For years, rumors ran wild that Ford would reintroduce the classic Bronco, but Ford fans grew tired of waiting after hearing nothing but crickets from the dealer. Fortunately, that changed in mid-2020 when Ford revealed the new 2021 Ford Bronco. This ignited an epic battle in the off-road vehicle market pitting the 2021 Ford Bronco vs 2020 Jeep Wrangler. But which vehicle takes the lead?
While the Ford Bronco has yet to hit the road, the competition is fierce, with many arguing that the Bronco will outshine the classic Jeep Wrangler. Testing is still underway, so the final verdict remains unclear. For now, let’s compare the specs and features to predict how they’ll likely fare against one another in this epic battle for the title of “the best off-road warrior on wheels.”
The Basics: Design and Open-Air Driving
Inspired by the first-generation Bronco, the 2021 Ford Bronco is a nod to the past and present with its boxy design, bold fender flares, and round headlights. The 2020 Jeep Wrangler shares a similar retro style and mirrors the World War II Willys Jeep with its boxy design, flat front fenders, and round headlights. Another similarity is that both the Bronco and Wrangler offer two-door and four-door options, but for this article, we’ll only focus on the two-door models.
A well-known symbol of adventure, the Wrangler is known for its adaptability and open-air driving, but the Bronco is in a position to steal the Wrangler’s thunder. The 2020 Jeep Wrangler comes standard with a soft top, but a removable hardtop is available. Transitioning the Wrangler from its standard setup to open-air driving can be challenging and gives the Bronco an advantage thanks to its streamlined window and door panels, which can be stored in the provided protective bags. But that’s not the only advantage the Bronco has over the Wrangler!
For hardtop models, removing the Wrangler’s roof requires two people, which isn’t the case with the Bronco. Converting the Bronco into open-air driving is nearly hassle-free thanks to Ford’s innovative design. The two-door models feature a modular roof with three-to-four panels. The rear quarter windows can also be removed without removing the roof, which isn’t an option for Wranglers. Further, the Bronco has its side mirrors mounted to the body so that you don’t lose them when you remove the doors.
2021 Bronco Trim Packages
With all eyes on the Bronco, Ford didn’t disappoint with seven trim levels beginning with the Base model that starts at $28,500 and comes standard with a 2.3-liter turbo engine, four-wheel drive, and a seven-speed automatic transmission. The Big Bend follows with a $33,385 starting MSRP, upgraded 17-inch aluminum wheels, 32-inch tires, and LED fog lights. Next up is the Black Diamond that’s designed with adventurous off-roaders in mind thanks to its vinyl seats and floor, which make it easy to clean after even the muddiest adventure. The Black Diamond starts at $36,050 and includes all-terrain tires, a heavy-duty front bumper, steel rear bumper, rock rails, and underbody bash plates.
Ford knew that not every Bronco enthusiast would want to off-road, which is why they introduced the Outer Banks model. Starting at $38,955, the Outer Banks features heated front seats, LED headlights and taillights, and body accents. From there, Bronco introduced the Badlands model, which is designed to go toe-to-toe with the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. The Badlands starts at $42,095 and features 33-inch tires, an enhanced off-road suspension system, and a front swaybar disconnect designed for the extreme off-roader.
The last two trim packages are the Wildtrak, which starts at $48,875 and combines high speeds with off-roading. Known as a desert runner, the Wildtrak features the more powerful 2.7-liter engine and Sasquatch Package standard. Last, but certainly not least, is the Bronco First Edition that was priced at $59,305 and offered every imaginable feature from the Sasquatch package to advanced four-wheel drive and a 360-degree camera. But with a limited run of only 3,500, reservations for the First Edition were filled within hours.
2020 Jeep Wrangler Trims
The 2020 Jeep Wrangler maintains its presence in the off-road game with eight different trims and special editions. The standard two-door trims include the Sport, Willys Sport, Sport S, and Rubicon. The special editions for 2020 include the Black and Tan, Freedom, Willys, and Rubicon Recon.
The standard engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that can be paired with a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2020 Wranglers all come with four-wheel drive, but, from there, the features change with each model. Wrangler owners especially love this because it allows for full customization.
The most important trim to keep in mind is the Rubicon, which offers the maximum off-road capabilities available in the Wrangler. The features of this trim include a dual-speed transfer case, locking front and rear differentials, a swaybar disconnect, and additional skid plates. However, unlike the Bronco with its Sasquatch Package, Jeep only makes these features available on the more expensive Rubicon trim.
As for pricing, the Wrangler doesn’t come cheap, but it tends to hold its value. The 2020 Wrangler Sport starts at $28,295, while the off-road Rubicon begins at $38,695. Special edition models come with heftier price tags but plenty of amenities and upgrades. The Willys Sport starts at $29,995, and the top of the line Rubicon Recon comes in at $43,450.
Performance and Off-Roading Capabilities
With both the 2020 Jeep Wrangler and the 2021 Ford Bronco designed to be taken off-road, performance is a key component. The standard engine for the Wrangler is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that produces 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Jeep offers an upgrade to a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine with 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. New for 2020 is another option that has off-roaders going wild – a 3.0-liter turbo diesel engine producing 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque.
Ford answered the call for a beefier off-road capable vehicle with the 2021 Bronco. The base engine is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo that produces 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The 2.7-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 engine offers a nice upgrade and produces 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, making it the most capable all-around engine available between these two vehicles.
So, what does this mean for off-roading? While most of the 2020 Jeep Wranglers can be customized for off-roading, you really need to upgrade to the Rubicon trim for adventuring off the beaten path. But even then, the 2021 Ford Bronco is set to outshine the 2020 Wrangler (even the Rubicon), and here’s why. The Bronco is designed for even the novice off-roader in mind thanks to its impressive technology like the G.O.A.T. mode traction management system, Trail One Pedal Driving, and Trail Turn Assist. While the Wrangler remains a solid choice, the Bronco is a true 21st-century off-roader.
The Battle Continues
The battle for the best off-road warrior on wheels continues between the 2020 Jeep Wrangler and the 2021 Ford Bronco. Looking at the specs, features, and trim options give the Bronco a definite advantage, especially when you consider the novelty of its highly anticipated release. Of course, die-hard Wrangler fans might argue otherwise, but, for now, it’ll be a fun match to witness as the Bronco and Wrangler go head-to-head.