- in case you've been under a rock, the all-new 2021 ford bronco is here.
- though the bronco spec panels leave a few voids, we know now the hard basics about ford's highly anticipated off-roader.
- naturally, we scanned the bronco technical specifications and compared the data with its innate and long uncontested competitor, the jeep wrangler.
forget about these so-called truck wars. the toledo war is about to pop off again. you've never heard of the territorial dispute in 1835 between the bordering states of michigan and ohio? that's okay, neither had we. but now that the new ford bronco is here, the michigan-built off-roader is set to encroach on the ohio-built jeep wrangler and its well-earned seat on the off-road throne. it'll be some time before we can settle this score on the battlefield, so here's how the two stack up on paper.
both off-roaders are available with a turbocharged inline-four or a v-6, but which engine is offered as standard fare sets them apart. the jeep wrangler's base engine sings a familiar tune, the ubiquitous pentastar 3.6-liter v-6 with 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. in the bronco, ford fits a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four projected to make 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, or identical to that of the ford ranger.
if you select the optional engines, the tables are turned. in the bronco, the four lowest trims—you can read about all seven here—a twin-turbo 2.7-liter v-6 projected to make 310 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque can be optioned but comes standard in the top three trims. the wrangler's optional turbo 2.0-liter four goes backward in horsepower, producing 270 ponies but generates more torque at 295 lb-ft. the wrangler, however, has another trick up its sleeve: a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel with abundant bottom-end grunt, churning out just 260 horsepower but 442 lb-ft of torque. jeep just teased a wrangler packing a 6.4-liter v-8, which will make all these aforementioned engines tuck their tails.
yes, you've heard right, the bronco can be had with a seven-speed manual. but like wrangler, the do-it-yourself gearbox can only be had with the base engine, which in this case is the turbo-four. all 2.7-liter powered broncos get the 10-speed automatic, which can also be optioned on the base engine. jeep's available eight-speed is wonderful, but ford has improved its double-digit gearbox since its debut.
the axles find common ground with both the bronco and wrangler, using dana-supplied units in the front and rear. dependent of trim, both are available with electronic locking differentials at both ends. the bronco has four available final-drive ratios. the manual gets a 4.46:1 ratio, except the badlands model, which uses 4.70:1 gearing. with the automatic you get an additional two ratios: a 3:73.1 in the base, big bend, and outer banks models, the latter two having optional 4.27:1 gears. the black diamond and badlands equipped with the 10-speed use 4:46:1 ratios, while all sasquatch package–equipped broncos get shorter 4:70:1 gears.
the wrangler comes standard with 3.45:1 gears, while the off-road supreme wrangler rubicon gets a 4:10.1 ratio. the diesel-backed jeeps utilize 3.73:1 gearing. one noticeably absent piece of hardware on the bronco's spec sheet is a limited-slip differential, which can be optioned to wranglers not equipped with the locking differentials.
the bronco offers two transfer cases to the wrangler's three. the bronco's standard torque router is a shift-on-the-fly unit with a 2.72:1 low-range gear. available optionally on all broncos is an electromechanical transfer case that enables 4auto, or the ability to leave it in four-wheel drive without the threat of the axles binding on the asphalt. the optional transfer case has a 3.06:1 low-range gear, and paired with manual transmission it offers a 94.8:1 crawl ratio. sadly, there isn't a floor-mounted lever to control the transfer case as all functions are controlled with a dial.
the wrangler's transfer cases are similar; part-time units in the sport and sahara carry a 2:72.1 low-range gear, while the beefier unit in the rubicon receives 4.00:1 gear for better creeping. like the bronco's optional unit, the wrangler sahara is available with full-time all-wheel drive and the same low range as the rubicon.
both the bronco and the wrangler locate the live axles in the rear with trailing arms and a panhard rod. the bronco uses coil-over dampers to the jeep's separate coil spring and damper configuration. get your pitchforks: ford didn't give the bronco a live axle in the front. instead, unequal-length control arms are the foundation of the independent front suspension. while the lack of a live axle might rile the masses, the independent front setup will pay dividends for on-road drivability. in their most hard-core forms, both the bronco and the jeep come with a front anti-roll bar disconnect. the wrangler uses an electronic actuator to the bronco's hydraulically controlled bar that can operate under load. we'll be sure to follow up with more detail regarding the bronco's operation.
when equipped with the sasquatch package, bilstein dampers with piggyback reservoirs are fitted at all four corners. at the time of this writing, jeep doesn't offer an advanced shock package that rivals this; however, we suspect the fox suspension package available on the gladiator mojave will find its way to the wrangler.
wheels and tires
how do you want it? the bronco offers three wheel sizes, three overall diameters, and five tire models from four different manufacturers. here's the breakdown.
- base: bridgestone dueler h/t 685, 255/70r-16
- big bend: bridgestone dueler a/t rh-s, 255/75r-17
- outer banks: bridgestone dueler a/t rh-s, 255/70r-18
- black diamond: general grabber a/tx, 265/70r-17
- badlands: bfgoodrich all-terrain ta ko2, 285/70r-17
- badlands (optional): goodyear wrangler territory mt, 285/70r-17
- wildtrak, first edition, sasquatch: goodyear wrangler territory mt, lt315/70r-17
jeep offers a similar range of tires from five different manufacturers, including an optional mud-terrain on the rubicon, but none match the meaty 35-inch rubber supplied in the sasquatch package.
the two-door bronco's wheelbase is a touch stretched compared to the wrangler's 96.8 inches, measuring 100.4 inches. with two additional doors, the wrangler's wheelbase measures longer: 118.4 inches compared to the bronco's 116.1. the bronco, in wildtrak and badlands guise, measures a staggering 79.3 inches wide, 5.5 inches more than the wrangler. with the sasquatch package, the bronco is also taller, and no matter how you spec it, is longer, too.
for all the rock bouncers out there, these are the dimensions that matter. when head to head with a vertical obstacle, the approach angle determines clearance before the bash plates are needed. the bronco falls short of the wrangler in this measurement. the base two-door's maximum angle is 35.5 degrees to the wrangler's 41.4 degrees. even in the most extreme trims, the two-door sasquatch's 43.2 degrees can't match the rubicon's 44.0.
next up is the breakover angle, or the maximum angle a vehicle can drive over an apex without anything within the wheelbase scraping. here, it's a wash. in base form, the longer-wheelbase two-door bronco's 21.1 degrees is handily beat by the wrangler's 25.0 degrees. in the base four-doors, the wrangler's 20.3 degrees barely nudges the bronco's 20.0 degrees. all kitted out, the two-door bronco with 29.0 degrees gets the best of the wrangler, which measures 27.8 degrees. the victory carries on to the four-door models, the bronco packing 26.3 degrees to the wrangler's 22.6.
like the approach angle is the departure angle, or how much room there is before the rear bumper is left behind. in base form, the wrangler takes the prize, measuring 35.9 degrees (two-door) and 36.1 degrees (four-door) to the bronco's 29.8 and 29.7 degrees, respectively. but it's the sasquatch package that levels the playing field, measuring 37.2 degrees (two-door) and 37.0 (four-door) to the rubicon's 37.0 degrees for both door counts.
rocks, stumps, water crossings, and parking curbs are inevitable in a bronco's or wrangler's life span, so ground clearance matters. the base wrangler clearly has the two-door bronco beat, with an extra 1.3 inches of ground clearance at 9.7 inches. but again, those damn sasquatches pay off with 11.6 inches of ground clearance to the rubicon's 10.8 inches. the four-door broncos lose 0.1 inch to the two-door models, while the rubicons stay the same. when the going gets wet, the sasquatch stays drier. it's got 33.5 inches of water-fording ability, which is 3.5 inches more than the rubicon. we can only imagine how bad a wet sasquatch must stink.
both the wrangler and bronco are rated to tow up to 3500 pounds.
the two-door bronco starts at $29,995, just a few hundred more than a wrangler sport. ford asks $34,695 to get into the four-door bronco, $1405 more than the unlimited wrangler. and like the jeep, the bronco skyrockets in price with the uplevel trims and over 200 options on offer from ford.
the toledo war, by the way, resulted in ohio being awarded a parcel of land that's good for nothing. michigan, on the other hand, was awarded the upper peninsula and all the mining riches below the soil. maybe the battle has already been decided, because on paper ford looks to have struck it rich.