|Fuel Economy (city/hwy mpg)
|Ground Clearance (in)
Modern SUVs tend to be car-based crossovers that have difficulty going any further off-road than a dirt parking lot. However, there are some exceptions. If you want a traditional body-on-frame SUV that can take tough trails in stride, you are probably interested in comparing the 2021 Ford Bronco vs 2021 Toyota 4Runner. The Bronco has been absent from Ford’s stable since 1996, but the all-new 2021 model has it charging into the modern world, filled with off-road features and advanced technology. Meanwhile, the 4Runner has not seen a redesign since 2010, and its aging technology leaves it lacking when placed side by side with the new Bronco.
In addition to being underpowered, the Toyota 4Runner is missing many off-road performance features found on the Ford Bronco. While the Bronco offers 35” mud-terrain tires, front and rear locking differentials, and a slew of trail-oriented technologies that include a handy front-facing camera, even the most off-road-ready versions of Toyota’s SUV only offer 32” all-terrain tires, a rear locking differential, and few modern features. And don’t forget - the 2021 Ford Bronco has a quick-detach roof and doors, allowing you to explore the outdoors in style.
When it comes to raw power, there is little comparison between the 2021 Ford Bronco and the 2021 Toyota 4Runner. Although the 4Runner packs a 4.0L V8 under its hood, that engine is a twenty-year-old design that is easily overpowered by the base engine in the Bronco. Even worse, the 4Runner also falls short when it comes to fuel economy and transmission options.
While the 2GR-FE engine in the 2021 Toyota 4Runner may be reliable, it is certainly old. First introduced back in 2002, the updates to this 4.0L V8 over the years have failed to bring into the modern era. Producing just 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, the engine is less powerful than even some of Toyota’s own recent V6 designs. When compared to the Bronco’s two turbocharged power plants, the old Toyota V8 is simply archaic.
The lack of power is magnified by the 4Runner’s transmission - an equally outdated 5-speed automatic. Having just half as many gear ratios means less optimal use of the vehicle’s powerband and contributes to this SUV’s exceptionally poor fuel economy of just 17 MPG combined. There are full-size V8 pickup trucks that do better than that!
The Bronco offers the choice between two different EcoBoost engines, as well as two different transmissions. The base engine is a 2.3L I4, which may seem small, but its modern design and forced induction give it an impressive 300 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. Better yet, this small but mighty engine gets a fuel economy of 21 MPG combined even with standard 4x4. For even more power, the 2021 Bronco offers a 2.7L V6 EcoBoost, which boasts no less than 325 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. With this high-end option, you’ll have no problem leaving the 4Runner in your dust.
Both engines are paired with an equally modern 10-speed automatic transmission, allowing you to make full use of their flat powerbands whether you are negotiating a rocky trail or cruising on the highway. However, if you prefer the control that only a manual transmission can offer, the 2.3L can also be optioned with a unique 7-speed manual. The 7th gear is an ultra-low ratio crawler gear that helps you make short work of any obstacles on the trail.
Unlike all the other SUVs on the road, the 2021 Ford Bronco and 2021 Toyota 4Runner are designed for serious off-road performance. Both of them are traditional body-on-frame designs, giving them the durability needed to challenge the trail, and both of them offer true part-time 4x4. However, when you look into the details, the Bronco comes out on top in many key aspects of off-road performance.
Right off the bat, you will notice that the 2021 Bronco comes with standard 4x4 on every trim, while the 2021 4Runner is rear-wheel drive unless you pay more for 4x4. No matter how much you upgrade a 4Runner, it will always have a more road-oriented multi-link rear suspension rather than the standard solid rear axle of the Bronco. While the Toyota 4Runner has a well-deserved reputation for being an incredibly tough SUV, the Ford Bronco was designed for off-road performance.
Even when comparing the most off-road-ready version of the 2021 4Runner, the TRD Pro trim, you will find that it is missing many features that are available on even the entry-level 2021 Bronco Base. The TRD Pro comes with 32” all-terrain tires and a locking rear differential, but the Sasquatch Package equips even the Bronco Base with 35” mud-terrain tires on beadlock wheels with front and rear locking differentials. The Bronco Wildtrek also adds a front stabilizer bar disconnect for maximum articulation on the trail.
When it comes to off-road performance, numbers matter. That is why the Ford Bronco is designed with best-in-class ground clearance, water fording, and clearance angles. The 2021 4Runner offers 9.6” of ground clearance when optioned with 4x4, but the 2021 Bronco offers no less than 11.6” of ground clearance. The maximum approach and departure angles on Toyota’s SUV are 33 degrees and 26 degrees, while Ford’s design provides up to 43 degrees and 29 degrees. Those numbers mean that the Bronco can tackle rougher roads without worrying about scraping the bottom and bumpers on obstacles.
For the true off-road aficionados, Ford even advertises that the Bronco offers 33.5” of water fording and a Ramp Travel Index of 700 when the stabilizer bar is disconnected. Toyota doesn’t even offer enthusiast-oriented performance figures like these for the 4Runner, but independent testing by Four Wheeler measured a Ramp Travel index of just 323 for the 2014 4Runner. While the Toyota SUV may be able to handle access roads and other mild off-roading, when it comes to the most challenging trails, it doesn’t have a chance.
Toyota has recently updated the interior of the 4Runner, and the 2021 model year incorporates a good selection of modern technology. However, Toyota has never been on the cutting edge when it comes to advanced features, and the 2021 Bronco pulls far ahead with its ultra-modern interior. But the Bronco is not just filled with technology - it is packed with technology that was designed with off-road and on-road performance in mind.
One of the marks of a modern vehicle is an infotainment system capable of placing all the information and entertainment you need at your fingertips. From playlists and phone calls to navigation and exterior camera angles, a modern infotainment system is indispensable. However, this is one place where the 2021 Ford Bronco is lightyears ahead of the 2021 Toyota 4Runner.
On the surface, both vehicles come standard with a standard 8” touch screen. However, the Bronco runs Ford’s brand-new SYNC 4 software, complete with over-the-air updates. That means your Bronco will keep evolving and gaining new features over time, while the 4Runner will be stuck with the tech it rolled off the lot with. The Bronco also offers an expansive 12” display, giving you even more options to view and interact with all your favorite features. Plus, Ford provides added features like Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that Toyota doesn’t have.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Bronco’s technology is that it was designed with the trail in mind. While SYNC 4 makes use of cloud computing for its enhanced features, Ford made sure that it remains functional even when you are far from civilization. Even better, the class-exclusive FordPass Performance App with Off-Road Navigation will help you plan your off-road adventures. The GPS navigation not only works off-road, but the app will even display current trail conditions.
Once you’re on the trail, the Bronco offers one-of-a-kind tech features like Trail Control, Trail Turn Assist, and Trail One-Pedal Driving. These technologies give you an added edge when tackling the toughest trails. The Front Facing Trail Camera is yet another handy Bronco feature that the 4Runner does not offer, allowing you to dodge off-road obstacles without the need for a spotter. The frontal camera can even be used to record your adventures, complete with overlaid telemetry data, allowing you to share your adventures.