The Toyota FJ Cruiser couldn't topple the Jeep Wrangler. The Nissan Xterra, Toyota 4Runner, and countless others have all ultimately fallen flat in the face of the Jeep Wrangler. But will Ford’s revival of the Bronco be able to finally take down the Wrangler once and for all? As the only true open-air off-roader on the market, the Jeep Wrangler has been able to maintain its supremacy over the rest of the segment. However, Ford’s looking to shake things up and create some competition with the upcoming release of the 2021 Bronco.
For over two decades, the Bronco has been out of production but still remains popular within the off-roading community. Jeep released the redesigned fourth-generation JL Wrangler in 2018 and has released the Jeep Gladiator recently. The Gladiator has been a worthy adversary for Ford's midsize Ranger. Just as Jeep is bringing back their pickup due to the growth of the midsize truck segment, Ford is bringing back the once-loved Bronco to compete against the Wrangler. While Ford has a tough battle to win, it’s possible that the Bronco and Wrangler might just be a match made in heaven.
2021 Ford Bronco Rendering
2018 JL Wrangler
2021 Bronco vs JL Wrangler: Engine Options
One thing that was really exciting when Jeep revealed the 2018 JL Wrangler was the additional engine options. The 3.6L Pentastar V6 was the only available engine for over five years. While the tried-and-true engine is still a fan favorite, Jeep introduced a few more engines into the mix. The 3.6L Pentastar engine was updated for enhanced performance, still producing 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque but now boasting 17 city and 23 highway miles per gallon. For the first time ever, Jeep offered a hybrid engine option for the JL Wrangler — a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Producing 270 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, the turbocharged engine delivers both power and efficiency. While the 3.6L Pentastar V6 is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic transmission, the 2.0L turbo is only available with the eight-speed auto.
When the JL Wrangler was first released, Jeep touted that a 3.0 EcoDiesel V6 engine will be available in 2019. Capable of putting out 260 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque, the diesel would certainly give the JL Wrangler a bit more towing power with the added torque. In addition to the hybrid and diesel engines, a full plug-in electric JL Wrangler is expected to be released in 2020.
In comparison to Jeep, Ford has always been great about offering several different engine options. The 2021 Bronco will likely be no exception. Will it have a diesel option? Nothing has been confirmed thus far but as the 2018 Ford F-150 now offers a 3.0L Power Stroke diesel engine, there is some potential for a diesel Bronco. Rumored possible engines include a 3.2-liter Power Stroke I5 diesel engine, 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, and a 2.0-liter EcoBoost I4. Ford also mentioned in a March 2018 press release that they are focusing hard on hybrid technology and creating fuel-efficient vehicles, the Bronco included.
2021 Ford Bronco Rendering
2018 JL Wrangler
Thanks to Bronco6G for the sweet 2021 Bronco rendering and user “Schmeegz” from JL Wrangler Forums for sharing this awesome photo of their Ocean Blue JL Wrangler!
2021 Bronco Features: What to Expect
There are a few things that the Bronco will need to have in order to compete directly with the JL Wrangler. Although the 2021 Bronco features haven’t been confirmed yet, here’s what to expect:
- Removable top: If the Bronco wants to compete with the only open-air off-roading SUV on the market, it’s going to have to have a removable top just like the original. The Bronco may feature a removable roof with panels, dubbed the “Air Roof”. Since the Wrangler has both a soft top as well as a hardtop, it’d be nice to see the same options with the Bronco. If the Bronco does receive removable roof panels, it will probably be pretty similar to the hardtop on the JL Wrangler that features three removable panels. A removable top is definitely a necessity if the Bronco wants to stay in the same league as the Wrangler.
- Two-door model: Although the four-door Wrangler outsells the two-door Jeep, would it really be a Bronco without a two-door option? Of course, a four-door model will be the more practical choice for most, but those true Bronco fans and avid off-roaders are going to want that two-door model with a shorter wheelbase. When news of the 2021 Ford Bronco first came out, it was said there would only be a four-door model. However, when Ford released the first official photo, the Bronco underneath the tarp clearly appears to be a two-door.
- Solid axles: One of the main features of the JL Wrangler that makes it so off-road capable straight from the lot is the solid axles. The JL Wrangler features 3rd Generation Dana solid front and rear axles, which are extremely durable for off-roading. As the 2019 Ford Ranger will be sporting Dana axles, the Bronco will more than likely also be getting them too. Dana previously mentioned that the Bronco will be receiving driveline components from the company, but it’s unclear whether those will be solid axles yet or not. If the Bronco was to keep up with the Wrangler on the trail, solid front and rear axles will certainly make a difference.
- Manual transmission: Ford’s done away with the manual transmission for the F-150, even for the F-150 Raptor. The JL Wrangler does still offer a six-speed manual transmission with the 3.6L Pentastar engine. For purists and true off-road enthusiasts, manual is the only way to go. Although automatics have come a long way and are still good off-road, manual is much easier to fix if something goes wrong on the trail. If the Bronco doesn’t offer a manual transmission while the Wrangler does, that could be a downside for Ford.
- Off-roading model: As the Rubicon is the JL Wrangler’s most capable off-road model, featuring locking differentials, an upgraded gear ratio, and beefier axles, the Bronco will need to offer something similar. Will Ford create a Bronco Raptor edition? There’s no doubt a Raptor version of the Bronco would be a beast. It may even be able to outscore the JL Wrangler Rubicon on the trail.
How Much Will The 2021 Bronco Cost?
Although the numbers haven’t been released yet, the 2021 Bronco will probably be comparable in cost to the JL Wrangler. The starting MSRP for the JL Wrangler is $27,495 for a two-door model, so we can guess that the Bronco will have a similar starting price. For the most expensive model, the JL Wrangler Rubicon, the starting price is $37,495 for the two-door and $40,995 for the four-door model. With upgrades, the cost can be significantly higher. That puts the estimated price range for the Bronco around $28,000 - $50,000.
Just as Jeep has maintained a sense of nostalgia over the years by incorporating some of the classic styling into the newer generation models, Ford will have to do the same in order to successfully revive the Bronco. If Ford takes the popular vintage Bronco and modernizes it, it could be a raging success. The connection between the old model and the new model will be key in determining the future of the Bronco. Will the Jeep Wrangler finally meet its match with the new and improved Bronco? Only time will tell.
Sources: Ford, Bronco6G | Image Credit: Ford, Motor Trend, Road & Track, Bronco6G, JL Wrangler Forums
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