2021 Jeep Gladiator vs. Toyota Tacoma Comparison

Erin Riches-Wong | Jul 07, 2021

It would be hard to find two midsize trucks as different as the Jeep Gladiator and Toyota Tacoma. The Gladiator is an adventure vehicle at heart. It's the long-awaited pickup truck version of the Wrangler. No one expects it to be quiet, easy to drive, or even easy to get into because it's an old-school Jeep with an open cargo bed.

In contrast, the Toyota Tacoma represents the safe choice in the midsize truck class. It's not the newest design, and it doesn't have the highest tow or payload ratings. But every year, more people buy Tacomas than any other midsize pickup, and Toyota's resale value is legendary. The Tacoma also has strong crash-test ratings, and desirable driver-assistance aids come standard.

If you have these trucks on your short list, this 2021 Jeep Gladiator vs. 2021 Toyota Tacoma comparison should help.

Price and Value

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Red Front Quarter View

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

Unlike most other midsize pickup trucks, the 2021 Jeep Gladiator comes in a single configuration. All Gladiators are crew cabs with four forward-hinged doors, an entirely usable rear seat, and a 60-inch-long open cargo bed. There is no long-bed version of the Jeep Gladiator.

The 2021 Gladiator comes in many trim levels, including Sport, Willys Sport, Sport S, California Edition, Willys, 80th Anniversary, Freedom, Overland, Rubicon, Mojave, and High Altitude. Prices range from $34,040 to $52,240, not including a $1,495 destination charge.

The mid-range trims offer similar equipment, while the Overland and High Altitude offer more upscale amenities like leather upholstery. The off-road-focused Rubicon excels at low-speed rock crawling, while the Mojave caters to higher-speed runs across the sand.

All 2021 Jeep Gladiators are 4-wheel-drive (4WD) and come standard with a gasoline V6 engine. A turbocharged diesel V6 known as the EcoDiesel is optional on most trim levels. Its extra torque makes for a more enjoyable driving experience, and it's significantly more fuel-efficient as well. However, at $4,000—plus $2,000 for the required automatic transmission—the EcoDiesel is a costly add-on that won't pencil out for most buyers.

Most 2021 Jeep Gladiators come with a 1-year trial subscription to connected services via SiriusXM Guardian. Services include automatic collision notification, rapid access to roadside assistance, and conveniences like remote locking and engine start. You get a 3-month trial subscription for the Jeep's Wi-Fi hotspot, but you'll probably blow through the permitted 1 gigabyte of data in less time than that.

Every 2021 Jeep Gladiator comes with three years of free scheduled maintenance.

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma comes in three basic configurations. The Tacoma extended cab (which Toyota calls the Access Cab) has a 74-inch cargo bed. Although it has a back seat, the Access Cab isn't suitable for transporting rear passengers regularly. It has small, rear-hinged doors and a pair of jump seats. Small dogs might fit fine on those seats, but large car seats will not.

The crew cab, better known as the Toyota Tacoma Double Cab, is more practical for most people. It has a full bench seat in the back and conventional, forward-hinged rear doors. You can have it with a 60-inch short bed or a 74-inch long bed.

The 2021 Tacoma comes in SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro trim levels. Prices range from $26,400 to $44,325, not including a $1,175 destination charge.

The mid-range SR5 and TRD Sport trim levels provide access to most of the desirable features, while the TRD Pro is the top off-road model and similar in personality to the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon. The TRD Pro is also the only Tacoma with standard 4WD. All other trims give you the choice of 2-wheel drive (2WD) or 4WD.

All 2021 Toyota Tacomas include a 1-year trial subscription to Toyota's connected services, including automatic collision notification, rapid access to roadside help, concierge services, and remote engine start and unlocking. You also get a 3-month trial subscription for the truck's Wi-Fi hotspot (2GB data limit).

Scheduled maintenance is on the house for the first two years or 25,000 miles that you own a new Tacoma.

The Toyota Tacoma ranked first among midsize pickup trucks in the J.D. Power 2020 Resale Value Awards.

Advantage: Toyota Tacoma

Reliability and Quality

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Green Front Quarter View

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD

Since it debuted for the 2020 model year, the Jeep Gladiator is not included in the J.D. Power 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, which focuses on 3-year-old vehicles. It did not rank among the top midsize pickups in the 2020 Initial Quality Study.

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance: 5 years or 60,000 miles

The Toyota Tacoma did not rank among the top midsize trucks in either the 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study or the 2020 Initial Quality Study.

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance: 3 years and unlimited mileage

Advantage: Jeep Gladiator

Performance and Efficiency

2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Interior Dashboard

2021 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

The base engine on every 2021 Jeep Gladiator is a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. You can have it with either an old-school 6-speed manual transmission or, for $2,000 extra, an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The Gladiator's optional EcoDiesel turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 generates 260 hp and an incredible 442 pound-feet of torque. The diesel comes only with an automatic transmission.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fuel economy in combined city and highway driving rates 19 mpg with the gasoline V6, regardless of whether you get the manual or automatic. With the diesel engine, the Gladiator rates 24 mpg in combined driving.

You can expect slightly lower mileage with the Gladiator Rubicon and Mojave, which have a more aggressive final drive ratio (4.10:1 vs. 3.73 on other versions) and very serious 33-inch off-road tires. Gladiators with the Max Trailer Tow option package also have this final drive ratio and will return lower mpg.

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma also comes with a choice of two engines. Tacoma's base 2.7-liter 4-cylinder produces 159 hp and 180 pound-feet of torque. Available only with a 6-speed automatic transmission, this engine does not provide sufficient motivation for a modern midsize truck that weighs 4,000 pounds before anyone gets inside.

Most buyers opt for the 3.5-liter V6 engine. It makes 278 hp and 265 pound-feet of torque. You can choose either a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission.

EPA fuel economy for 2WD Tacomas is 21 mpg in combined driving, regardless of engine. Four-wheel-drive trucks rate 20 mpg across the board as long as your Tacoma has an automatic transmission.

With the manual transmission, the V6-equipped Tacoma rates just 18 mpg combined. You'll likely see lower mpg on the TRD Pro, as its lifted suspension and all-terrain tires make it less aerodynamic than other Toyota Tacomas.

Advantage: Jeep Gladiator

Tow Ratings and Trailering Equipment

Equipped with the gasoline V6 engine and the optional towing package, the 2021 Jeep Gladiator has a tow rating of 7,650 pounds. Despite its vast torque advantage, the EcoDiesel V6 maxes out at just 6,500 pounds due to cooling challenges when pulling trailers above this weight.

Jeep does not offer an integrated trailer brake controller as a factory option, but your dealer will sell you one as a Mopar accessory. The Gladiator's reversing camera has a hitch-assist camera angle with dynamic guidelines and a zoom feature to ease the process of hooking up a trailer.

The V6 engine is a must if you want to tow a trailer with a 2021 Toyota Tacoma. An appropriately outfitted V6-equipped Tacoma Double Cab with a short bed has a tow rating of 6,700 pounds (6,400 pounds with 4WD).

Toyota does not offer an integrated trailer brake controller as an option or accessory for the Tacoma, so you'll need to buy one on the aftermarket. Most versions of the Tacoma are available with a surround-view monitor (some trims have the Multi-Terrain Monitor, others have the Panoramic View Monitor). There are no guidelines for hooking up a trailer, but you'll be able to see what's in front of, the sides of, and behind your truck.

It's a good idea to look at payload ratings if you're planning to tow with a medium-sized pickup. Payload refers to the weight of people, pets, and gear you can safely carry in the cab and bed of your truck.

Overall, Jeep and Toyota have low payload ratings among midsize trucks. Jeep advertises an impressive 1,700-pound tow rating for the Gladiator, but that's for the Sport trim with a manual transmission. A Jeep Gladiator Overland has a payload rating of 1,120 pounds (1,275 with the EcoDiesel), while a V6 4WD Tacoma Double Cab tops out at 1,155 pounds.

Advantage: Jeep Gladiator

Safety and Driving Assistance

2021 Toyota Tacoma Nightshade Interior Dashboard

2021 Toyota Tacoma Nightshade

You won't find many advanced driving assistance aids (ADAS) on the 2021 Jeep Gladiator. Jeep offers an option package with a forward-collision warning (FCW) system with automatic emergency braking (AEB) and another with a blind-spot warning (BSW) system and rear cross-traffic warnings (the High Altitude trim alone has the BSW system as standard). These packages are not available on the lower trims.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing, the 2021 Gladiator earned four out of five stars for frontal crash protection (there is no overall crashworthiness rating for the Jeep). Jeep's pickup truck rates just 3 stars for rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not published ratings on the Gladiator.

Every 2021 Toyota Tacoma comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense, which includes FCW with pedestrian detection, AEB, LDW, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights. Most versions of the 2021 Tacoma are available with an optional BSW system with rear cross-traffic warnings.

The 2021 Tacoma earned a 4-star rating for overall crash protection from the NHTSA. Additionally, Toyota's midsize pickup has a 4-star rollover resistance rating.

In IIHS testing, the Tacoma Double Cab performed well. It received Good ratings in most crash-test categories and an Acceptable rating for front-passenger protection in small-overlap front-offset crashes.

Advantage: Toyota Tacoma

Infotainment and Technology

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Red Rear Quarter View

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

Lower-trim versions of the 2021 Jeep Gladiator come with a basic 5-inch touchscreen audio display that doesn't include Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Most buyers will, at minimum, want to step up to the Sport S, which has a 7-inch touchscreen interface with smartphone integration.

Optional on the Sport S is Jeep's familiar 8.4-inch UConnect 4 infotainment interface. It's bundled with factory navigation and a 5-year subscription to SiriusXM Travel Link, plus you get a pair of USB ports for the back seat.

The base 2021 Toyota Tacoma SR comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Tacoma SR5 upgrades to an 8-inch touchscreen interface. Higher trims offer factory navigation with voice control. Introduced for the 2020 model year, these infotainment interfaces work well, and the voice-recognition technology is especially good.

Toyota offers three USB ports up front but no rear-seat USB ports. A wireless charging pad is available starting on the TRD Sport trim.

Advantage: Toyota Tacoma

Comfort and Utility

2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition Green Pickup Bed

2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition

Lift the floor mats in the 2021 Jeep Gladiator, and you'll find drain plugs in the floors in case you need to hose it out after your adventures. You can take all four doors off Jeep's pickup. You can also remove the wipers and fold down the windshield.

There are a few compromises that come with the Jeep's focus on fun. The door openings are narrow, and it's easy to trip on the door sills as you're getting in. Side steps are available, but they don't really help. Once you're inside, you'll have to get used to lots of noise—this is not a quiet vehicle.

When buying a Jeep Gladiator, one key decision is whether to get a soft vinyl top or a three-piece hardtop. Both are removable so that you can enjoy open-air driving. Most trims have a black hardtop, but you can choose a body-colored one instead on higher trims. If you do get the hardtop, you'll also want a tonneau cover for the cargo bed, so you have a secure place to store the pieces.

Compared to the Jeep, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma's cab will seem very conventional; although, you might not find it any easier to get in and out. Even with 10-way power adjustments on most trims, the driving position is awkward if you're over 6 feet tall.

The Toyota Tacoma represents one of the older designs in the midsize truck class. Although there's not much style or opulence in the cab, consumers will appreciate the sheer functionality of its large control buttons, dials, and knobs. In the back, the Tacoma Double Cab's high-mounted rear bench provides a good view for elementary school-age kids, while the available power-sliding rear window makes it easy to let in the fresh air on mild days.

All 2021 Tacomas come standard with four fixed cargo tie-downs in the bed and four adjustable cleats on a rail system. If you want more functionality, Toyota offers a Trail Special Edition package with a lockable storage compartment and a 120-volt outlet (also available on the Gladiator).

Advantage: Neither

Assess your priorities and schedule some test drives.

Learn More About the Jeep Gladiator and Toyota Tacoma

If you'd like to learn more about these midsize trucks, be sure to read our expert reviews of the 2021 Jeep Gladiator, including the Gladiator Mojave desert-runner version and 2021 Toyota Tacoma, including the TRD Pro model. To find out how people like you rate vehicles in this segment, be sure to check out our ratings from verified vehicle owners.

Also, please keep in mind that while the information in this article was accurate and valid on July 7, 2021, it may have changed since that date. Always confirm product details and availability with the automaker's website or your local dealership.

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