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Bronco vs. Wrangler: A Battle for Off-Road Supremacy

Bronco vs. Wrangler: A Battle for Off-Road Supremacy

The Ford Bronco aims to de-throne the Jeep Wrangler as the off-road SUV king, but that's no small task

  • Off-roading in the Wrangler is exceedingly easy and fun
  • The First Edition Bronco is more refined on-road but still extremely capable
  • Which SUV makes more sense as a daily driver?

The Jeep Wrangler has maintained its supremacy in the off-road space for years by offering highly capable SUVs with all the kit you could want. Four-wheel drive, locking differentials, disconnecting sway bars and impressive approach and departure angles are just a few of the things that make the Wrangler so special when it leaves the pavement. The Ford Bronco was recently resurrected from obscurity though, and it's got a bone to pick with the Wrangler.

Off-Road Capability

The Ford Bronco, an off-road-focused SUV, was reintroduced in 2021 after a decades-long absence. To compete with the Jeep Wrangler, it is offered in two- and four-door configurations with a soft-top convertible setup or with a removable hard-top. The Bronco comes standard with four-wheel drive, just like the Wrangler. And, like the Wrangler, it offers all sorts of off-roading equipment like a forward-facing camera, a disconnecting stabilizer bar and knobby off-road tires. The differences in their standard and available equipment are minor.

2022 Jeep Wrangler 4xe

2022 Jeep Wrangler 4xe

Both of these vehicles are extremely capable, but in our testing, the Wrangler edges it out in the dirt. It does so by offering superior articulation and ease of operation in the dirt. The Bronco was able to tackle all the same obstacles as the Wrangler, but the 35-inch tires on our First Edition test vehicle limited wheel articulation, a category the Wrangler has traditionally ruled with its solid front axle (the Bronco has a modern independent front suspension that Ford claims is fully competitive with the Jeep's old-school setup). The Bronco's longer wheelbase also made for a tougher slog up some steep, rutted hills. The Bronco performed admirably in a high-speed test across desert whoops, but we figure that's an off-road scenario that drivers are less likely to encounter on a regular basis, so it doesn't hold as much weight.

Bronco vs. Wrangler

Bronco vs. Wrangler

On-Road Comfort

This is where the Bronco wins outright. It starts with ride quality, where the Bronco falls well short of luxury-SUV isolation but is significantly more refined and composed than the bouncy Jeep. They're both loud on the inside, though from different sources — the Bronco has significant wind noise generated by the removable hard top while the Wrangler allows more road noise in from underneath.

The real difference-maker is the steering. The Bronco has steady, easily controllable steering. The Wrangler, with its dated recirculating-ball steering setup and that solid front axle, is way less docile. The Wrangler's steering wheel feels ultra-light and hard to center, making the vehicle more difficult to aim as you drive down the highway. The Bronco is also wider and longer, which gives it better handling characteristics and a serious advantage as a daily driver.

Bronco vs. Wrangler

Bronco vs. Wrangler

The X-Factors

So what else is there besides off-road capability and off-road comfort? What could tip the scales in one vehicle's favor? Well, there are a few things worth considering. Currently, the Ford Bronco is only available with two engines (at least until the Bronco Raptor is officially available): a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder and a turbocharged 2.7-liter V6. Both engines have plenty of power but fuel economy estimates are middling, ranging from 17 mpg combined to 20 mpg combined at best.

The Wrangler however, offers five different engines: a 6.4-liter V8, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, a 3.6-liter V6, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel and a plug-in hybrid that pairs electric batteries with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. That's an astonishing range of choice and the EPA estimates are as high as 25 mpg combined. Sure, the V8 Wrangler is rated at an abysmal 14 mpg combined, but most Wrangler models fall between 19 and 23 mpg combined, which counts as a better showing.

But the Ford delivers the final blow when you compare interior quality. While we like the Jeep's interior, it obviously values function over form. The Bronco provides a substantially nicer interior with a much larger infotainment screen and a full suite of high-tech features. It has marginally more comfortable seats, a bit more cargo space behind the second row, and it simply feels more modern. As a result, the Bronco comes out on top.

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

Edmunds Says

At Edmunds, we score vehicles on every aspect of the experience, from acceleration and braking to fuel economy and cost of ownership. With the Bronco and the Wrangler, the scores are very close in almost every category. It's a close battle with these two, going back and forth on the tiniest of capability, cargo and cost considerations. But when you add it all up, the Ford Bronco comes out on top. The Wrangler is still an excellent choice, and depending on your needs, it might be the perfect SUV for you. But the Bronco's more comfortable and more modern driving experience give it the win.