From the start, the 2021 Ford Bronco has had its sights on the Jeep Wrangler. The former even has some Wrangler-like features, including a folding windshield and removable doors. But no one’s really hit the dirt with these SUVs at the same time. That is, until now. YouTube team Throttle House recently got their hands on a Ford Bronco Wildtrak and a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe. And the duo left the pavement to see which off-road SUV crawls ahead.
The 2021 Ford Bronco Wildtrak tops the reborn off-road SUV’s lineup
With the First Edition sold out, the 2021 Ford Bronco Wildtrak is now the range-topping Bronco trim. However, while the Wildtrak doesn’t have all of the First Edition’s luxury features, it has all the same off-road features. And that includes all the Sasquatch Package’s goodies as standard equipment.
So, the 2021 Ford Bronco Wildtrak comes standard with 35” mud-terrain tires wrapped around 17” beadlock-capable wheels. It also has 4WD with a two-speed transfer case and multiple off-road modes. Plus, the Wildtrak has Bilstein monotube position-sensitive shocks, front and rear locking differentials, and a shorter axle ratio. And it comes with multiple pre-wired auxiliary switches to power things like light bars and winches. However, the Wildtrak doesn’t get the Badlands’ electronically-disconnecting front sway bar. And skid plates cost extra.
But the Ford Bronco Wildtrak does have more standard performance than the Badlands. That’s because it’s exclusively available with the otherwise optional 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6. Due to those 35” tires, the Wildtrak isn’t quite as fuel-efficient as other Broncos with the V6. However, the engine still makes 330 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque.
The 2021 Ford Bronco Wildtrak only comes with a 10-speed automatic. Yet while you can’t rock the manual, the automatic offers several exclusive off-road features. Firstly, there’s ‘Trail Control,’ which is essentially off-pavement cruise control, Car and Driver explains. Secondly, the Wildtrak has ‘Trail Turn Assist,’ which uses the inside rear wheel’s brakes to decrease the Bronco’s turning radius.
Is the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe as off-road-capable as the non-hybrid version?
While the 2021 Ford Bronco Wildtrak shares some features with the Wrangler, one thing the Ford SUV lacks is a hybrid powertrain option. And that’s exactly what the plug-in hybrid 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe offers.
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe’s PHEV powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine linked to two electric motors and a 17-kWh battery pack. The first motor is a starter/generator that takes the place of the engine’s starter motor. And the second takes the place of the eight-speed automatic transmission’s torque converter, Car and Driver explains. Together, this system makes 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. And yes, the Wrangler 4xe has 4WD with a two-speed transfer case.
Because of its battery pack, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe can go up to 21 miles in EV-only mode. But even when the pack is drained, the Wrangler 4xe is more efficient than the Bronco Wildtrak on paper. The EPA rates the former SUV at 20 mpg combined and the latter at 17 mpg combined.
Plus, even with a hybrid powertrain, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe is still a Wrangler. And it’s available in Rubicon trim. That means, on top of the 4WD system, you get front and rear locking differentials, multiple skid plates, off-road tires, and an electronically disconnecting front sway bar. And you can augment the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe’s off-road capability further with the optional Jeep Performance Parts kit. This adds a 2” lift, Fox shocks, and multiple suspension component upgrades.
How did these SUVs perform in Throttle House’s hands?
On paper, the 2021 Ford Bronco Wildtrak and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe are fairly close in terms of off-road specs. However, the Bronco has a slight edge in most categories:
- Ground clearance
- Bronco Wildtrak 4-door: 11.5”
- Wrangler Rubicon 4xe: 10.8”
- Fording depth
- Bronco Wildtrak 4-door: 33.5”
- Wrangler Rubicon 4xe: 30”
- Approach angle
- Bronco Wildtrak 4-door: 43.2°
- Wrangler Rubicon 4xe: 44°
- Departure angle
- Bronco Wildtrak 4-door: 37.0°
- Wrangler Rubicon 4xe: 35.6°
- Breakover angle
- Bronco Wildtrak 4-door: 26.3°
- Wrangler Rubicon 4xe: 22.5°
Still, numbers on a page only tell part of the story. What happens when the SUVs’ tires hit rocks, mud, and deep water in Throttle House’s hands?
On the trail, the Ford Bronco Wildtrak feels wider and “less dainty” than the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe. Yet it’s by no means less capable. And because it has independent front suspension, rather than a solid axle, it’s more comfortable off the trail. Plus, that extra width means the Bronco’s cabin is more spacious.
To be fair, some Bronco orders are currently delayed, while the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe is available today. And for truly extreme rock-crawling scenarios, having a disconnecting sway bar is helpful. But then, if that’s what you’re after, you can get a Bronco Badlands instead of the Wildtrak.
Regardless, when it comes to pure off-road performance, the Ford Bronco Wildtrak and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe are essentially neck-and-neck. And while the 4xe can’t get the Xtreme Recon Package, the optional lift kit helps even the playing field. However, if you do more on-road driving, the Bronco is the way to go.
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