A blue 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is shown from the rear with a couple getting ready to go rock climbing.

Ford Bronco vs Toyota 4Runner: Which Off-Roader Is The Best?

There’s a lot to say about the 2021 Ford Bronco and the 2021 Toyota 4Runner – both of these rugged SUVs were designed to handle everything that nature can throw at them. However, while the 4Runner has been around since 1984, the Bronco is brand-new for the 2021 model year. Does this upstart have what it takes to dethrone the reigning champion? Does the aging 4Runner still have the prowess to keep up with the latest and greatest? It’s time to stack up the 2021 Ford Bronco vs 2021 Toyota 4Runner and see which one comes out on top.

Performance and customization options will be our main focus in this article. Everyone wants a vehicle that looks as good as it performs. We want something that’s strong and capable, all while looking tough and rugged. This is especially true when it comes to off-roading vehicles. Without further ado, buckle up and enjoy the ride. We’re about to help you choose between two off-roading beasts.

The Bronco comes in seven different trims, and the 4Runner is available in nine different trims. There’s no way we could pack all the information about each model, so we’re going to skip the in-betweens and solely focus on the base level and highest-level trims. This will help give you an idea of what you’re getting for your dollar, and then you can always meet somewhere in the middle if you like what you see. Regardless of trim, the 2021 Ford Bronco vs 2021 Toyota 4Runner is a competition you don’t want to miss.

The black, brown, and yellow interior is shown on a 2021 Ford Bronco looking out at the desert after winning the 2021 Ford Bronco vs 2021 Toyota 4Runner comparison.

The Base-level Trims

2021 Ford Bronco Base

Keeping things simple, the 2021 Ford Bronco’s base-level trim is literally named “Base.” It starts out at $28,500, and it comes with all the basic Bronco trimmings. Let’s start out by looking at the standard exterior features. The biggest selling point of the Bronco is that you can remove the tops and the doors, creating an open-air experience. It also comes with a black grille with a Bronco badge, heated side mirrors, and three tow hooks. It has standard 16-inch steel wheels with 30-inch all-season tires, but you can also get 17-inch aluminum wheels with 35-inch mud-terrain tires if you choose the optional Sasquatch Package.

Every Bronco comes standard with four-wheel drive, but the Sasquatch Package goes further and adds locking front and rear axles for maximum four-wheel traction. The Base trim has a standard 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine paired with either a 7-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic transmission. While the manual offers its special crawl gear, the automatic gives you a few other options. For example, there is Trail Control, which is essentially Ford’s off-road cruise control. When you’re focused on steering, it may be difficult to focus on the gas pedal too. Also available is a 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine that provides an impressive 310 hp – a 40 hp upgrade over the base engine. Between these standard and optional features, even the Base Bronco is an off-roading master.

2021 Toyota 4Runner

The lowest 2021 4Runner trim is the SR5, which starts out at $36,340 – that’s almost $8,000 more than the Base Bronco. It comes with standard 17-inch alloy wheels wearing 31-inch mud and snow tires. But while this is a small advantage over the Base Bronco, the 4Runner does not have an option for any larger or more capable wheel and tire combinations. It also lacks any particularly innovative exterior features. Overall, its exterior is pretty standard, and it looks like a regular run of the mill SUV.

While the 4Runner SR5 does come standard with four-wheel drive, it does not have the Bronco’s option for locking differentials. This simpler system is fine for basic off-roading but will perform poorly when put to more challenging tasks such as rock climbing. The SR5 comes with a 4.0-liter V6 engine, but despite its much larger size, it only gets the same 270 hp as the base engine in the Bronco. More importantly, the 4Runner only has 278 lb-ft of torque while the Bronco enjoys 310 lb-ft with its base engine and 400 lb-ft with its top engine. Finally, the 4Runner’s only transmission option is an aging 5-speed automatic, handicapping its already more limited performance.

The Higher Trims

The 2021 Ford Bronco

Even though the First Edition is technically the highest trim of the Bronco, its supply is limited, making the Wildtrak the de facto highest trim. The Wildtrak starts out at $46,980, and it comes standard with most of the Base trim’s optional features. For example, while the Base offers 17-inch wheels and 35-inch tires as part of the Sasquatch Package, these are actually standard on the Wildtrak. However, the Wildtrack also has additional features of its own, such as its standard LED signature lighting and optional powder-coated tube step.

Since the Wildtrak comes with a standard 2.7-liter engine and 10-speed transmission, you’ll have Trail Control as a standard feature. In addition to this, you’ll also snatch Trail Turn Assist and Trail Pedal Driving. The first feature allows for sharper turns, stopping the inner rear wheel while the other three wheels continue turning. The second feature will automatically apply the brakes when you lift off the accelerator, giving you more precise control in tight spots. However, unlike most off-road models, the higher trims of the Bronco primarily provide you with additional comfort features such as a 12-inch infotainment touchscreen and heated seats. If all you want is raw performance, even the Base trim will provide you with everything you need.

A red 2021 Toyota 4Runner TRD is shown from the rear with two dogs laying down in the cargo area.

The 2021 Toyota 4Runner

The highest 4Runner trim is the TRD Pro, starting off at $50,470. It comes with 17-inch alloy wheels with 31-inch Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires, mudguards, and a hood scoop. It does have a standard power moonroof, which only partially makes up for the fact that its top and doors are not removable. Overall, it’s exterior is definitely a step up from the base-level 4Runner in terms of looks, yet it’s less impressive than even the Base trim Bronco when fully optioned.

Unlike the Bronco Wildtrek, the TRD Pro does come with many more performance perks than base trim. While the engine and transmission remain the same, the TRD Pro does add a locking œrear differential for added traction (there is no option for a locking front differential, though). Selectable terrain modes are also included, although even the Bronco Base has that as a standard feature. Overall, the 4Runner TRD Pro is a huge step up from its lowest trim, but it has a long way to go before it reaches the Bronco Wildtrak’s level and, with the right options, even the Bronco Base can easily outperform it at a much lower cost.

Who’s The Winner?

In both cases, it looks like the 2021 Ford Bronco takes the cake here. While the current Toyota 4Runner was impressive when it first hit the market a decade ago, it just can’t keep up with all the features and technology in the Bronco. Both models have V6 engines and off-roading capabilities, but the Bronco is more powerful, more affordable, and it offers far more in terms of options. Whether you choose the Base trim or spring for the Wildtrak, you’re getting far more with the Bronco than you will with the 4Runner. If you’re looking to leave the blacktop and head onto the gravel, mud, and dirt, the 2021 Ford Bronco is the right choice for you.