Ford Bronco vs. Jeep Wrangler

Cars

This photo from Ford shows the 2022 Ford Bronco. Associated Press

After a 25-year hiatus, the Ford Bronco is back. This new 2021 Bronco SUV pays homage to its predecessors via boxy proportions, round headlights and short overhangs while introducing the latest in comfort and tech features. It has generated plenty of excitement and serves as an exciting alternative to a well-known off-road icon: the Jeep Wrangler.

The Jeep Wrangler is now in its fourth generation. The current body style was introduced for the 2018 model year with more creature comforts and all-terrain capability than before. And not one to let Ford garner all the hype, Jeep has introduced further improvements to its 2021 Wrangler, including plug-in hybrid and V8 powertrains. So which of these SUVs is the best buy? Edmunds experts compared them to find out.

DAILY DRIVEABILITY

Both the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco use rugged body-on-frame platforms that offer greater ground clearance than the typical unibody crossover SUV. But one key difference is that the Jeep Wrangler uses solid axles front and rear, while the Bronco uses an independent front suspension. Solid axles are proven for off-road driving, but they contribute to a rougher ride and minimal steering feel on pavement.

The Bronco’s independent front suspension provides superior road handling and precise steering response to fill drivers with confidence. It’s possible to drive both SUVs every day, but the Bronco is significantly more comfortable.

Winner: Bronco

ENGINE OPTIONS

Ford pairs the Bronco with a choice of turbocharged engines and standard all-wheel drive. The base four-cylinder produces 300 horsepower and can be equipped with a seven-speed manual or 10-speed automatic transmission. An optional V6 develops 330 horsepower and is paired exclusively with a 10-speed automatic.

Jeep drives with a wider range of powertrains. The entry-level V6 produces 285 horsepower and can be equipped with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic, the latter of which is the sole transmission for all other powertrains. You can also get the Wrangler with a 270-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder or a 260-horsepower turbodiesel V6, both of which are more fuel-efficient than the V6.

Then there’s Wrangler’s new 4xe plug-in hybrid option with 375 horsepower and 21 miles of all-electric range on a full charge. Power-hungry buyers will appreciate the available V8 engine good for 470 horsepower and a thunderous soundtrack. The breadth of Jeep’s powertrain choices, including better available fuel economy and more available power, give the Wrangler the edge.

Winner: Wrangler

STYLING AND TERRAIN POWER

Its design has softened since its inception, but the Wrangler retains a rugged aesthetic. Its flat body panels, seven-slot grille and distinctive fenders are instantly recognisable. Owners are free to remove the doors, remove the roof and customize their trucks with an assortment of factory or aftermarket accessories.

Bronco treads between modern and classic design thanks to its heritage-influenced front end. Ford is hitting the aftermarket hard, offering a wide selection of factory parts to tailor the Bronco to the owner’s appetite. Like the Wrangler, the Bronco is equipped with removable doors and a sunroof.

When it’s time to get dirty, both rigs come prepared with available locking differentials, off-road tires, two-speed transfer cases, skid plates and more. Equipped with the Sasquatch package, the Bronco wears oversized tires and has more hardcore off-road equipment. Jeep responds with the Xtreme Recon package for its Rubicon and Willys Wranglers. It includes a raised ride height and more aggressive tires.

All in all, every SUV overcomes almost any obstacle thrown its way. The Bronco has a fresher look, but the Wrangler still has plenty of classic appeal.

Winner: Tie

FEATURES AND VALUE

The Bronco starts at $30,795 for a Base two-door hardtop and tops out at $50,970 for a Wildtrak four-door softtop. Jeep’s Sport two-door soft top Wrangler costs $30,665, but that figure swells to $75,990 for the Rubicon 392 four-door hardtop.

While their starting numbers seem competitive, standard features between the Bronco and Wrangler vary drastically. Ford loads the base Bronco with LED headlights, power windows, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, five drive modes, and forward collision mitigation. The Wrangler Sport is comparatively spartan, forgoing air conditioning, power windows, power door locks and smartphone integration.

Better standard equipment at a similar starting price gives the Bronco a stronger value.

Winner: Bronco

EDMUND SAYS:

The Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco have both earned reputations for their incredible off-road capabilities, although the new Bronco is a nicer on-road companion. Bronco confirms its dominance with its bigger dose of cool and stronger value proposition.

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This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds.

Miles Branman is a contributor at Edmunds. Follow Miles on Twitter at @milesperhr

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