Prodigal pickup returns home to Jeep family

  • Photos Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • A camera is mounted inside the center grille of the Gladiator.

    A camera is mounted inside the center grille of the Gladiator.

  • The Gladiator was designed with a tailgate that can remain partially open to carry 8-foot-long sheets of drywall or plywood.

    The Gladiator was designed with a tailgate that can remain partially open to carry 8-foot-long sheets of drywall or plywood.

  • 1963 Jeep Gladiator

    1963 Jeep Gladiator Courtesy of Jeep

 
 

It's been almost 30 years since Jeep offered a pickup model. However, for 2019, a high-function hauler is back in the form of the 2020 Gladiator.

The name hearkens back to a truck that debuted in 1962, with the stoic moniker being dropped a few years later.

While I poked and prodded through the all-new pickup at the recent Chicago Auto Show, Jeep offered extended time for me to further examine a static rig. Driving impressions have to be held off until later this spring, closer to the vehicle's on-sale date -- but until then, here are four fun features I found.

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Open door policy

I raised a curious eyebrow when told the tailgate had three positions. Sure enough, the designers tacked in a nifty little trick. Beyond the basic "closed" and "open," you can wrap the support cables behind little tabs in the side of the tailgate, allowing it to remain partially open. That'll allow customers to transport larger sheets of plywood or drywall by resting them on top of the rear wheel wells and the tailgate lip.

Out of sight

Life on the trail can be treacherous and to help the Gladiator navigate tough terrain, a camera is mounted front and center between slots on the grille. It's exclusive to the top-dog Rubicon model, but turn it on and drivers get a real-time view of what's ahead in the center console's touch screen. An added bonus is an on-command washer jet for those times when sloshing through mud and mush dirties the camera lens.

Hidden meaning

Jeep is long known for tucking cutesy call-outs into its products and sure enough, the Gladiator bears a few. One hidden gem is located inside the driver's side bedrail, which shows a heart and the numerals 419. That's the phone area code for the Jeep assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio -- where this new brute is built and where there's loads of brand love.

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A 1963 Gladiator J-200 Thriftside is part of the brand's pickup past.
A 1963 Gladiator J-200 Thriftside is part of the brand's pickup past. - Courtesy of Jeep
Trail tunes

Flip down the rear seat and you'll find a removable Bluetooth Alpine speaker. To get it, customers will need to opt for the premium sound system and then it's a stand-alone option. Clipped into its slot behind the seat, it'll play in conjunction with the rest of the truck's speakers and also get its battery charged.

Put the Jeep in park, pull the speaker out, pair a device and, no matter whether in the driveway or miles from home, drivers will be ready to rock. The speaker is built tough, having the industry's highest rating for dust protection and the ability to sit in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes.

The Volkswagen ID Buggy electric concept vehicle made its debut last week at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland.
The Volkswagen ID Buggy electric concept vehicle made its debut last week at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland. - Courtesy of Volkswagen
VW ID Buggy

Volkswagen shook up the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show by bringing out a cutesy, off-road crawler called the ID Buggy concept. The open-air, green machine packs loads of retro cues, but leaves any clunky, outdated powertrain in the dust. Underneath the vehicle is a high-tech battery pack and 201-horsepower electric motor, good for 155 miles of range.

The concept was set up as a two-seater but VW says it can be readily converted to seat four. Another proposed modification is the addition of a second electric motor, this one to the front axle, allowing for four-wheel drive. Further helping with non-pavement prowling are knobby BFGoodrich All-Terrain off-road tires and a solid aluminum skid plate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The doorless, roofless cockpit gushes with waterproof materials, including a water-repelling Nappa-leather covered steering wheel, complete with touch controls in the crossbar.

The adorable lil' auto has a modular design, meaning the composite upper body can be separated from the unique electric-drive chassis. While the show car is probably too far-out to be a reality, VW has confirmed it will make the chassis available to third-party manufacturers to build their own creations. That's much like the original Meyers Manx kit of the 1960s. That's totally righteous.

• Share your car's story with Matt at auto@dailyherald.com. Learn about his book at COPOthebook.com.

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