‘Rubicon’ isn’t just a trim name for the Jeep faithful—it’s where their beloved Wranglers and Gladiators earn their badges. But the Wrangler isn’t the only retro American off-road SUV on the market anymore. It’s now joined by the 2021 Ford Bronco, and their respective fanbases are already squaring off. And now, footage has appeared of the resurrected Ford Bronco taking on the Rubicon Trail.
Is the 2021 Ford Bronco ready for the Rubicon Trail?
Unlike the Jeep Wrangler, the Ford Bronco has independent front suspension, not a rock-crawler-preferred solid axle, Autoweek reports. The former is more comfortable and gives better steering, Road & Track explains, but the latter is simpler and offers more articulation. The Bronco also doesn’t offer a diesel engine or a V8.
However, that IFS might not slow the Ford Bronco down too much. Ford claims it has 17% more suspension travel than the Wrangler. And like the Jeep, Ford’s SUV comes with four-wheel drive, a 2-speed transfer case, and multiple off-road driving modes. It doesn’t have the Wrangler Rubicon’s Fox shocks, but it does have position-sensitive Bilstein dampers. And like Jeep’s Rubicon models, the Ford Bronco can be fitted with electronically-disconnecting sway bars and locking differentials, Roadshow reports.
Plus, while the Ford Bronco may not have a V8, some of its numbers are better than the Wrangler’s. It has more ground clearance as well as better departure and break-over angles, Motor Trend reports. And the Ford Bronco’s 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder has more grunt than the Wrangler’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The former produces 270 hp and 310 lb-ft, and the latter 270 hp and 295 lb-ft. Also, the four-cylinder Bronco engine can be fitted to a 7-speed manual which includes an ultra-low crawler gear.
And while the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Gladiator can get a 3.6-liter V6, the Bronco can be specced with a 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6. Jeep’s V6 produces 285 hp and 260 lb-ft, while Ford’s V6 makes 310 hp and 400 lb-ft.
But can all this hardware see the Ford Bronco through the Rubicon Trail?
How did it do?
Recently, several Ford Broncos were photographed on the Rubicon Trail, and the images shared on the Bronco6G.com forums, MT reports. Another forum user had previously spotted what appeared to be pre-production Broncos, as well as a Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator Rubicon, parked in Colorado.
And now, new footage shows a pre-production Ford Bronco Sasquatch trying to scramble up a portion of the Rubicon Trail, Roadshow reports. The footage shows several more of the Ford SUVs, with differing gear, awaiting their turn. It appears Motor1 reports, that Ford was torture-testing the Broncos, to see what still needed tweaking.
So how did the Ford Bronco do? In the footage, the SUV gives the rocky trail a solid go but doesn’t manage to scale that particular section. However, Jalopnik reports all the SUVs were able to finish the trail. And while they didn’t drive away unscathed, the skid plates and bumpers did their job, Hooniverse reports.
Without more footage or an extensive off-road test, it’s impossible to say for certain if the Bronco can tackle trails with the Jeep Wrangler’s or Gladiator Rubicon’s aplomb. But then, not every Jeep is up to that task, either.
Not every Jeep can tackle the Rubicon Trail
Jeep tests all of its Trail-Rated models on the Rubicon Trail, though the company’s exact testing methods remain unknown. But the Mojave models aren’t Trail-Rated. And, in fact, they’re not quite on the Rubicon models’ rock-crawling level, Autoweek reports.
However, what the Jeep Gladiator Mojave and upcoming Wrangler Mojave give up in low-speed scrambling, they make up for in high-speed dune crossing. They don’t have a locking front differential, and can’t disconnect their sway bars. But they have larger-diameter Fox shocks, hydraulic jounce dampers, larger anti-roll bars, a wider rear track, and an additional skid plate. And all these changes also make the Gladiator Mojave better on-pavement, MT reports.
Now bring on the Branco Raptor.
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