March 13, 2020 – A quarter-century after production on its last incarnation was discontinued, the Ford Bronco is set to come riding back into the SUV landscape in 2021. But while fans of the Ford brand are already saddling up for the sixth generation Bronco to knock the Jeep Wrangler off of the market’s top spot, the truth is that they can buck off.
The Ford Bronco vs. Jeep Wrangler is set to be the big battle for the compact SUV market in 2021. Without a doubt, the resurgence of the Bronco is Ford directly coming for Jeep’s brand — with off-roading friendliness, removable top options, and all. But will this model be able to compete with Jeep?
Here’s all we know about the 2021 Bronco and why – like its NFL namesake in recent years – it won’t be winning the biggest prize anytime soon.
Is The Bronco Already Outdated?
The Rolling Stones. Most rebooted television shows. Your ex. They’re all things that were great in their heyday but are probably best left in the past. It’s been 25 years since the Ford Bronco was discontinued, and a further 30 years since it was first launched.
There was a reason that Ford put their compact SUV out of its misery back in 1996, and perhaps its best left as a memory.
Admittedly, the sixth generation will be vastly different from its predecessor thanks to the advancements in technology, design, and performance. Still, the prospect of the new Bronco release was first teased back in 2017 at the Detroit Motor Show. While the manufacturer has been tight-lipped on the details, doubters would suggest that some aspects could be outdated before it even hits the market.
Conversely, the Jeep Wrangler is a powerhouse that has simply got better and better. The current JL version continues to lead the market, securing universal applause across the Sport, Rubicon, MOAB, Shara, and Altitude trims.
While it’s a little premature to rule the Bronco out completely, Ford has a lot of ground to make up. And if it falls short in any aspect, the war between the Ford Bronco vs. Jeep Wrangler will be over before it begins as the former will be destined for the same fate as the Toyota FJ Cruiser…and the Nissan Xterra… and the Toyota 4Runner… you get the idea.
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The Bronco & Fuel Efficiency: A Somewhat Mixed Message
Broncos are by their very definition meant to be synonymous with untamed power. However, Ford has already confirmed its commitment to creating fuel-efficient vehicles. Honestly, we’re not sure if it’s oxymoronic or just moronic.
Nothing has been confirmed regarding the engine choices attached to the Bronco, but speculation suggests that under the hood could borrow attributes from the Ranger and F-150. This could mean 3.0L Power Stroke diesel engine, 3.2-liter Power Stroke I5 diesel engine, 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, a 2.0-liter EcoBoost I4, and a 2.3-liter, turbocharged inline-four.
While it would be an impressive showcase, the Wrangler already boasts a 3.0 EcoDiesel V6 engine capable of 260 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque. The reborn Ford Bronco could potentially match the power of the Wrangler, but surpassing it is probably about as likely as Loyd Christmas winning Mary Swanson’s heart.
Think that movie reference should have stayed in the mid-1990s? Well, maybe the Bronco – you can finish that punchline yourselves.
RUMOUR HAS IT: WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE ENGINE OPTIONS
We have yet to get confirmation about the 2021 Ford Bronco’s engine choices, but it’s safe to expect the options to be similar to that of the Range and F-150.
Historically speaking, Ford has always offered a wide array of engine options, and nothing has led us to believe that the 2021 Bronco will be an exception. There has been no confirmation of a diesel option either, but since the 2018 Ford F-150 has come out with a 3.0L Power Stroke diesel engine, we have reason to believe that we just might get a diesel Bronco.
There have been rumors circulating that the Bronco’s engine options may include a 3.2-liter Power Stroke I5 diesel engine, 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, and a 2.0-liter EcoBoost I4.
Back in 2018, Ford released a press release that they would be focusing on creating a model with fuel-efficiency and hybrid technology — chances are, the Bronco will reflect this.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
While the Bronco used to be a compact SUV, it has matured into a mid-size SUV for 2021. Once again, it seems a little at odds with the greener driving manifesto. Size matters (sorry fellas but, when dealing with SUVs, bigger doesn’t necessarily equate to better.
The features are probably more significant here, and the Ford Bronco will offer a range of attributes that could genuinely boost its popularity. A removable top, the option of a two-door model, removable doors, solid front and rear axles, manual transmission, and off-roading capabilities are among the most attractive proposals. Meanwhile, the Sync 4 infotainment system is widely expected to feature.
All of those features are impressive enough, but they don’t stand the Ford Bronco out from the crowd. At least not in comparison to the Wrangler.
Is an avid fan of the Wrangler likely to trade-in and get a Ford Bronco based on those features? Probably not. Similarly, anyone that’s still driving a Bronco from the 90s will probably stay loyal to their much-loved vehicle.
And there lies the problem. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Ford Bronco 2021. In fact, the early suggestions are that it will be a real challenger to the Wrangler. Sadly, it will fail to deliver the knockout blow.
Off-roading is an essential part of the Jeep lifestyle that the Ford Bronco is looking to interject itself in — which is a pretty ambitious and potentially damaging undertaking. After all, wheeling is a hobby dominated by those who have been in the Jeep community for years and maybe skeptical about changing brands.
Bronco is making strong efforts to be a name in the off-roading world. Few details have been released, but it has been revealed that Ford will be creating four off-road schools with off-road adventure programs for owners of new Broncos.
THE EXPECTED COSTS: WORTH THE PRICE?
The price tag of the 2021 Bronco has yet to be confirmed, but it’s fair to assume it will be neck and neck with the price of the JL Wrangler. Based on the price of a two-door Wrangler, the Bronco will likely go for a starting price of $27,495 for a two-door model.
The highest costing model, the JL Wrangler, starts at $37,495 for the two-door and $40,995 for the four-door model, with additional costs for upgrades. Based on this, we can probably expect the Bronco to have a price range between $28,000 – $50,000. This only makes sense considering that if it’s going to directly target Jeep’s market, it has to have competitive if not equal pricing.
THE COMPETITION: THE 2021 JEEP WRANGLER FACELIFT
What we do know is that, instead of waiting for the Ford Bronco to show up in its top hat and tails, Jeep has taken matters in their own hands. Jeep has plans to slightly update their 2021 Wrangler to better compete with the Bronco and it’s expected features.
Jeep hasn’t confirmed anything about the Wrangler’s upcoming updates, but allegedly the vamped Sport model will boast the Sahara’s Selec-Trac transfer case that will automatically shift from two-wheel to four-wheel drive when additional traction is needed.
At a high level, it looks like the updates will be based on powertrain and technology. This model will reportedly see the shift from an option Technology Group package to standard equipment. There’s also reason to believe that the model will get a 7-inch Uconnect infotainment screen that will get tire-fill alerts that will honk the horn when the correct tire pressure is achieved.
Additionally, word has it that the Rubicon models will also be getting an updated Rock-Trac setup with similar abilities to the Sahara in that it can automatically turn on four-wheel-drive when required.
The Wrangler already stacks up against the 2021 Ford Bronco, so the fact that Jeep is giving the whole Wrangler line-up a subtle facelift with some extra bells and whistles will likely help keep it atop the category, but only time will tell.
Can the Ford Bronco recapture its past glory and become a popular vehicle in the compact SUV arena? Probably. After all, the Michigan-based automotive giant has a legion of fans and older drivers may buy the Bronco for nostalgic reasons.
With everything said and done, Jeep lovers are loyal and unlikely to switch teams. Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader.com, said in a succinct and accurate statement that “Jeep has been capitalizing on their heritage for decades, and not in name only. Jeep has proven that a genuinely capable adventure/utility vehicle with a nod to the past is what many people want.”
Even with nostalgia in its favor, the Bronco needs to promise that and more if it really wants to be a winner. In the end, if it’s really a battle between the Wrangler and the Bronco, (in our bias opinion) the Wrangler will always succeed.
Image credit to fullsizebronco.com