2021 Ford Bronco

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2021 Ford Bronco Test Drive Review: Jeep's Worst Nightmare

Once a dominant staple in the sport utility segment, the Ford Bronco has been gone from the market since 1996. The Bronco came in many shapes and sizes during its 31-year, five-generation run, but the new Bronco, now in its sixth generation, returns with a clear purpose; dethrone the Jeep Wrangler. No automaker has dared tread on Jeep's turf in recent years, but Ford seems determined to give buyers an alternative option for a mid-size off-road adventure vehicle.

Like its key competitor, the 2021 Ford Bronco arrives sporting two-door and four-door variants, each with removable roofs and doors. A 270-horsepower 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder is standard paired to a new seven-speed manual transmission (including a crawler gear) or a 10-speed automatic, but a more potent 310-hp 2.7-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 delivers higher outputs and makes do with only the automatic. But whichever engine you choose, a 4x4 drivetrain is a staple. With breathtaking off-road performance, open-top thrills, and proven engines under the hood, the new Ford Bronco could give Jeep a reason to worry.

Read in this review:

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2021 Ford Bronco Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Bronco?

The Ford Bronco is an all-new model, and while it was unveiled in 2020, it's only just hitting the trails now, midway through 2021. When the Bronco was last sold in 1996, it was a 2-door full-size model built on a shortened F-150 platform. To rival the Jeep Wrangler, this latest Bronco harkens back to the nameplate's heritage, focusing on a more compact experience for better off-road capability and less on-road comfort. There's never been such a close Wrangler alternative in recent memory.

Pros and Cons

  • Affordable starting price
  • Impressive off-road performance
  • Surprising road manners
  • Iconic styling
  • Removable roof and doors
  • Good luck getting your hands on one
  • Gets pricey in the higher trims
  • Less practical than a conventional SUV
  • Plenty of wind noise
  • It's thirsty

Best Deals on 2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base 2-Door
2.3L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
7-Speed Manual
Four-Wheel Drive
$28,500
Base 4-Door
2.3L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$33,200
Big Bend 2-Door
2.3L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
7-Speed Manual
Four-Wheel Drive
$33,385
Big Bend 4-Door
2.3L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
7-Speed Manual
Four-Wheel Drive
$35,880
Black Diamond 2-Door
2.3L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
7-Speed Manual
Four-Wheel Drive
$36,050
See All 2021 Ford Bronco Trims and Specs

2021 Bronco Exterior

2021 Ford Bronco Front View CarBuzz
2021 Ford Bronco Front Angle View CarBuzz
2021 Ford Bronco Rear Angle View CarBuzz
See All 2021 Ford Bronco Exterior Photos

Dimensions

  • Length 173.7 in
  • Wheelbase 100.4 in
  • Height 71.9 in
  • Max Width 75.9 in
  • Front Width 65.0 in
  • Rear Width 65.0 in
  • Curb Weight 4,286.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Rapid Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat +$295
  • Cyber Orange Metallic Tricoat +$595
  • Cactus Gray
  • Velocity Blue Metallic
  • Shadow Black
  • Antimatter Blue Metallic
  • Iconic Silver Metallic
  • Area 51
  • Carbonized Gray Metallic
  • Race Red
  • Oxford White

2021 Bronco Performance

2021 Ford Bronco Front-End View Ford
2021 Ford Bronco Frontal Aspect Ford
2021 Ford Bronco Rear-Facing View Ford

Engine and Transmission

  • Engines
    2.3L Turbo 4 Cylinder Gas, 2.3L Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.7L Turbo V6, 2.7L Turbo V6 Gas
  • Transmissions
    10-Speed Automatic, 7-Speed Manual
  • Drivetrains
    4X4, AWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Bronco was built to achieve peak off-road performance, but we came away more impressed with its on-road manners. Compared to a Wrangler, the Bronco feels like less of a compromise on a winding road or a highway. Ford's choice to use an independent front suspension might compromise customizability for owners who want their Bronco SUV lifted and want to buy 42-inch tires, but it pays dividends in everyday driving. The Bronco doesn't bounce over speed humps; it manages them reasonably. It doesn't shake and shimmy on rough roads; it has an ounce of grace. Most notably, you can actually feel what the front end is doing because the Bronco uses a three-mode rack-and-pinion steering rack. This is, by far, the greatest improvement over the Wrangler's recirculating ball unit. Ford felt bold enough to let us test the Bronco on a curvy road, and in that environment, it outshines the Wrangler with ease.

Granted, there are still a few compromises one must make in a Bronco. There's significant wind noise (even with the hardtop), and the optional Sasquatch tires add more road noise than the more reasonable tire setup. In corners, the suspension leans pretty heavily, but with pretty accurate steering, it's reasonably fun.

While the Bronco surprised on the road, it morphed into a superstar when the pavement ended. Anyone who buys a new Bronco gets a trip to one of Ford's new Bronco Off-Roadeo locations, where they can learn how to properly drive their vehicle over obstacles. We highly suggest taking advantage of this opportunity, as it demonstrates the advanced off-road functions available in the Bronco. We mostly piloted Sasquatch-equipped models with the front and rear axle lockers, and other off-road features. The Bronco never felt ill-equipped for a challenge, barely requiring its low range setting aside from a few tricky sections. With Baja, Mud/Ruts, and Rock Crawl modes on the G.O.A.T. selector, few off-road situations will flummox the Bronco. The Trail Turn Assist was our favorite feature, and a potential game-changer for off-road enthusiasts. This system brakes the inside wheel when it detects a full-lock on the steering wheel, helping to nudge the car around tight bends. It's a magical feeling when the 75.9-inch-wide Bronco whips around a bend that would otherwise take multiple maneuvers.

2021 Bronco Interior

2021 Ford Bronco Dashboard Ford
2021 Ford Bronco Gauge Cluster Ford
2021 Ford Bronco 4WD Controller Ford
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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    4-seater
  • Front Leg Room 43.1 in
  • Front Head Room 41.0 in
  • Rear Leg Room 35.7 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.8 in

2021 Bronco Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Ford Bronco Back Seats Ford
2021 Ford Bronco Cargo Capacity Ford
2021 Ford Bronco Rearmost Seats Ford

2021 Bronco Safety and Reliability

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Ford Bronco a good SUV?

Jeep has had the dedicated off-roader segment to itself for far too long; finally, there's some competition, and serious competition at that. The 2021 Ford Bronco doesn't just take a haymaker swing at the Wrangler, it lands calculated body blows to put Jeep on the ropes. Jeep restricts its bigger tires to the Rubicon, so Ford offers the Sasquatch Package on all trim levels. Jeep has an 8.4-inch touchscreen, so Ford shoves in a 12-inch unit. Jeep owners believe pure off-road performance must come at the expense of road manners, so Ford proves you can have both. It just goes on, and on, and on. Unless you live your life on 42-inch tires, we can see few areas where the Bronco doesn't outshine the Wrangler.

Let's put things into perspective, the Bronco still compromises on space and comfort in an effort to maximize off-road performance, but those compromises feel less severe. The available creature comforts make the Bronco a reasonable daily driver but if you seldom plan to take it off-road, the more mainstream Bronco Sport could be more suited to your lifestyle. But, if you are ready to take the plunge into a more adventurous vehicle lifestyle, the Bronco is ready for action, and the Jeep Wrangler better watch its back.

Check out other Ford Bronco Styles

2021 Ford Bronco Comparisons

Ford Bronco Sport
Jeep Wrangler Jeep
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Ford Bronco275 hp20/22 mpg$31,300
Ford Bronco Sport 181 hp25/28 mpg$28,815
Jeep Wrangler 285 hp17/25 mpg$29,995

2021 Ford Bronco vs Ford Bronco Sport

They might share the same name, but these two vehicles couldn't be more different if they tried. Whereas the Ford Bronco is a hardcore off-roading machine, the Bronco Sport is more of a city-dwelling SUV. From the outside, it is clear who these cars are targeted towards: the Bronco Sport has softer features and a more urban-friendly appearance in general. It is also smaller than the full-blooded Bronco and rides on a unibody chassis, whereas the Bronco uses a traditional body-on-frame setup, giving the Sport vastly more comfort. Under the hood, the Sport is offered with a 181 hp 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine or a 245 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, both less powerful than the options available in the Bronco. This does, however, mean a cheaper fuel bill. The Bronco Sport also lacks the genuine 4H and 4L 4x4 system found in the Bronco, but its own AWD system is still semi-capable off-road. The interior of the Bronco Sport is more car-like and is only available with Ford's Sync 3 system. If it were up to us, we'd go with the Bronco every time, but those who don't live the off-road life will be happier with the Sport.

See Ford Bronco Sport Review

2021 Ford Bronco vs Jeep Wrangler

At a similar price as the 2021 Ford Bronco, the Jeep Wrangler offers similar off-road capability and is the Bronco's closest rival. Under the hood of the Wrangler, you'll find either a 3.6-liter naturally-aspirated V6 engine producing 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine making 270 hp and 295 lb-ft, or a powerful 3.0-liter diesel engine with 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. It even boasts a 470-hp V8 option and a hybrid version that the Bronco can't compete with. For off-roading purposes, the diesel engine reigns supreme. Both cars make use of Dana front and rear axles, but the Wrangler offers one feature absent in the Bronco; a limited-slip differential (when not going for locking differentials). The Wrangler features a shorter wheelbase at 96.8 inches in two-door guise but a longer wheelbase of 118.4 inches in a four-door configuration. The Wrangler also offers a superior approach angle, but break-over and departure angles are a mixed bag depending on trim and the number of doors in play. The Sasquatch Bronco has the upper hand in ground clearance and water-fording levels. The Wrangler offers slightly less interior space and loses out in terms of cargo capacity. On paper, things may seem close initially, but the Bronco is vastly superior on-road, has more comfort and convenience, and more safety features. Being very close to the Wrangler off-road, we're of the opinion that if you're not modding for off-road glory, the Bronco is the better of the two.

See Jeep Wrangler Review

2021 Ford Bronco Popular Comparisons

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2021 Ford Bronco Video Review

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