Consumer Reports Prefers the Ford Bronco to the Wrangler, Jeep Isn’t Worried

Consumer Reports’ final ratings for the 2022 Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler are in. While the Bronco only earned 55/100, its lackluster score still trounced the Wrangler. Consumer Reports only gave the Wrangler a 28/100. The reason Jeep isn’t worried is the same reason the Wrangler may be around long after this latest Ford Bronco has come and gone.

The problem with automotive reviews

Orange Jeep Wrangler driving down the highway.
Jeep Wrangler | a-n-v-e-s-h via Unsplash

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Consumer Reports has a well-thought-out and well-intentioned system for ranking vehicles of any type. The only problem is that this system does not work.

Take for instance the Ford Bronco: it is a capable, unique SUV that is already building a following. But Consumer Reports gave it a 55/100. Or look at the Wrangler, a 4×4 so beloved and iconic that Stellantis has been able to build an entire Jeep brand around the Wrangler’s reputation. Yet Consumer Reports flunked it.

Consumer Reports divides its reviews into categories: acceleration, interior fit and finish, fuel economy, etc. Then its reviewers give each vehicle a score out of 5 in each category. The result is a score out of 100. This system may work on paper, but in practice it awards mediocre vehicles.

Any vehicle that can pull an “average” score in a wide range of categories will receive a strong score. A vehicle that sacrifices many categories to excel in a single category will flunk the test. But to excel anywhere you must make sacrifices. And it’s this second type of vehicle that sparks joy for drivers.

The overlooked elite

Gray Jeep Wrangler Rubicon rock crawling.
Jeep Wrangler | Cody Lannom via Unsplash

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There is an elite class of vehicle that has transcended being a means of transportation. In car culture, these vehicles become icons of an entire lifestyle. I’m thinking of the Mazda Miata, the Harley-Davidson cruisers, the heavy-duty pickup truck, the V8-powered muscle car coupes, and the Jeep Wrangler.

Why do these machines inspire such worship? Like Olympic athletes, they pursue perfection in just one category, even at the cost of every other conceivable metric. This excellence enables driving experiences that no competitor can approach.

These are the vehicles that we park, walk away from, but must turn to look at one last time. This is because they make us smile. And often, its not the vehicle itself, but the memories of that one-of-a-kind driving experience.

What makes the Jeep Wrangler special?

The Jeep Wrangler features a unique layout: a heavy-duty body-on-ladder-frame construction, solid front axles, part-time 4WD, tight turning radius, and high ground clearance. This enables a one-of-a-kind off-roading experience.

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Without unibody construction or independent front suspension, the Wrangler is objectively outdated in most situations. But it can navigate trails few other SUVs can handle. And what’s more, it is extremely durable while doing it. Finally, this chassis takes upgrades and modifications in stride.

The new Ford Bronco Sport is a unibody SUV with independent front suspension. The regular Ford Bronco is a body-on-frame midsize SUV, also with independent front suspension. In both cases, the engineers at Ford managed to build an incredibly capable 4×4, while achieving modern driving characteristics on road. But even with the Bronco on the scene, I don’t expect Jeep will be changing up the Wrangler’s layout anytime soon.

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