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NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle Awards: Gladiator Wins Extreme Capability

Yup, there’s no two ways about it. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator cleaned up at the Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle Awards. Along with winning the Extreme Capability category, it also took the win in the pickup class, and took top honors by earning the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year award.

It was a spectacular showing for the brand-new member of the Jeep family, and demonstrated that all the time Ma Mopar’s engineers spend testing in the wilds of Moab pays dividends when their products hit dealerships. Obviously, there’s plenty to be said about the greasy bits, like the Dana axles, and the suspension that’s as articulate as a career diplomat. But we also appreciated the camera the designers thought to include on the front bumper, because when you’re climbing, and the only thing visible through the windshield is clear blue sky, it’s comforting to be able to see what’s waiting on the other side of a ridge.

It’s also available in a stick, which is a rarity in pickups these days, and the Gladiator is the only truck on the market that’s also a convertible. As the Jeep reps on hand were fond of saying, it’s “100% Jeep, 100% truck,” and those are the kind of numbers that make this versatile off roader such a relentless overachiever. Read our full review here.

Now yesterday, we wrote about how the Mercedes G550 came in behind the BMW X7 in the Full-Size Luxury category, and mentioned that the suspension of the big Benz seemed more suited to off-road heroism than corner carving.

What we didn’t get into? Exactly what an absolute unit this baby is off road — it’s a proper beast. Sure, when you’re behind the wheel of the G550, you’re in the embrace of some of the best luxury appointments Germany has to offer. There’s no question about that. But don’t let the supple Nappa leather seats fool you, because the G550 will make short work of anything that’s in front of it. Now, in some of the other machines we took on the extreme course, we had to toggle some settings and engage low gears to make it over the obstacles. In comparison? The Mercedes required no such intervention.

It just happily drove over anything in front of it, and made the rock piles and steep grades look about as intimidating as a speed bump in a Whole Foods parking lot. It was beyond impressive, to say the least. For more info on the G550, read our full review.

During the event, the Ford Ranger, Ram Power Wagon, and Toyota 4Runner also tackled the extreme section of the off-road course. And while they all proved to be rugged machines capable of navigating unforgiving terrain, the Gladiator and G550 just edged them out in the voting.

That said? What wins over a group of journalists might not be what makes a vehicle work for you.

So if you’re considering a vehicle on this list, schedule a visit your local AutoNation-affiliated dealership today! Because there’s no substitute for through test drive when determining how a vehicle will work for you.

Images: Ryan Douthit, MediaSpigot LLC. 

NWAPA ( is a professional organization of automotive journalists and media members from throughout the Pacific Northwest and Southwest Canada. Founded in 1991, NWAPA includes 54 voting members representing more than 700 newspapers, magazines, radio stations, media groups, and the internet. Members of the organization have been testing SUVs and crossovers since the advent of the modern sport-utility vehicle in the mid-1990s. Non-voting NWAPA members include representatives from automotive manufacturers and related industry professionals.

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