Off-road warriors only have to wait a few more months before they can get behind the wheel of the new 2021 Ford Bronco that’s set to put the iconic Jeep Wrangler to the test. After years of speculation, Ford put the rumors to rest in mid-2020 when they debuted the 2021 Bronco. With the First Edition model selling out within hours of the announcement, the battle was on between the 2021 Ford Bronco (4dr) vs 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
Which one will come out ahead as the best off-road warrior? Ford pulled out all the stops with every trim of the Bronco, offering both two and four-door options as well as a long list of features and upgrades. This automatically pitted the new Bronco against the Wrangler Unlimited, which is the closest to the Bronco in price, features, and upgrades. Let’s take a closer look at how they compare.
The Legend Returns: The 2021 Ford Bronco
The 2021 Bronco features the first-ever four-door models that Ford promises are “built wild” with “thrilling 4×4 capability” and over 200 factory-backed accessories for complete driver customization. This promise extends across the Bronco’s seven trims—Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak, and First Edition. Even the Base trim features standard four-wheel drive and can be outfitted with the Sasquatch package for the ultimate in off-road performance.
The Base is Ford’s entry-level “essential Bronco” with very few frills. The four-door model starts at $33,200 and comes standard with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, seven-speed manual transmission with crawler gear, and four-wheel drive with part-time selectable engagement. It also includes the Terrain Management System with 5 G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) Modes, carpeted floors, cloth seats, an 8-inch touchscreen display, 16-inch steel wheels, and 30-inch all-season tires.
The four-door Big Bend starts at $35,880 and offers the same powertrain as the Base. Upgrades include 6 G.O.A.T. Modes, 17-inch steel wheels, 32-inch all-terrain tires, LED fog lamps, carbonized grille, privacy glass, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob. The four-door Black Diamond starts at $38,545 and offers 7 G.O.A.T Modes, rock rails and bash plates, a heavy-duty front and rear bumper, interior auxiliary switches, marine-grade vinyl seats, and rubberized floors with drain plugs.
The Outer Banks adds luxury with a starting price of $41,450. This trim does not offer the 7-speed manual transmission, With 6 G.O.A.T. Modes and 18-inch black-painted aluminum wheels with 32-inch all-terrain tires, the Outer Banks is actually a small step backwards in off-road performance. However, it makes up for that in luxury with signature LED headlamps and taillamps, powder-coated tube steps, heated front seats, and color-matched exterior door handles, mirror caps, and fender flares.
The four-door Badlands starts at $44,590 and is a direct competitor to the fabled Wrangler Rubicon trim. The Badlands sports advanced four-wheel drive, 33-inch all-terrain tires, and 17-inch wheels. It also includes 7 G.O.A.T. Modes, heavy-duty front and rear bumpers, a unique suspension system with a front stabilizer bar disconnect, rubberized flooring, and marine-grade vinyl seats.
The four-door Wildtrak is also designed for off-road adventure, but it focuses on high-speed desert running rather than rock climbing and starts at $51,370. Part of the reason for that high price tag is because it comes standard with both the larger 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine and the Sasquatch Package. It also features 7 G.O.A.T. Modes, a modular hardtop, carpeted floors, heated front row seats, and a Wildtrak hood graphic.
The limited-edition First Edition trim has already sold out, but it started at $63,500. Within hours of the Bronco’s debut, reservations for the First Edition were full. The lucky few who snagged one of these models will enjoy the luxury of a 2.7-liter EcoBoost Engine and every upgrade available. Some of these upgrades include First Edition graphics, a unique interior, and leather-trimmed and heated front row seats.
An Icon of Adventure: The 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Like the Bronco, the 2020 Wrangler lineup features two-door and four-door options, the latter of which is known as the Unlimited. All models come standard with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine, four-wheel drive, and an optional six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. Beyond these standards, the features change with each model and allow drivers to customize their Wrangler.
The Sport is the base trim and starts at $31,795 with 17-inch wheels, a rear backup camera, cloth seats, and a black three-piece hard top. The 2020 Sport S starts at $34,995 and includes several roof options including a black or tan soft top or a three-piece hard top. Upgrade options for the S include LED headlamps and fog lamps, blind-spot monitoring, and a 7-inch touchscreen that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
The Sahara trim starts at $40,940 and sits on 18-inch polished wheels with a full-time all-wheel drive system that provides maximum traction. It also includes an optional 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation as well as an available Sky One-Touch power top that makes open-air driving available at the touch of a button. The next option is the Rubicon Unlimited, which starts at $42,440 and features a heavy-duty two-speed transfer case designed for rock-crawling and 33-inch all-terrain tires with high-clearance fender flares. The Rubicon also includes locking differentials to evenly distribute power and enhance traction as well as an electronic sway bar disconnect system that creates optimum suspension for off-roading.
The Showdown for Off-Road Warrior
Performance means everything in an off-road vehicle, and neither Ford nor Jeep disappoints with their powertrains. The 2020 Wrangler Unlimited comes standard with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that produces 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. There are two additional options for Jeep fans—a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine that produces 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque or a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine that produces 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque.
The 2021 Ford Bronco is designed with every type of off-road warrior in mind with its terrain management system and two powerful engine options. The Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, and Badlands edition come standard with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that produces 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The Wildtrak and First Edition come standard with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine capable of producing 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, which is also available as an option on the other trims. The Bronco’s 2.7-liter handily outperforms every engine available in the current Wrangler lineup, although Jeep has teased a possible V8 Wranger that would help even the score.
While the Bronco already has the edge with more power and superior transmission options, one major advantage the Bronco offers is its terrain management system with G.O.A.T. Modes. The system is designed to make off-roading easy for every skill level and features a variety of different modes. Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Sand are included on the Base trim, while the higher trims add Mud/Ruts, Rock Crawl, and Baja.
In terms of pricing and performance, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and the 2021 Ford Bronco four-door are similar in what they offer to off-road enthusiasts. However, the Bronco offers more capability across its trims and a terrain management system that eliminates the guesswork during any off-road adventure. And while it is not strictly required for off-road performance, the Bronco also offers far more infotainment technology, including a 12-inch touch screen. Who will come out ahead? Only time will tell.