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Available at Ford dealerships today, a red 2024 Ford Bronco Outer Banks is shown driving through a shallow pond.

Jeep Wrangler Struggles to Keep Up With Ford Bronco

For the 2024 model year, Jeep is giving its iconic Wrangler a makeover and updates for its tech systems—but is it enough to keep up with the competition? It is no secret that Ford came out swinging with the Bronco aimed squarely at the Wrangler and its legacy of off-road domination. It is also no secret that Ford won that battle in almost every conceivable way, landing their Bronco at Ford dealerships with bolder style, more features, and incredible off-road capability. Jeep largely controlled the serious off-road SUV market with the Wrangler because it was the only game in town, but Ford has broken that stranglehold.

Following the release of the Bronco, the big question was how Jeep would react to the gauntlet that had been so unceremoniously hurled toward it. Would Jeep go back to the basics and redesign the Wrangler to finally deliver the kinds of features modern drivers expect and deserve in an SUV and an off-road vehicle? Or would they rely on the name-brand recognition of the Wrangler and its iconic features in hopes that buyers would be swayed by emotion over reason? Now we have the answer, and it is (not surprisingly) underwhelming.

The Updated 2024 Jeep Wrangler

Let’s start by looking at the 2024 Jeep Wrangler and how they have improved it over the last couple of years when it looked incredibly dated compared to the Ford Bronco. The Wrangler still has numerous engines on offer—I would argue too many—to let drivers choose the kind of power they want/need. For starters, you have a 3.6L Pentastar V6 that offers 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, followed by an available 2.0L Turbo that delivers 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Jeep offers two unique versions, including the Wrangler 4xe with a plug-in hybrid engine that produces 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, and a Wrangler Rubicon 392 with 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque.

If you put those last two aside since they are offered with specific models, you are left with the first two options, which are decent but nothing special. They are paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic—again, that is fine but nothing remarkable. You can still get the Wrangler as either a two-door or four-door model, and it has all of the hallmark features, including a fold-down windshield, a removable top, and removable doors. The stylistic refresh on the Wrangler is excellent, and it looks as good as ever—I have never had an issue with its aesthetics—but Jeep missed the mark in some fundamental ways.

For example, Jeep still puts the side mirrors on the doors themselves rather than the frame, so removing the doors means removing the mirrors. Yes, you can get mirrors attached to the frame as an available option, but at this point, it is clearly a stubborn refusal to change rather than an oversight. Thankfully, the technology inside the Wrangler has received a massive upgrade for 2024, including a new 12.3-inch Infotainment display that is standard on all models. I cannot overstate how welcome or overdue this is; the updated Uconnect 5 system includes support for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with Wi-Fi hotspot functionality and a 7.0-inch Driver Information Digital Cluster.

A red 2024 Jeep Wrangler is shown fording a river.

The 2024 Ford Bronco

Clearly, Jeep has put some effort into this update for the Wrangler, but the one thing you will notice is that it is a “new” and “updated” model, not “all-new” or “redesigned.” This is not a new generation for the Wrangler, which is unfortunate because it could use some new and exciting features. Those two standard engines on the Wrangler are unimpressive next to the Bronco, which starts with a 2.3L EcoBoost Turbo engine with 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Ford also offers a 2.7L EcoBoost Turbo V6 with 330 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, far beyond what you will find on the Wrangler without choosing a plug-in hybrid or the Rubicon 392.

In terms of style, the Ford Bronco looks as good as ever and features a design that perfectly combines off-road ruggedness with SUV aesthetics. There are numerous models available, including both two-door and four-door options, plus you can open the Bronco up just as well as the Wrangler. Ford recognized one of the most significant faults of the Wrangler’s design and put the side mirrors on the frame, so you keep them even with the doors off. This is standard, not an extra option or aftermarket accessory—thanks, Ford.

As far as tech goes, the updated Wrangler wins out by a fraction of an inch; seriously, the Bronco has an available 12-inch Infotainment display that is 0.3 inches smaller than the one in the Wrangler. However, I like that Jeep made the 12.3-inch screen standard, which Ford could learn from. Ford’s off-road tech continues to be front and center with the Bronco: a High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (HOSS) system, which now has four different versions of it, and a Terrain Management System with numerous Goes Over Any Terrain (GOAT) Modes. Not to mention technology like the Trail Turn Assist, which tightens turning radius at low speeds, Ford Trail Control, which acts like cruise control while off-road, and Trail 1-Pedal Drive, which lets drivers focus on low-speed maneuvering.

Which Off-Road SUV Brings More to the Trail?

You can see that Jeep has made some clear improvements with the 2024 Wrangler—after all, just last year, a 7.0-inch Infotainment display was standard, with an 8.4-inch screen being the best available option. The exterior refresh is nice but not revolutionary; it looks good, but the Wrangler always looked good. From my perspective, the problem is that Jeep went with a mild refresh and update rather than developing an all-new generation for its off-road monster. For the record, I like the Wrangler—I’m a fan—which is why I think it deserved better than a refresh and should have been redesigned to answer Ford’s challenge.

Jeep has done well, but the Wrangler falls behind the Ford Bronco, especially for most drivers who are not about to pay about $90k for the Wrangler Rubicon 392. The off-road performance of the Bronco is superb, with an approach angle of 43.2 degrees and a departure angle of 37.2 degrees, not to mention up to 11.7 inches of ground clearance and more than 36 inches of water fording capability on offer. Ford knows it, too, because they put this stuff right up front, along with the Bronco’s impressive suspension and GOAT Modes. The message is clear: the Bronco is meant for the trail and ready for adventure, while the Wrangler continues to live up to its reputation as the ultimate mall crawler.

A rear view of a red 2024 Ford Bronco parked in a desert canyon.

What Can Jeep Do to Reclaim Its Top Position?

As far as I’m concerned, Jeep needs to do one thing: redesign the Wrangler for an all-new generation with off-roading as the explicit goal. They must build a vehicle for adventure and the road less—no, not less, but never traveled! Ford made their challenge clear with the Bronco, and so far, Jeep’s response has been pretty mild; the 4xe is impressive, and the performance of the Rubicon 392 is unarguably beastly, but that is still putting non-off-road features and capability at the forefront. If that is what they want the Wrangler to be, then that is fine, but Jeep already has several great SUVs for getting around town and running errands; the Wrangler is supposed to be the off-road beast. Until Jeep gets back to basics with that, the Ford Bronco will continue to outclass and outperform the Wrangler.

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