Will the 2021 Ford Bronco Keep up With the Jeep Wrangler?

Even before the 2021 Bronco finally showed its face, Ford was squaring-off against another off-road icon: the Jeep Wrangler. On the surface, both SUVs seem fairly similar, and not just in terms of squared-off looks. But does the Ford Bronco have what it takes to take on the Wrangler, both on and off the dirt?

2021 Ford Bronco vs. Jeep Wrangler: powertrains

A yellow two-door Ford Bronco
2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door | Ford Media

Both the 2021 Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler offer four-cylinder engines. In the Bronco’s case, it’s a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 270 hp and 310 lb-ft. Meanwhile, the Wrangler has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which produces 270 hp and 295 lb-ft.

However, these SUVs have more engines to offer. The Jeep Wrangler can be equipped either with a 3.6-liter V6 or a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6. The former produces 285 hp and 260 lb-ft; the latter 260 hp and 442 lb-ft. In addition, the Wrangler’s gasoline V6 can be equipped with a mild-hybrid system.

The Ford Bronco doesn’t offer a diesel or a mild-hybrid powertrain. But it does have a 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6, rated at 310 hp and 400 lb-ft. And with a Raptor trim potentially on the way, Motor Trend reports, Ford’s off-road SUV could make even more power.

A black Jeep Wrangler with red interior sit at the base of rocky terrain with the tops off.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept | FCA

However, there’s also the upcoming V8-powered Wrangler. In addition, The Drive reports that Jeep has begun teasing its planned ‘4xe’ Wrangler, which is slated to be a plug-in hybrid. The exact release date for the 4xe model, though, hasn’t been revealed.

Both SUVs come with four-wheel-drive systems—with 2-speed transfer cases—and both offer 10-speed automatics. However, while the Jeep Wrangler comes standard with a 6-speed manual, the Ford Bronco has a 7-speed manual.

But the extra speed isn’t for fuel efficiency, Roadshow explains. Instead, the Bronco’s 1st gear is a dedicated low-speed crawler gear—something the Wrangler doesn’t offer. Jeep does let buyers spec the V6 with a manual, though; with Ford, the V6 is automatic-only.

Ford Bronco vs. Jeep Wrangler: features

Beyond the powertrain, the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler do share some similarities when it comes to hardware.

Overhead shot of a blue 2021 Ford Bronco with the roof and doors removed
2021 Ford Bronco overhead | Ford

As with the Wrangler, the Bronco offers a removable roof and doors. The Bronco’s windshield, though, doesn’t fold flat. However, the fenders and even the grille are also removable.

In addition, like the Jeep, the Bronco offers waterproof upholstery and hose-down mats, Road & Track reports. Though, that’s only on the Badlands and Black Diamond models. However, even the base Bronco offers features like a dashboard rail, seat-back equipment mounts, and a fold-out seat in the rear floor.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon rear
2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon rear | Jeep

For serious rock-crawling, Jeep Wrangler owners turn to the Rubicon trim, which offers Fox shocks, skid plates, electronically-locking differentials, and an electronically-disconnecting sway bar. The equivalent Bronco trim would likely be the Badlands model, Roadshow reports. It too, has a disconnecting sway bar and locking axles, but has position-sensitive Bilstein shocks as well as an expanded off-road driving mode selection. Both SUVs feature larger-than-standard off-road tires and wheels.

However, some of the Badlands’ features can be ordered separately as part of the Sasquatch package, R&T reports. The features list includes the locking axles, Bilstein shocks, larger off-road tires and wheels, a suspension lift, and a modified 4WD final drive. And unlike with the Rubicon, the Sasquatch package can be equipped to even the cheapest Ford Bronco.

In addition, MT reports the Ford Bronco actually has the Jeep Wrangler beat in several key off-road areas. The former has more ground clearance, as well as better approach and breakover angles. The two SUVs tie, though, on departure angles.

The suspension

But there’s one big difference between the Jeep Wrangler and the Ford Bronco: front suspension. Both SUVs feature Dana axles, Autoweek reports. However, while the Wrangler has solid front and rear axles, the Bronco has independent front suspension.

2021 Chevrolet Suburban independent rear suspension
2021 Chevrolet Suburban independent rear suspension | Chevrolet

Traditionally, R&T explains, solid axles were preferred, due to their simplicity and greater articulation and suspension travel. However, as R&T explains, IFS gives better ride quality and more precise steering. And, as Chevy has demonstrated with the Tahoe and Suburban Z71’s new rear suspension, it can still be off-road-capable. In fact, Ford claims the 2021 Bronco’s IFS has 17% more travel than the Jeep Wrangler’s front suspension. Plus, the Badlands model’s sway bar means articulation is less of an issue.


Which Jeep Wrangler Is Right for Me?

The biggest test of this, though, will come from the Jeep Wrangler Mojave. It lacks some of the Rubicon’s features, but adds larger Fox shocks and sway bars, more suspension travel and ride height, and hydraulic bump stops. It will also have a wider track than the Rubicon, and additional frame and suspension reinforcement. Considering the Gladiator Mojave is noticeably more refined on-road than the Rubicon, the Wrangler Mojave will likely be the strongest rival for the non-Badlands Broncos.

Ultimately, though, deciding between the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler will have to be done out on the trail.

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