sort of psuedo-hypermile when I drive, but that's a whole different discussion.

Re finding decent deals on Bisons, shop around a bit more thoroughly. I special ordered my Bison under invoice. Took delivery with something like 5 miles on the clock, and was even able to talk the dealership into skipping prep and just rolling into a corner of the back lot so I could "unwrap" it myself. That last part ultimately fell through on my part because of manufacturing delays and my wife being 9 months pregnant...

*The manual states that a block heater is not required until temperatures get below something really low (I forget). If you keep reading though, it makes an exception for altitude, but doesn't give a specific temperature at which they recommend (likely because it would require a lot of research and a big chart in the manual for various altitudes). I've had the starter turn when I forgot to use the block heater once or twice, but just enough to make me look up.
 
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jadmt

Well-known member
one thing Covid has really changed things as far as deals go and it seems even more so for Chevy. Buddy sold his Chevy Duramax for $5500 more than he paid for it and even the local GMC and chevy dealership offered him what he paid for it. He sold it to Northwest Motorsports. they came to Missoula and picked it up and handed him a check. Crazy times for sure.
 

Redheddedwonder

Active member
Plan to stay under 4,000 lbs loaded. Currently looking at a trailer that is 2,500 dry, 3,500 loaded weight 16ft long. Don’t want to go over 17ft. We want a full time bed with table, and a bunk, so that’s about as small as I can find. But we are coming from a basic camper van, so if we need to go small on the trailer I am sure I could convince the wife. I want to stay midsize for my commute. I do like the power wagon but gas full-size isn’t desirable to me at this point, at least in thought. I won’t go drive it just in case! I think I am safe sticking with a midsize.

As far as the ranger vs diesel options go, I’ll have to drive them all to decide. I do like the diesels for the long distance towing. I can’t help but think how hot an eco boost would get if we tow a camper back home to Washington during summer. I’m sure it would be fine though.

I’m hoping by the time I am shopping I can find some decent deals. I also plan to put some dealers against each other with offers. We will see how that works out!
 

Todd n Natalie

Observer
Plan to stay under 4,000 lbs loaded. Currently looking at a trailer that is 2,500 dry, 3,500 loaded weight 16ft long. Don’t want to go over 17ft. We want a full time bed with table, and a bunk, so that’s about as small as I can find. But we are coming from a basic camper van, so if we need to go small on the trailer I am sure I could convince the wife. I want to stay midsize for my commute. I do like the power wagon but gas full-size isn’t desirable to me at this point, at least in thought. I won’t go drive it just in case! I think I am safe sticking with a midsize.

As far as the ranger vs diesel options go, I’ll have to drive them all to decide. I do like the diesels for the long distance towing. I can’t help but think how hot an eco boost would get if we tow a camper back home to Washington during summer. I’m sure it would be fine though.

I’m hoping by the time I am shopping I can find some decent deals. I also plan to put some dealers against each other with offers. We will see how that works out!
When we decided to go from tent trailer to hardwall, we started off looking at 17 footers. Just couldn't find one with a layout we liked. All the ones we found had the queen bed which menat someone would have to crawl over the other to get out of bed. Which gets old when it comes to middle of the night pee runs, haha. We had enough of that with the tent trailer.

That being said, out of the ones we looked at the Winnebago Minnie Drop (I think or Micro Minnie?) seemed really nice! Just couldn't get over the bright exterior colors they came in.
 

phsycle

Adventurer
I’ve towed plenty with a 2.7 Ecoboost at elevation. 8-10k ft passes. 6x12 enclosed trailer at around 5k? Lbs. No sweat. Towed dreamy. Overheat? Not an issue.

I figure 2.3L EB would also be ok, although, again, I’d probably not go over 3k lbs AND opt for something not as tall (ie Popup camper) if I were going midsize.
 

Todd n Natalie

Observer
I’ve towed plenty with a 2.7 Ecoboost at elevation. 8-10k ft passes. 6x12 enclosed trailer at around 5k? Lbs. No sweat. Towed dreamy. Overheat? Not an issue.

I figure 2.3L EB would also be ok, although, again, I’d probably not go over 3k lbs AND opt for something not as tall (ie Popup camper) if I were going midsize.
Yes, pop up would work well for a midsize. Like you said, something not tall. A big brick behind a midsize would not be fun. Our '14 Cherokee had the V6 and tow package and it struggled with our pop up dispite the 5,000 lbs tow rating.That set up lasted one season.
 

AbleGuy

TeamSuicideChipmunks
I would think that living in those mountains you’d also want to look into the additional benefit of having a diesel exhaust brake, which I believe you can get on the Colorado. That would put it over the Ranger for me.
 

spectre6000

Observer
Oh yeah. I use the exhaust brake every time I go anywhere. Speed limit on most mountain roads is either 30 or 35. The road I live on is 35 with a 6% grade (and more in one spot according to the inclinometer). Once I crest the top of the hill, I hit the tow mode button, drop it to low (which drops a gear to 3rd), and coast all the way down within a few miles of the speed limit. Good thing to have. As I recall, the Gladiator diesel does not have any such feature.
 

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spectre6000

Observer
A lot of people on the Colorado forums don't care about the exhaust brake unless they're towing. It doesn't really do anything all that noticeable unloaded on a flat grade. When you're coasting down the max legal grade though, it is the difference between riding your brakes all the way down and just casually coasting down while you enjoy the view. I live about 3/4 of the way up a canyon, and the top 1/4 is the steepest (6%+). I use the exhaust brake every time I come home, and it's very nice to have. The cruise and tow modes are pretty clever when it comes to steep grades.

If you get a diesel ZR2, it comes in the package. The diesel checkbox gets you the more reliable 6-speed transmission, heavier duty front suspension, exhaust brake, trailer brake, electric heating element, a better battery... That's all that's coming to me off the top of my head. You get a lot more than a differently shaped lump of metal up front. Having regularly visited the most popular Colorado forum online, there are a lot of little doodads that come up as being in the diesel trucks that the gassers wish they had, and try to buy and install on their trucks. There's a lot baked into that checkbox, and not all of it is obvious.

Heads up, it's come to light recently that the 2021 trucks are being decontented to some degree over the 2020s. The hard detail so far is the front brakes are dropping from 4 piston calipers to sliding 2 piston calipers. More will likely come to light as time passes. My theory is that GM is hurting from all the covid-related supply chain issues and shutdowns, and is trying to recoup losses by cutting costs; this is based on nothing more than speculation. It's hardly the end of the world, especially here since they don't salt the roads, but braking performance is one of the things I've seen praised about the the Colorados. No telling what, if anything else will come to light as being cut. I don't know that it changes your calculus at all, or that it's not the same story with the MOPAR crew, but it's a datapoint to consider.
 
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