- 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?
For years, the Jeep Wrangler has reigned supreme in the off-road segment by providing highly capable SUVs with all the bells and whistles. When the Wrangler leaves the pavement, it has four-wheel drive, locking differentials, detaching sway bars, and remarkable approach and departure angles, to name a few features. The Ford Bronco, on the other hand, has recently been rescued from oblivion, and it has a beef with the Jeep Wrangler.
1. Off-Road Capability
After a decades-long absence, the Ford Bronco, an off-road-focused SUV, was revived in 2021. It comes in two- and four-door versions, with a soft-top convertible layout or a removable hard-top, to compete with the Jeep Wrangler. The Bronco, like the Wrangler, comes standard with four-wheel drive. And, like the Wrangler, it comes with a forward-facing camera, a detachable stabiliser bar, and knobby off-road tyres. There are just slight changes in their standard and available equipment.
Both of these vehicles are quite capable, but the Wrangler wins out in the dirt in our tests. It accomplishes this by providing greater articulation and simplicity of use in the dirt. The Bronco handled all of the same obstacles as the Wrangler, but the 35-inch tyres on our First Edition test vehicle limited wheel articulation, which the Wrangler has traditionally dominated thanks to 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 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.
2. On-Road Comfort
This is the game where the Bronco comes out on top. It all starts with the ride quality, which falls short of luxury-SUV isolation but is far more polished and composed than the bouncing Jeep. On the inside, they’re also loud, though from different sources: the Bronco’s removable hard top generates a lot of wind noise, whereas the Wrangler lets more road noise in from below.
The steering is the big differentiator. The Bronco has a stable, easy-to-control steering system. With its outmoded recirculating-ball steering system and solid front axle, the Wrangler is far less gentle. The steering wheel of the Wrangler is extremely light and difficult to centre, making it more difficult to aim the vehicle as you travel down the interstate. The Bronco is also wider and longer, which gives it better handling characteristics and a serious advantage as a daily driver.
3. 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.
At Edmunds, they 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.
Read More: 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor Starts under $70,000