How Does The New Ford Bronco Compare To The Wrangler 4xe, Its Hybrid Nemesis?
In 2004, a Bronco concept graced the North American International Auto Show, but it would take a further 17 years for the Bronco to make its way into the hands of admirers who have wanted an option for a true off-roader that isn’t a Wrangler or a pick-up like the Toyota Tacoma TRD. Unfortunately for Americans, vehicles with an off-roading focus seem to be in somewhat of a shortage. Most SUVs intended for the US market seem to focus on Sport or luxury over utility.
In 2019, for the Baja 1000, Ford submitted the Bronco R, an ICE powered compact SUV with a 37-gallon gas tank and a twin-turbo eco-boost engine. It didn’t complete the course in 2019 but in the 2021 Mexican 1000, the Ford Bronco managed 3rd place. While the Volkswagen ID.4 managed to complete its first Mexican 1000 without suffering mechanical failures, it had to go seriously aftermarket in the suspension and waterproofing departments, but the Bronco R placed in a stock (except for additional safety gear) configuration.
You’ve heard me call some SUVs, like the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, goats. I say this because they’re capable of rock climbing and make rough terrain look easy, but the Bronco takes this to the next level. The Bronco utilizes a selector to change how its drivetrain handles the environment and reacts to the driver; the G.O.A.T. Mode selector, where the acronym stands for “goes over any terrain”. It’s fun to note that GOAT was the “internal code name” for the 1966 Bronco. In its most off-road capable configuration, the Badlands trim level, the Bronco gets 8 separate modes to choose from, with each changing the way the vehicle interacts with the road, or better yet, lack thereof.
While the Volkswagen ID.4 and Toyota RAV4 Prime that I’ve compared to the Wrangler 4xe in the past have had significantly different purposes, the Bronco is basically just here to try to make the Wrangler look bad at its own game. With the computer calling the shots in the various G.O.A.T. Modes, the Bronco makes handling trails, cruising on the beach, or driving in the rain almost as easy as driving on neatly paved, dry roads.
Something that’s really awesome about the new Bronco, in my opinion, is that most, if not all of its electronics in the cab are designed to be water-resistant. If you forget to put the top back on and get caught in the rain, it’s not going to fry your fancy selector, and that’s great! But also, if you take her off-road and get muddy, you can just hose her out. That’s better. Oh, and the Bronco is equipped with 10 separate drain plugs to help evacuate water quickly, only 6 if you don’t opt for the Wash-Out interior.
One of the biggest complaints that I’ve heard from auto enthusiasts about SUVs is that they’re too soft. Vehicles, like the Toyota RAV4 Prime seem to be made for comfort and ‘the ride’ rather than being able to be used for a variety of purposes in a variety of environments. Many have luxurious suede seats, notorious for absorbing spilled fluids. Take something like that out into the woods and you’ll get that lusciously appointed interior all muddy. Sure, it can be detailed, but it’s a lot more effort than just spraying the cab out with a hose. Some people find the prospect of detailing their vehicle’s interior more daunting than their enjoyment of the trail and I can’t blame them.
My ’86 Toyota Land Cruiser was great at navigating difficult terrain, even if I wasn’t skilled at using it. The new Bronco takes a lot of the need for skill out of the equation. With its highly computerized controls and rugged build making it such a great off-roader, it would be surprising for Ford to not try to electrify the Bronco. While it may not wind up being a hybrid like the Wrangler 4xe, a BEV Bronco could be in the works. It will have to compete with the Tesla Cybertruck and the 7 if and when it comes out, but I’m sure that Ford will find a way to put the awesome torque of electric motors to good use out of the electrified compact SUV.
The Bronco seems to be one of the last models being offered with a manual transmission; 10 percent of the Bronco’s pre-orders were equipped as such. Sportier models of the Bronco have been rumored, potentially named Raptor, like the F-150 or Ranger variant, or Warthog. I’m personally hoping for the Warthog moniker to find its way onto a hybrid or electric version of the Bronco. If that happens, I’ll have my name on one of the first pre-orders for a manual.
Frank DiMuccio has been interested in the automotive industry since his childhood. In high school, he spent his free-time rebuilding his car and earned a newfound enjoyment of the grease and sweat of working in the garage. He can be followed on Twitter at @Fdimuccio4 for daily automotive news.