When Ford announced the Bronco with all of its off-roading chops and big muscles, it was clear that Ford was aiming for the Wrangler market. What many didn’t know, however, was just how much the new Ford Bronco Sport was going to challenge the Jeep Cherokee at off-roading. If you are looking for the right off-roading SUV in this size and price range, here’s what you need to know about the two.
The Cherokee is not made for off-roading unless it has been equipped for it. Five trim levels come with front-wheel drive and offer four-wheel drive for an extra $1500. That says right there that these aren’t really built with the trail in mind.
On the other hand, the new Ford Bronco Sport is a strictly four-wheel-drive vehicle regardless of trim level. This makes its off-roading capability more affordable than the Cherokee from the get-go. Ford puts the essentials of dealing with off-road surfaces into the model with five settings on its all-terrain system.
The Ford Bronco Sport has a performance advantage as well, when looking at the majority of models in both lineups. Ford has given it a 181-horsepower Ecoboost engine with a 190 lb-ft of torque. The Cherokee has a typical inline-four engine with similar horsepower, but the driver must make do with a loss of 20 lb-ft of torque. If you’ve ever been off-roading, you know how vital low-end torque is.
The Cherokee Trailhawk costs quite a bit more than the Bronco Sport Badlands. For the money, you are getting more horsepower and torque in the Cherokee’s V6 than the Ford’s upgraded engine.
In terms of off-roading, however, the Bronco Sport is really holding its own with both Rock Mode and Mud/Ruts. It also has Crawl Control which works at speeds under 20 miles per hour in drive and 6 miles an hour in reverse. The Jeep Selec-Speed system works at speeds under 5 miles per hour.
Style and Size
There’s no doubt that the Bronco Sport has style. There’s a color-contrast roof that gives it a sort of safari car look. It stands especially tall for its size. The base has a 7.8-inch ground clearance. The Badlands trim gets a suspension lift, allowing it to claim 8.8 inches.
The Cherokee is one of the most subdued models in the Jeep lineup. It doesn’t have the muscles of the Wrangler or the sporty appeal of the Renegade. As for ground clearance, the Cherokee maintains a lead over the Bronco Sport with a standard 8.1 inches that jumps to 8.7 inches with the Cherokee Trailhawk.
In terms of interior space, it claims more rear legroom than the Bronco Sport, but the more trucklike Ford claims more rear headroom. Furthermore, the Ford has 29 cubic feet of space in its hold while the Cherokee lags behind with 25 cubes.
The Bronco Sport’s emphasis on off-roading will probably pay off for Ford. Its approach of providing four-wheel drive for everyone is sure to attract buyers who don’t want to pay the extra fee on the Cherokee.
Furthermore, off-roading enthusiasts will be open to the Ford because it can meet or beat the Cherokee in so many categories. Finally, the much lower price on the Badlands edition will tempt still more buyers away from the Trailhawk, despite some differences in capability.
Clearly, the Ford Bronco Sport is lined up to challenge the Cherokee as much as its big brother Bronco will be challenging the Wrangler.