Many have tried to compete with the legendary off-road capability of Toyotas like the 4Runner and Tacoma. Jeep brought on the Gladiator to compete with the Tacoma and Ford recently revived the Bronco to try to stand up to the 4Runner in the mid-size SUV category. Which off-road capable vehicle will prevail? The tried and true yet long-in-the-tooth 4Runner? Or, the impressive-on-paper all-new Bronco?
Drawing its inspiration from the Hilux pickup truck, the 4Runner, was first introduced to the market in 1984. It has continued to stay true to its rugged, body-on-frame construction through five generations. The Ford Bronco got its start early in 1966 with wagon, pickup, and roadster body styles. After five generations, the Bronco was discontinued in 1996 to be replaced by the less off-road focused Ford Expedition. Now, the Ford Bronco is back for the 2021 model year.
Both SUVs offer an abundance of off-roading styled features. While the new Bronco is expected to have more horsepower and torque according to the current statistics listed on Ford’s official site, the 4Runner provides higher ground clearance and more towing power.
While the 4Runner may have been around longer, it has been updated to include the latest in driver-assistance safety features. Much like other Toyotas, every 4Runner grade comes packed with the standard active safety features of Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P). The base grade Bronco is expected to come with a TSS-P comparable suite of driver assistance features called Ford Co-Pilot360™ Technology, but that base package is not expected to include adaptive cruise control. This feature is expected to be available on higher-grade Broncos.
Despite the 2021 Bronco making a highly-anticipated and long-awaited return, let's see if it can compete with the long-standing reputation of the 4Runner in terms of safety, off-and-on-road performance, and interior features.
Publish Date: 10/30/2020
When adventures become unpredictable, you want to trust that you can count on the safety technology in your car to help get you through.
To help keep you safe, the 2021 Bronco has Ford Co-Pilot360™ Technology which includes Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Auto High-Beam Headlamps, lane keep assist, and cross traffic alert.
On the other hand, the 2021 4Runner includes Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) with a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Automatic High Beams (AHB), and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC). Additionally, the 4Runner SR5 4x4 comes standard with Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC). As of September 2020, Ford doesn't list Hill Start Assist and Downhill Assist Control as expected features for the 2021 Bronco base.
All new Toyotas come with ToyotaCare which includes factory-scheduled maintenance and 24/7 Roadside Assistance. The maintenance plans lasts for 2 years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, plus Roadside Assistance for 2 years and unlimited mileage.
Ford offers Ford® Roadside Assistance for up to 5 years or 60,000 miles. For scheduled maintenance, Ford drivers will have to pay extra for a Ford Protect Premium Maintenance Plan.
The all-new Bronco is expected to benefit from having a more-recently designed engine and drivetrain, but more horsepower and torque doesn’t necessarily equal better off-road performance or towing capacity.
With a 4.0L V6 engine, the 4Runner has 270 horsepower and 278 lb.-ft. torque and offers both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations. The 2021 Bronco base-grade 2-Door 2.3L EcoBoost® engine is expected to have 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. torque while the 4-Door 2.7L EcoBoost® engine is expected to have 310 horsepower. The Bronco is expected to only come as a 4x4 vehicle.
For off-roading, the 2021 4Runner SR5 offers a higher ground clearance of 9.6 in. compared to the expected 8.3-in. clearance of the 2021 Bronco Base 4-Door.
The 4Runner SR5 also comes standard with bigger 17-in. 6-spoke alloy wheels while the Bronco is expected to come with 16-in. Bright Polished Silver-Painted Steel wheels. Alloy wheels, while not as strong as steel, provide a lighter load and smoother ride for regular on-road driving. Steel wheels are good for off-roading but are clunky and add a lot of unsprung weight which affects the vehicles' overall performance both on-and-off road.
Additionally, the 4Runner comes standard with roof rails to help store more gear. The Bronco does not list the option for a roof rack or roof rails on Ford’s official website as of September 2020.
You can also haul more behind your SUV with the 4Runner which has a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. across the board. There is an expected standard available towing capacity of 3,500 lbs. on the Bronco no matter which engine option you choose.
Ford, EcoBoost and Ford Copilot360 are trademarks of Ford Motor Company
You may have come to this comparison looking for the SUV that can get you farther and up the gnarliest of trails. But, these vehicles also have some impressive interior touches. Having more fun on your next drive could also mean robust connectivity options and more room to spread out.
For more interior space, you'll find a cargo volume of 89.7/47.2 cu. ft. behind front/rear seats of the 2021 4Runner compared to the 77.6/35.6 cu. ft. expected behind the first/second row of the Bronco 4-Door.
The 4Runner SR5, SR5 Premium, Limited, and Nightshade Special Edition also seat 5, or 7 with third-row seating. The Bronco 2-Door is expected to only seat 4 passengers while the 4-Door should seat 5.
You also get more standard audio options in the 4Runner with Android Auto™, Apple CarPlay®, and Amazon Alexa compatibility. The 2021 Bronco is expected to come standard with Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ compatibility but not Amazon Alexa. The 4Runner SR5 also has eight speakers compared to the six that are expected to be standard on the 2021 Bronco Base.
While the 2021 Ford Bronco Base is expected to have a lower starting MSRP of $28,500 compared to $38,215 for the 2021 4Runner SR5 4x4, it lacks a lot of standard features that the 4Runner has. From our point of view, the Bronco seems to be made to be customized -- meaning a higher cost at checkout after you build and add the features you want. Even with all the bells and whistles, the most expensive 2021 4Runner, the TRD Pro (starting MSRP of $50,470), will cost less than the high-end Bronco First Edition (expected starting MSRP of $59,305).
The 2021 4Runner comes equipped with a standard suite of active safety features called Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), a 9.6 in. ground clearance, 5,000 lb. towing capacity, as well as Android Auto™, Apple CarPlay®, and Amazon Alexa compatibility. Conversely, the Bronco Base is not expected to include a TSS-comparable adaptive cruise control feature. It is expected to have 8.3 in. of ground clearance and a 3,500 lb. towing capacity on the 4-Door, but you'll miss out on Amazon Alexa compatibility.
On top of all that, the 4Runner also offers more room for your next adventure. All 4Runners have 89.7/47.2 cu. ft. of cargo behind front/rear seats, plus standard roof rails to add more storage up top. A 4-door 2021 Bronco is expected to have 77.6/35.6 cu. ft. of room behind front/rear seats.
If you're looking for an SUV that can handle off-roading adventures while providing comfort for standard driving, the 2021 4Runner can do it all.