2021 Ford Bronco vs. 2020 Toyota 4Runner: Compare SUVs

2021 Ford Bronco

The 2021 Ford Bronco and 2020 Toyota 4Runner represent opposite ends of the off-road SUV spectrum. Both are qualified to bounce over boulders, cross rivers and cross town to bus the family around. But the Bronco epitomizes all that’s new and the 4Runner resigns itself to the opposite direction.

With its removable hard- or soft-top roof, two- or four-door variants with removable doors, standard four-wheel drive, and a standard manual transmission, the 2021 Ford Bronco aims to knock the Jeep Wrangler off its unchallenged perch atop the off-road hill. But the 2020 Toyota 4Runner has a few tricks the Bronco can’t match, such as a naturally aspirated V-6, a 5,000-pound towing capacity, seating for up to seven, and an old familiar feeling. 

But its middling TCC Rating of 5.0 out of 10 suggests the 4Runner may have a lot of ground to cover before we’ve even tested the 2021 Ford Bronco. How they compare on paper reflects our cultural preference for the new. 

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

Styling

Revived for the first time since 1996, the 2021 Ford Bronco wears its newness on the inside and outside, despite some retro elements. The 2021 Bronco adopts the squat brick-like design of the original 1966 Bronco with round headlights and a swinging tailgate-mounted spare tire. The similarities to anything old ends there. Modern touches include tow hooks front and rear, aluminum wheels with tires up to 35 inches tall, and an available 11.6-inch ground clearance. 

The 2020 Toyota 4Runner maintains its truck-like style at a time when homogenous crossover SUVs fill suburban streets. Last redesigned for 2009, the blocky body of the 4Runner has large air intakes, square fender flares, and a range of distinct flourishes depending on the trim level, such as chrome accents on the Limited trim or a hood scoop and off-road elements on TRD models. 

Both vehicles use body-on-frame construction, but the Bronco is more directly tied to the Ranger mid-size pickup than the 4Runner is to the Toyota Tacoma mid-size pickup. The 4Runner looks more truck-like, while the Bronco appears ready, willing, and able to go wild. 

2020 Toyota 4Runner

2020 Toyota 4Runner

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner

2020 Toyota 4Runner

2020 Toyota 4Runner

2020 Toyota 4Runner

Performance

Just like it does in style, the Bronco excels at choice when it comes to performance, too, even if only on paper. 

All 4Runners use a 4.0-liter V-6 rated at 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, and come with an ancient 5-speed automatic transmission. The EPA-rated 16 mpg city, 19 highway, 17 combined is bad by most modern measures. Rear-wheel drive is standard, a part-time four-wheel-drive system is optional, and a more civilized full-time four-wheel-drive system with a limited-slip center differential is available only on the top Limited trim. The 4Runner can be bouncy on roads, but can accommodate off-roading relatively easily, especially with a TRD Off Road or TRD Pro model. Those models best compete with the Bronco with a locking rear differential, an automatic crawl control system, and a control for different drive modes. TRD Pro models add a lifted suspension and Fox shocks that cushion the ride on the road and stiffen it off-road for better responsiveness. The 5,000-pound towing capacity is standard across the lineup, and might be the only edge over the Bronco. 

The 2021 Ford Bronco can tow up to 3,500 pounds. Based on either the 2.3-liter turbo-4 engine shared with the Ranger pickup and Mustang coupe or the twin-turbo V-6 used in the Ford F-150 pickup truck, it will likely get an EPA fuel rating between 20 to 24 mpg combined. In short, it’ll be much more efficient than the 4Runner.

Standard on base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, and Badlands trims is the 2.3-liter turbo-4 making 270 hp and 310 lb-ft with a 7-speed manual transmission; that first gear is mainly a low-speed crawler gear. Outer Banks, Wildtrak, and First Edition Broncos use a 10-speed automatic transmission, and the latter two trims come with a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 that makes 310 hp and 400 lb-ft. Part-time or full-time four-wheel-drive systems with a 2-speed transfer case, front and rear locking differentials, Dana axles, an independent front suspension, and a slew of available off-road equipment flexes the Bronco’s newness and variability. 

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

Seating, safety, and other features

The 2020 4Runner can be optioned to seat seven instead of five, and comes standard with active safety features such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors. Those are the distinct advantages over the Bronco, but the 4Runner comes fairly well-equipped even though it feels old.

With four-wheel drive, it’ll start at about $38,000 and is available in four trims and a couple special editions. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Available features include a sunroof, heated synthetic leather seats, a roof rack, and more off-road content to tip the price over $50,000.

The 2021 Ford Bronco gets there quicker. Starting just under $30,000 for the two-door that seats four, or under $35,000 for the four-door that seats five, the Bronco can be configured in six trims, five packages, and one special edition that exceeds $60,000.

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Unfortunately, there are no standard active safety features on the Bronco. For that you need to bump up to the Big Bend trim and add the available Mid package. Or you could jump to the tony Outer Banks trim, where it is standard. 

Standard equipment on base models includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 16-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, removable doors and roof, and an integrated bottle opener. From there, most things are possible, including vinyl or leather seats, 18-inch wheels or 17-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in up to 35-inch tires, a 12.0-inch touchscreen, rubber flooring, disconnecting sway bars and much more. 

The 4Runner has another advantage aside from available seats, towing, and safety features. It is available now. The more impressive Bronco won’t arrive on dealer lots until spring 2021.

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