Over the years, Ford’s Bronco went from being an open-air truckster and rival to the original Willys Jeeps to a big, bloated F-150-based two-door SUV before being quietly discontinued nearly 20 years ago, much to the disappointment of its followers. Well, it’s no secret that the Bronco is back for 2021, spearheading a new off-road-only Ford sub-brand with both a two-door and new four-door model. It’s built on Ford’s next-generation mid-size truck platform, purpose-built to be a body-on-frame, full-bore, no-compromises competitor to the current segment leader, the Jeep Wrangler.
I’ve been a Wrangler owner for six years now, purchasing a 2015 Willys Wheeler two-door as a 40th birthday present to myself (yes, midlife crisis purchases are real). I do love my Wrangler: It serves as a four-season, all-terrain convertible that is an all-weather winter commuter, a fun open-top summer runabout and everything in between. I’ve been rock crawling, dune running, boulevard cruising, you name it. I’ve taken it apart and put it back together countless times — a Wrangler is just a full-size snap-together kit car, after all. So when I had the chance to get behind the wheel of the first new off-roader meant to directly compete with the Wrangler, I jumped at the chance. I had to see what Ford’s take on the ultimate all-weather off-roader would be like and how it stacked up to my own trusty steed.