Battle of the Off-Road Oriented Base Models: The Budget-Minded Ford Bronco Two-Door vs Jeep Wrangler Two-Door
While it seems there have never been more or better options when it comes off-road machines right off the showroom floor, one issue that everyone runs into is just how expensive a lot of these new rigs are.
Dealer markup aside, it’s not uncommon at all to see today’s most popular off-road grade SUVs pickups an SUVs with rolling out with sticker prices of 50, 60 and $70,000. Yes, they are more capable than ever, but they are also more expensive than ever.
But fortunately there are still a pair of great, no-frills, budget 4x4s available, brand-new with two-doors, removable tops and doors, and even manual transmissions.
We are talking of course, about the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco, both of which offer a ton of value and a ton of fun in base form, but is one better than the other? Let’s dig in.
Ford or Jeep?
When it comes to the Wrangler, the cheapest brand new model you can currently buy is the two-door Sport trim, which comes in with an MSRP just under $33,000 after destination fees.
For that price you get standard four-wheel-drive of course, and the 285 horsepower, 260 pound-foot 3.6L V6 mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
Upgrading to the eight-speed automatic will set you back an extra $2,000, and as a no-cost option you can spec the 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder, which has less horsepower at 270, but more torque at 295 pound-feet.
Over on the Ford side, a base model Bronco can have an MSRP as low as $33,895, also equipped with standard 4WD and the same two-door, soft-top body style—and a seven-speed manual transmission.
On paper, the Bronco has a decent power advantage over the Wrangler, with the base 2.3L EcoBoost making 300 horsepower and 325 pound feet of torque. Opting for the ten-speed automatic transmission adds about $1,600 to the price.
Another cool thing about the Bronco is that for a reasonable $1,895 you can upgrade to the 2.7L EcoBoost V6 which makes 330 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque, though you can only get it with the automatic transmission.
In contrast, if you wan’t a significant power upgrade on the Wrangler, you’ll have to opt for either the 392 V8 or the 4xe plug-in-hybrid, both of which cause tens of thousands more.
But Can You Find One?
Not surprisingly, the Bronco and Wrangler have been positioned extremely close to each other in nearly every category. And both have a wealth of options that can be added, with prices that rise accordingly.
The choice will likely come down to whether you prefer the proven off-road prowess that is the Jeep Wrangler, or the newcomer Bronco with its charming retro styling and curb appeal.
Despite its advantages in power and the “hip” factor, the biggest negative against the Bronco is going to be its availability. As cool as the cheap, base two-door Bronco is, you can’t really head down to your local dealer and find one on the lot for MSRP.
Even now, a couple years after they debuted, buying a new Bronco usually means either a long waitlist or paying expensive dealer markup for an on-the-ground unit. In contrast, a base model Wrangler should be much easier to find and you should be able to get a solid discount when you do find one.
Is Entry Level Best?
With so many versions available, there’s an argument to be made that if you are looking to do serious off-roading, you’ll be better off just buying a more expensive, better-equipped model like a Rubicon or Badlands o start with.
That’s certainly the easiest route, but the base versions should still be quite capable on their own. Then there’s the fact that lots of 4x4 enthusiasts enjoy putting their own touch on their rigs and choosing their own parts to improve what they want. And for that, the base versions of the Bronco and Wrangler are fantastic, with tons of aftermarket support behind them.
Whether you are looking for a fun to rig to leave stock or a platform for modification, there’s something charming and very appealing about the base forms of both the Wrangler and Bronco.
In a market where affordable, basic and fun vehicles are increasingly hard to find we love that both Ford and Jeep continue to offer these budget-priced 4x4s that serve as the perfect blank canvas. Long live the base model.
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