All-new off-road-ready SUV. After bowing out of the big-SUV wars in 1996, the Ford Bronco returns for another round in 2021. Unlike its old-school Blazer rival, which returned as a neutered crossover, the 2021 Bronco returns as a legit off-roader that’s tired of watching Jeep have all the muddy fun.

Does the all-new 2021 Ford Bronco have what it takes to dominate the off-road SUV niche? Find out below.

Retro but somehow still modern. The 2021 Ford Bronco has all the highlights of a classic off-road-ready SUV, including its upright, boxy body, round headlights, knobby tires, removable doors, and roof, and much more.

Inside, this hard-core look continues with an upright and blocky dash. However, the Bronco has a softer side with its standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, power windows, keyless ignition, and more. Plus, buyers can upgrade to a 23-inch touchscreen with a surround-view monitor and various off-road cameras for navigating rugged terrain.

The Bronco’s key rival, the Jeep Wrangler, has the same classic look it’s carried forever, giving the new Ford a run for its retro money. Its other competition, the 4Runner, has softened over the years, taking a more modern look that doesn’t scream “I crave mud and rocks” as the Wrangler and Bronco do.

2021 Ford Bronco

Surprisingly composed yet still rugged. The 2021 Ford Bronco may look like a brash off-roader, but it’s not as bad as one may think. Its rear seats offer up to 35 inches of legroom, which is 3 inches less than the Wrangler, but the latter still feels more cramped, and it’s a chore for young kids to get in and out of. As for the 4Runner, its rear seats are kid-only spots with just 32.9 inches of legroom, but it does have an optional third row.

The Bronco also offers up to 35.6 cubes of cargo room behind the rear seats, beating the Wrangler by nearly four cubic feet. The one trade-off the 4Runner’s tight rear seats offers is a massive 47.2-cube cargo area with the rear seats upright (two-row models only).

Like the Wrangler, though, the Bronco is still an unapologetic off-road machine, so there are trade-offs in its ride quality, wind noise, and road noise. Buyers seeking something a little more comfortable may prefer the 4Runner.

Power to spare and plenty of off-road goodies. Gone are the days of monster V8 off-road SUVs and in comes the era of the turbo with the Bronco’s two turbocharged engine options. The base unit is a 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder with up to 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque with premium fuel. This is mated with a seven-speed manual gearbox with a 94.75-to-1 crawl ratio for rockier terrain. Buyers can opt for a 10-speed automatic too.

The optional unit is a 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 with up to 330 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque with premium fuel. This engine pairs exclusively with the 10-speed automatic transmission.

All 2021 Bronco models come standard with four-wheel drive, capable tires and wheels, and a beefy suspension. But buyers can upgrade it with numerous packages and options.

All 2021 Bronco models struggle to deliver 20 miles per gallon combined. Buyers seeking more fuel economy should look to the Wrangler’s optional EcoDiesel 3.0-liter engine, which delivers up to 25 mpg combined.

The 4Runner has nothing under the hood that rivals either the Wrangler or Bronco with its aged 4.0-liter V6 that pushes 270 hp through a five-speed automatic transmission that’s overdue for retirement.

Final thoughts. While it may not be the ideal daily driver, the 2021 Ford Bronco may be the perfect of-road SUV. The biggest issue it has is it’s battling a legend in the Wrangler, and after taking a few decades off, it has a lot of catching up to do.

The Bronco has a lot going for it with its potent engine options, loads of off-road-ready goodies, removable doors, and roof, all the tech you’d ever need, and more. But the Wrangler also offers a lot of these goodies and a thriftier diesel option for commuters.

Check prices for the 2021 Ford Bronco »