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Midsize trucks are coming back to the market, and two of the newest competitors deliver a pair of sturdy vehicles capable of handling off-road duty. Jeep brings the 2021 Gladiator to the market in answer to the Jeep loyalists who have been requesting a truck-based Jeep. In the other corner, Ford brings back the once-popular Ranger after many years out of production. Lovers of midsize trucks may be thrilled to see such auspicious times in the automotive world, and it seems only fitting to compare the 2021 Jeep Gladiator vs 2021 Ford Ranger to see which truck comes out on top.
For 2021 models, both the Jeep and Ford trucks start with minimal equipment in the entry-level trims. Jeep fans will be familiar with unpowered equipment for the Sport trim, though trading up to one of the remaining three trims offers a number of conveniences to make life on the road easier. The Ranger doesn’t offer much more in the way of amenities at the base level, with a touchscreen that’s even smaller than the small five-inch screen in the entry-level Jeep. Nonetheless, buyers can trade up two more trim levels for more comforts and a larger screen you might be able to use with the rearview camera.
Each truck has the space to seat five passengers and both offer options for configuring the truck to specs you want for either size or capability. In the case of the 2021 Gladiator, it has two available engines, standard four-wheel drive, and has only one body style with a five-foot cargo bed. The Rubicon trim level provides buyers with the opportunity to outfit the Gladiator with numerous off-roading features for traditional Jeep trail riding. For the 2021 Ranger, it comes standard with rear-wheel drive and two cab sizes available in the SuperCab and SuperCrew. The smaller SuperCab is paired to the larger six-foot bed, while the larger SuperCrew Cab pairs with the smaller five-foot bed.
Whether you happen to be a believer in the power and performance of either the Jeep brand or Ford, each manufacturer has a lot to offer buyers in terms of tough capability.
At entry-level, the 2021 Gladiator comes ready for ruggedness with 17-inch wheels, standard four-wheel drive, and a 3.6-liter V6 engine. Paired to a six-speed manual transmission, the engine delivers 285 horsepower with 260 lb-ft of torque and gets fuel economy of roughly 16 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the highway. Choosing the available automatic eight-speed transmission changes the mileage to 17 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway. Jeep’s optional 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine is paired to the same automatic transmission for the 2021 Gladiator, and it generates 260 hp with a far more impressive 442 lb-ft of torque perfect for off-roading. The fuel economy also improves to 22 MPG city and 28 MPG highway.
The 2021 Ranger has only one engine option for all three trims, and it comes standard with a 10-speed automatic transmission. With the 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder, the Ranger’s engine produces 270 horsepower with 310 lb-ft of torque. The fuel economy is fair, with the standard rear-wheel drive getting an estimated 21 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway, though adding the available four-wheel drive drops the economy to 20 MPG city and 24 MPG highway.
When it comes time to ride off the beaten path, each of these truck manufacturers offers their own versions of equipment to prep for trail riding. In particular, Jeep offers the Rubicon trim level that gives serious capability to the 2021 Gladiator. Under the body, skid plates and rock rails protect the vitals of the truck, and an improved two-speed transfer case allows for more gearing options. Both the front and rear differentials lock, and Fox shocks are an upgrade to handle rough terrain. With immense 33-inch tires, the Gladiator can power through the backcountry in true Jeep style.
Ford offers up its Tremor Off-Road package for the Ranger, which provides a number of features fit for the trail, including an upgraded off-road suspension and a Terrain Management system for improved capability. Skid plates protect the underbody, and a Trail Control feature acts like cruise control for low-speed handling. Off-road running boards are included, and the Tremor package also has magnetic alloy wheels. To add the package, buyers must first begin with a SuperCrew body style, four-wheel drive, and be willing to purchase the middle or uppermost trims. In terms of the options for each truck, if you plan to off-road, the 2021 Gladiator is going to deliver better capability for handling trails, and in particular, the rock rails, Fox shocks, and larger tires will serve buyers better than off-road running boards and low-speed cruise control.
First and foremost, it should be said that if you want convenience in either the 2021 Gladiator or the 2021 Ranger, you want to look beyond the entry-level trims. Jeep starts buyers in the Sport trim with a few niceties like fog lights, illuminated cup holders, and steering wheel-mounted controls. You will get a little comfort from manually-operated lumbar control in the driver’s seat, and halogen headlights will do their duty on dark nights. Even at entry-level, the Gladiator has a removable soft top and a folding windshield so you can pretend you’re on safari. Where the rubber meets the road is in the options that can be added with available half doors that get you closer to the outdoors on the trail and Corning Gorilla Glass in the windshield, so you don’t have to worry about it shattering.
In the entry-level 2021 Ranger XL, the amenities are similar, with halogen headlights, cloth seats, and manual climate control. Few creature comforts can be found other than powered doors and locks that aren’t found on the Gladiator, and space for passengers in the back seat of the cab will not be very comfortable for adults in comparison to the Jeep. The Ranger has only 34.5 inches of legroom in the rear seat with its larger SuperCrew cab, and the SuperCab is even smaller. For the Gladiator, the rear-seat legroom is several inches larger at 38.3 inches, a comfortable amount of space for most adults. To gain more features modern buyers typically expect, the 2021 Gladiator does give a fair number of conveniences to upper trims. Heated exterior mirrors, remote keyless entry, and leather seats are all standard features in upper trims. For a neat trick, the automatic dual-zone climate control has voice activation, which is very nice when you’re driving.
The 2021 Ranger adds cruise control, fog lights, and ambient lighting to its list of features in upper trims, while both trucks gain LED headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, and keyless entry in trims above the base. Leather seats are another addition to the uppermost trim in both trucks, a luxury that adds a bit of refinement to the cabin. Overall, the entry-level trim of the 2021 Gladiator does offer a few more comforts than the Ranger, and the choice to ride in the open air is hard to ignore when it comes to standard features. No one would want to try taking off the doors of a Ranger for trail time.
Life at this point really is easier with technology, and even the most basic of vehicles still have to include tech to keep pace with modern life. With that said, the 2021 Gladiator will start buyers of the Sport trim with Bluetooth to connect your smartphone to the eight-speaker sound system. It does offer voice-activated audio and steering wheel-mounted controls for the system, though a five-inch touchscreen is the means to interact with the system settings. SiriusXM capability is available at this trim level, but to have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you must add it through the available Uconnect infotainment system. Upper trims gain the larger 8.4-inch touchscreen, and an available Alpine sound system provides premium stereo quality for listening.
With the 2021 Ranger, entry-level basics are about the same with Bluetooth and an even smaller four-inch touchscreen, though Ford does provide a WiFi hotspot as standard. The sound system only has four speakers, which might be frustrating for those who love music while they drive. For upgrades, available options like SiriusXM, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a larger eight-inch touchscreen can be added through packages or upper trim levels. To make up for the meager sound quality, a Bang and Olufsen sound system is available in the uppermost trim.
Technology offerings continue into safety features, though most of what comes standard are controlled by systems working behind the scenes in both trucks. The 2021 Gladiator has the expected traction and stability control, brake assist to automatically add braking power for sudden stops, and an anti-roll feature helps to further stabilize the Gladiator. Available driver-assist tech like a blind-spot monitor, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control are found in upper trims or packages to be added.
With the 2021 Ranger, safety features shift to include trailer sway control, roll stability control, curve control, and pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking. Available safety features like a blind-spot information system and a lane-keeping system, along with adaptive cruise control, are available in upper trims or in packages. For the most part, the Gladiator and Ranger deliver similar options for technology and safety, and the differences between them will boil down to personal preference. Both trucks are built more for utility than cruising on the road, so buyers should keep this in mind.