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

The 2021 Ford Bronco off-road SUV is new this year and the 2021 Toyota 4Runner isn’t. Both off-road SUVs can crawl over boulders, ford rivers, and ferry the family across town. After a 25-year absence, the Bronco epitomizes the latest, greatest features while the 4Runner, which was last redesigned for 2009, has an interior as dated as wood paneling. 

Our TCC Rating favors the new, much like our culture, awarding the 2021 Ford Bronco a 7.0 out of 10. The 2021 Toyota 4Runner can’t keep pace with a TCC Rating of 5.2. Yet the aging 4Runner has been known to outrun automotive time. Ford leans into the future by offering more than 200 Bronco accessories from the factory to swap fender flares, change bumpers, add winches, and develop the Bronco as the owner develops off-road skill. 

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Toyota 4Runner Trail

2021 Toyota 4Runner Trail

2021 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2021 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Sharing a platform with the Toyota Tacoma mid-size pickup truck, the 2021 Toyota 4Runner maintains its truck-like style in a dull expanse of SUVs. The chunky body of the 4Runner has large air intakes, square fender flares, and a range of trim flourishes, such as chrome accents on the Limited trim or a hood scoop on TRD models.

With its removable hard- or soft-top roof, two- or four-door variants, and blocky two-box design, the 2021 Bronco also competes directly with the 2021 Jeep Wrangler. Underpinning the next Ford Ranger, the Bronco channels the past with a broad hood studded with tie downs that double as sightlines. Round headlights stitched to the center with daytime running lights span the grille. Tow hooks front and rear, as well as a swinging tailgate-mounted spare tire, complete the retro package for the Bronco. 

Seating up to five but comfy for four, the Bronco four-door offers more space for passengers with roomier back seats, but the Bronco’s 38.3 cubic feet of cargo volume trails the 4Runner’s 47.2 cubic feet; an available third row can be added to the 4Runner to seat seven total, but that space is better utilized for cargo. Up front, the Bronco has dash-mounted grab handles, blocky vertical vents that flank an 8.0-inch touchscreen or available 12.0-inch touchscreen with helpful camera projections for off-roading. Both have standard cloth seats and optional leather, but the Bronco’s marine-grade vinyl that’s resistant to mildew complements the easy-to-remove doors and roof. The 4Runner can’t come close to that kind of fun versatility, and its 9.6 inches of ground clearance challenges the arthritic knee or aging dog when getting in.

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Toyota 4Runner

2021 Toyota 4Runner

2021 Toyota 4Runner

2021 Toyota 4Runner

The 4Runner’s bare-bones interior, with its gated shifter and mechanical parking brake, matches the tried-and-true powertrain under the hood. A 4.0-liter V-6 rated at 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque pairs with an ancient 5-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. 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. It can be bouncy on roads and handle like a truck, but TRD models fit the 4Runner for off-road adventure. Its 5,000-lb towing capacity might be the only performance edge over the Bronco, and its EPA-rated 16 mpg city, 19 highway, 17 combined doesn’t help the cause. 

The Bronco can tow 3,500 lb, and its most efficient powertrain earns an EPA rating of 20/22/21 mpg. Unimpressive numbers for a modern marvel, but it can be forgiven for its calm on-road manners and off-road capability. Ford employs its 2.3-liter turbo-4 to the tune of 275 hp and 315 lb-ft with 87 octane; output improves with premium gas. It teams with a 7-speed manual transmission that’s a 6-speed with a low crawler gear. An available 10-speed automatic can be had with the 2.3-liter, or shoppers can upgrade to a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 used in other Ford trucks. It makes 315 hp and 410 lb-ft that provides quick acceleration and a lightness to the Bronco’s 4,500-lb average weight. Standard four-wheel drive and a choice of 2-speed transfer cases with a front and rear locker underpin the off-road intentions; the Sasquatch package with 35-inch mud terrain tires furthers the adventuring. 

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Toyota 4Runner

2021 Toyota 4Runner

2021 Toyota 4Runner

2021 Toyota 4Runner

With choices like those, as well as seven trim levels and four packages, the 2021 Ford Bronco is all about options, but it comes well equipped for $29,995. Like the 4Runner, it has automatic emergency braking, power features, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility. The 4Runner one-ups the Bronco on standard safety features, with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors, but it has mixed crash-test results. Also offered in seven trims, the 2021 4Runner costs more than $37,000, and its in-car technology and interface feels archaic when compared to the Bronco.

Shoppers looking for a stripped down off-roader might favor the 4Runner and its famed longevity, but the Bronco is the better SUV, on-road, off-road, behind the wheel, and for passengers. It’s not just better because it’s new: the Bronco’s less expensive, more capable, more powerful, more efficient, and more refined.

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