For many years, the Jeep Wrangler has fought its own battle. With no real competition that shared the same outdoor experience, cool looks and off-road capabilities, sales were smooth for Jeep. However, the introduction of the Bronco changed that, but we don’t think you can clearly suggest which one to buy. It all depends on what you want to do with the car as both have strengths and weaknesses. Here we discuss these weaknesses to make this buying decision clearer or to simply differentiate these two vehicles based on what they are good and bad at.
The Jeep Wrangler comes with more engine options
Image of a desert sand Ford Bronco standing in the wild
Let’s start with the new kid on the block – the Bronco. Like the Jeep, it has removable doors and roof, cool looks and lots of off-road goodies. There are two engine options on offer – a 2.3-liter and a 2.7-liter Ecoboost – producing 275 and 330 horses respectively. A 3.0-liter V-6 is available on the Bronco Raptor that produces 400 horsepower. The most off-road-worthy package on the regular Bronco (not the Raptor) comes with 35-inch tires, two lockers, sway bar disconnects, and other electronically controlled off-road goodies. Underneath, we get a solid rear axle and independent front suspension.
Front three-quarter view of a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon standing on rocky terrain
As you may be aware, the Jeep also has removable doors and roof, and even has a roll-down windshield. Engine options include a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder paired with a hybrid engine, a 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V-6, a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel and finally the big boy 392 V-8. Power values are 375, 285, 260 and 470 horsepower respectively. Keep in mind that the EcoDiesel makes a lot of torque with a rating of 442 pound-feet. The most off-road worthy Rubicon Wrangler comes on 33-inch tall tires and offers dual locking differentials, sway bar disconnects and two solid axles.
On-Road and Off-Road Dynamics
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has fun on rocky trails
This is the area where most online videos and articles get it wrong. They only test how a vehicle performs on relatively easy off-road trails. The presenters are not aware of the complications that can arise when tackling extremely difficult terrain or when modifying. Before we get into off-road driving, let’s take a look at off-road driving. The clear winner here is the Bronco. Its independent front suspension helps it stay composed through turns, it rides smoothly and unlike the Jeep, it will never have a problem with dead turns. Death wobble is common in a vehicle with a solid front axle and when it occurs it results in a violent shaking of the car. It must be said that many have criticized the Bronco for being squeaky, noisy and just poorly made inside. The rear seats don’t get air conditioning, which can be a dealbreaker if you have kids and live in a hot area of the country. On the road the Jeep can feel a bit busy, the handling is not great and as mentioned above, when parts start to wear you can experience dead spins. The interior of the Wrangler is smaller but feels more sorted with rear AC and less squeaks.
These two vehicles operate differently, and this is the main reason behind their differences in handling. To simplify, imagine that the Wrangler’s suspension is a scaled-down version of a heavy-duty truck while the Bronco’s is a beefed-up version of a regular car. If you think about it this way, it makes sense why one does well on the road and the other doesn’t. When the going gets tough, the Wrangler shines. The solid front axle offers the strength needed to tackle trails that a standard vehicle has no business on, while the available wheel articulation helps keep the Wrangler flat on rough terrain. It also allows owners to modify the vehicle extensively as lifting a car with solid axles is much easier and more efficient than one with independent front suspension. At this point, you might be thinking that in video comparisons, the Bronco can sometimes come across as more capable. That is true in some cases; But when the going gets really tough and both vehicles are modified, the Bronco will fall behind. People who have driven it hard off-road have revealed issues like weak steering racks, steering rack end links and CV joints that the Wrangler doesn’t have.
These two vehicles are aimed at different types of users
Side profile shot of Ford Bronco Everglades parked in the woods
Although the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler fight in the same niche, at heart, they serve different purposes. The Bronco is like the tough version of the Toyota 4Runner – it’s good on the road and can handle itself off-road, but it has its limitations. We would suggest that a Bronco is good for overlanding and relatively difficult trails. When it comes to modification, there are options available; But the Bronco can’t be taken to the extremes that the Jeep can be taken to. If you’re into high-speed desert bashing, the Bronco offers a better base than the Jeep because its suspension is more controlled over high-speed rough terrain. However, you will need to make upgrades to improve everything to handle the big hits of high-speed off-road driving. Now the Wrangler is for the buyer who wants an all-terrain toy. Its base is second to none as it offers wheel travel and strength – the two most important qualities of an off-road vehicle. It is best suited as a mountain bike and, as explained above, it is not as good on the road, and that is always the case with off-road vehicles. To gain roadworthiness, you sacrifice off-road capabilities and vice versa.
Which one should you buy?
Rear three-quarter view of a black Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 parked off-road
The answer is relatively simple here. The Bronco is the better choice for the weekend warrior who likes to take the family on weekend adventures and commute to work or take the kids to school on weekdays. For someone who wants to do a similar thing but has a soft spot for the really tough stuff, the Wrangler would be the vehicle of choice, but will make a sacrifice in road manners. Both vehicles have their strengths and weaknesses. You need to be clear about your intended use and then you will be able to decide which of the two vehicles best suits your needs.