The 2021 Ford Bronco officially began production this week, and the first batch of highly anticipated utility vehicles have begun shipping to dealers nationwide. But while the Bronco fairly and rightfully has been generating tons of hype over the past year (and years prior to its debut), the Jeep Wrangler has been confidently holding strong in the marketplace. Not sitting still, the Jeep team has debuted new variants of the JL Wrangler since the debut of the Bronco, including the 470 lb-ft Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid, and the Hemi V8-powered Wrangler 392. Both are on sale now, just as the battle between two American SUV icons is set to begin.
Recently, MC&T was able to catch up with some of the folks over at Jeep, and ask them a few questions about their obvious rival that everybody will be comparing the Wrangler against for years to come.
Jeep Wrangler VS Ford Bronco
“Looking at the USPs of Jeep Wrangler vs Ford Bronco… to me the biggest advantage for Wrangler is the solid front axle,” said Brandon Girmus, Jeep Gladiator and Wrangler product manager in an interview with MC&T. “At low speed rock crawling, you can’t beat it for articulation or durability.”
Another advantage to a live front axle, combined with a live rear axle, is the ease of adding a lift, and bigger tires, according to Grimus.
“When it comes to adaptability, the first thing that most Wrangler and Gladiator owners do is that they go out, get a two inch lift and put on 35s or 37s, or they swap Dana 60s and go up to 40s or 42s,” he said. “That’s much easier to do with a solid axle and much more difficult and more expensive with an independent suspension.”
Massive Aftermarket Support For Both
The Jeep Wrangler, as well as the Jeep Gladiator, also benefit from decades of continued customer and aftermarket growth and support.
“If you look at some of the other non-product things, like the Jeep Wrangler community,” said Grimus. “It’s absolutely amazing, it’s huge nationwide, and they support everything from Easter Moab Jeep Safari to Jeep Beach. There’s a huge, huge network of clubs and forums and social media. I see that as an advantage as well.”
“You go to SEMA every year in Las Vegas and you see tons and tons and tons of Wranglers, and thousands of companies nationwide that are building accessories for the Wrangler, whether it’s mirrors, or axles, or wheels or lift kits… it’s going to be that much easier to customize, and have that many more options for your vehicle,” the Jeep product manager concluded.
The Ford Bronco community, meanwhile, is seeing a revival, while exciting programs such as the Off-Roadeo taking place in select areas nationwide give new Bronco customers a outlet to experience their vehicles to the fullest, and connect with other customers out of the gate. Ford has also gone to significant lengths to demonstrate the aftermarket potential of the Bronco, showing off various builds from high-end makes such as RTR Vehicles, and ARB 4×4 Accessories during the Moab Easter Safari; sacred ground for Jeepers, no less.
Ford Bronco Targets Jeep Wrangler Architecture
Ford Bronco engineers and marketers have spent the past year showcasing and explaining of what they consider to be the various advantages of what’s shaped to be the chief rival of the Jeep Wrangler: a deliberately modular, body-on-frame, midsize American SUV that will specialize in off-road adventuring. Some examples can be seen in the fact that removing the roof on the new Ford Bronco isn’t really a two-person job like it is with the Jeep Wrangler. And while durability, low speed obstacles, and suspension lifts make a live axle the perfect solution, its tradeoffs tend to be on-road ride and comfort, and some compromise at higher speeds off-road compared to IFS.
“For (independent front suspension) we make (the Bronco’s) manners much better on-road,” said Bronco Chief Engineer Eric Loeffler in a previous interview with MC&T. “Therefore we get the best of both worlds… in Bronco we’ve been able to balance the performance, especially at higher speeds where our competitors don’t. And yet on-road the vehicle is just so much more enjoyable to drive.”
“There’s a fundamental architectural tradeoff between a live axle and IFS,” said Global Program Manager Jeff Seaman back in August 2020. “It reminds me of the Mustang analogy between solid rears and IRS. It’s like living that over again.”
There’s also the whole thing about the A-pillar mounted mirrors, providing rear visibility while the doors are removed, while the Jeep Wrangler has to be fitted with a Mopar accessory or aftermarket solution to have doorless mirrors.
Which Ford Bronco vs Jeep Wrangler solution will the market decide is best? With the 2021 Ford Bronco just beginning production and getting into the hands of customers nationwide, we’re bound to know soon enough.