Ford came out swinging with the 2021 Bronco, there’s no doubt about it. This Jeep-fighter boasts impressive stats like deep crawl ratios and high approach and departure angles that have Ford fanatics eager to challenge Wranglers on the trail.
Meanwhile, Jeep Wrangler is likely the most frequently customized vehicle on the market. Go to your local Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace postings and the ratio of modified Wranglers to untouched models is likely 2:1. Any convention that caters to off-roaders, whether it’s Off-Road Expo, SEMA, or Overland Expo will be crammed with companies offering their specialized gear that they build just for Wranglers.
Ford seems to be trying to pick up the slack by giving buyers the ability to build a very competent off-roader based on any Bronco trim level, which we appreciate. Jeep may just keep doing its thing and let the aftermarket fill in the niches for those that want a more extreme off-roader, but Jeep has already blessed us with three generations of Rubicon against no competition in the market. Now that the Bronco seems like the real deal, we think that Jeep may pull some items out of its parts bin and start an off-road arms race.
How will Jeep respond to the Bronco, aside from potential 392 power? For now, looking at how the two off-roaders compare can shed some light on their differences.
A trail vehicle’s crawl ratio can give an idea of how it will tackle low-speed wheeling over rocks. Shift the transfer case to four-low, ease off the brake, and let the torque multiplication of the gears do the work. Ford made a big deal of noting their impressive crawl ratio, with the optional 35-inch tires and the 4.7:1 axle ratios that come with them bumping the manual-transmission-equipped Bronco to a 94.7:1 and the automatic-equipped Bronco to 67.8:1. Wrangler’s crawl ratios all fall in between, with the 3.0-liter diesel getting a 70.1:1 ratio with its automatic trans and the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 landing at 77.2:1 with the auto and 84.2:1 with the manual. All of those ratios were calculated by using the lowest transfer case gears available, which means Rubicon models for the Wrangler and the optional 3.06:1 transfer case of the Bronco.
Ford has the edge in the manual-trans crawl ratio, but that trans is only available with the 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo. With Jeep offering its six-speed manual with the Pentastar and the Jeep’s larger V-6 gas engine likely having more torque at idle compared to the smaller, turbocharged engines from Ford, the Wrangler shouldn’t struggle. The same logic applies to Jeep’s 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with its eTorque electric assistance coming right off the line. We’d wager that the Wrangler team isn’t too worried about getting beat on paper. Both of these vehicles seem like they’d crawl over just about anything you’d care to put in front of them.
Angles and stats
Other Ford Bronco numbers that got off-roaders talking are the impressive approach, departure, and breakover angles afforded by the Bronco, particularly when equipped with 35-inch tires. Approach angle is the steepest angle an obstacle in front of the vehicle can be that still hits the tire before it hits the bumper, or anything else for that matter. Departure angle is the same but in the rear of the vehicle. Breakover angle measures how steep an obstacle the vehicle can climb over without high-centering. Bronco four-doors boast approach, departure, and breakover angles of 43.2, 37.0, and 26.3 degrees, respectively. The two door’s shorter wheelbase increases the breakover angle to 29 degrees. Compare that to four-door Rubicon’s 43.9, 37.0, and 22.6 degrees and it’s only breakover where Wrangler is at a deficit, which carries to the two-door as well, with a 27.8-degree breakover. All of these numbers can be improved the simple addition of larger tires.
The Wrangler Rubicon comes with 285/70R17 tires, which is roughly 33 x 11 inches. Bronco, with the fabulously named Sasquatch option, comes with 35-inch tires. The two inches of tire height translates into an inch of additional ground clearance for Bronco. Jeep has noted, ever since the 2018 Wrangler JL was launched, that the Rubicon can fit 35-inch tires without a lift, although the tires will rub before the bumpstops limit articulation. A two-inch lift kit solves that problem, and Mopar even offers one that costs about $1500.
Jeep may just make it easier for Wrangler buyers and offer something similar that’s installed at the factory. It could be that simple. If so, it would likely need to come with slightly deeper axle ratios, which would also give Jeep’s crawl ratio a boost. There are already three JL Wrangler trim levels with “Altitude” in their name, perhaps Wrangler’s 35-tire package could be the “Yeti”? Bring it on!