Many have tried to compete with the legendary off-road capability of Toyotas like the 4Runner and Tacoma. To combat against the 4Runner, Ford has revived the Bronco to compete in this segment of mid-size SUVs with off-roading capability. So which do you choose: the tried and true 4Runner, or the all-new Bronco?
This Toyota off-roading powerhouse, the 4Runner, was first introduced to the market in 1984, drawing its inspiration from the Hilux pickup truck. 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 with two distinctively different vehicle lineups, the Bronco and the Bronco Sport.
Both SUVs offer an abundance of off-roading styled features. While the new Bronco and Bronco sport offer more horsepower and torque, the 4Runner provides higher ground clearance and more towing power standard.
But while the 4Runner may be the elder vehicle in this comparison, 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 Bronco Base comes with some TSS-P comparable driver assistance features with its Ford Co-Pilot360™ Technology, but not nearly as many as the 4Runner.
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.
Published Date: 07/13/2021
When adventures become unpredictable, you want to trust that you can count on the safety technology in your car to help get you through.
Designed to help keep you safe, the 2021 Bronco has Ford Co-Pilot360® technology which includes Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking and Auto High-Beam Headlamps. For the Lane-Keeping System and BLIS® with Cross-Traffic Alert, you'd need the Bronco Outer Banks or higher. Adaptive cruise control is only standard on the most expensive Bronco First Edition. The alternative model, the Bronco Sport Base, does come standard with Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Auto High-Beam Headlamps, Lane-Keeping System, and BLIS® with Cross-Traffic Alert. Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Lane Centering is only available as an option on the Bronco Sport Big Bend, Sport Outer Banks, and Sport Badlands.
On the other hand, the 2021 4Runner includes Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) with 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). Hill Descent Control™ is an available feature of Ford Co-Pilot360®.
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, whichever comes first. For scheduled maintenance, Ford drivers will have to pay extra for a Ford Protect Premium Maintenance Plan.
The all-new Bronco benefits 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 has 300 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. torque, while the 4-Door 2.7L EcoBoost® engine has 330 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. torque. Both of these ratings require premium fuel, however. The Bronco Sport Base has a smaller 1.5L EcoBoost® and only 181 horsepower. All Broncos come in a 4x4 configuration.
For off-roading capability advantages out of the box, the 2021 4Runner SR5 offers a higher ground clearance of 9.6 in. compared to the 8.4-in. ground clearance for the 2021 Bronco Base 4-Door.
At the base-grade level, the 4Runner SR5 comes standard with 17-in. 6-spoke alloy wheels while the Bronco Base comes with 16-in. Bright Polished Silver-Painted Steel wheels. The Bronco Sport Base does have 17" wheels with a Sparkle Silver-colored finish, however. The difference in materials between the 4Runner and Bronco is intentional. 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. You can add Roof Rails with Crossbars to the Bronco Base but it will cost extra. Looking at the Bronco Sport Base, drivers do get Roof Rack Side Rails standard.
You can also haul more behind your SUV with the 4Runner which has a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs across the board. The Bronco has a towing capacity of 3,500 lbs across all models. However, if you opt for any of the Bronco Sport models your towing capacity will be much lower; 2,000 lbs. to 2,200 lbs. depending on which model 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 more cargo room with 89.7/47.2 cu.-ft. behind front/rear seats of the 2021 4Runner compared to the 77.6/35.6 cu.-ft. behind the first/second row of the Bronco 4-Door. The Bronco Sport Base is even smaller with 65.2/32.5 cu.-ft. behind the first/second row.
The 4Runner SR5, SR5 Premium, Limited, and Nightshade Special Edition also seat up to 5, or 7 with available third-row seating. The Bronco 2-Door can only seat 4 passengers while the 4-Door seats 5.
Instead of fumbling with the keys, get your car started, lock, unlock, or open the tailgate with the 4Runner's Smart Key System which is standard on all grades. All of this can be achieved without ever having to take the fob out of your pocket. The 4Runner also has Push Button Start. Only the Bronco Outer Banks, Wildtrak, and First Edition have Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start and the Remote Start System.
You also get more standard audio options in the 4Runner with Android Auto™, Apple CarPlay®, and Amazon Alexa compatibility. The 2021 Bronco Base comes 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 standard on the 2021 Bronco Base.
While the 2021 Ford Bronco Base has a lower starting MSRP of $28,500 compared to $38,465 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 $50,570), will cost less than the high-end Bronco First Edition (starting MSRP of $57,410).
The 2021 4Runner comes equipped with a standard suite of active safety features called Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), 9.6 in. ground clearance, a 5,000 lb. towing capacity, as well as Android Auto™, Apple CarPlay®, and Amazon Alexa compatibility. Conversely, looking at just the Bronco Base, it doesn't have as many TSS-P comparable safety features, only has 8.4 in. of ground clearance standard, and only has a maximum 3,500 lb. towing capacity on the 4-Door. Plus, it doesn't have 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 room behind front/rear seats, plus standard roof rails to add more storage up top. The four-door 2021 Bronco only has 77.6/35.6 cu.-ft. of room behind front/rear seats and Roof Rails with Crossbar cost more.