Ford Bronco vs. Toyota Landcruiser: How Does Ford’s Rugged SUV Fare Against a Long Time Competitor?
In previous posts, we’ve looked at how the new Ford Bronco compares when pitted against a number of its adversaries, including the Land Rover Defender and Chevrolet Blazer, as well as its own stablemates, the Expedition and the Explorer. This time around, let’s take a look at a side-by-side comparison with another long respected nameplate, Toyota’s Land Cruiser. We’ll also add some historical perspective in the process.
Because the Bronco debuted in 1965 for the 1966 model year and because the Land Cruiser tends to be viewed as a vehicle with a more recent genealogy, this may seem like a somewhat tangential comparison, but it really isn’t. In fact, when the Bronco made its initial jump from assembly line to showroom floor in the mid-’60s, the Land Cruiser already had plenty of credibility as a well-engineered, rugged and dependable ride.
These two revered models share at least an aspect of a common heritage as all SUVs, to an extent, descend from the military vehicles of the past, but these two have travelled down decidedly different roads to arrive at the present in some key respects. The Ford Bronco was created from scratch in the strictest sense. Even at a time when repurposing components from previous models onto a new offering was already common practice — the iconic Ford Mustangs of the mid-’60s borrowed substantially from the Ford Falcon, for example — the original Bronco featured a chassis and a number of other components that were all its own.
By contrast, the Land Cruiser slowly evolved over a number of different generations through the years, gaining an ever-increasing level of comfort to appeal to the civilian market as it left the battlefield and headed for the asphalt.
Also, whereas the Bronco was conceived and built in the mid-’60s after carefully surveying the owners of competing vehicles to find out their pet peeves, the Land Cruiser’s debut was much more closely tied to its military service and dates all the way back to 1950. With World War II just five years in the past and the Korean War beginning, the United States government had already anticipated the need for its involvement and ordered 100 vehicles from Toyota that were to be built to mirror the specs of the battle-tested Willys Jeeps of that time.
When, just one year later, one of these vehicles gained notoriety by making it all the way to the sixth stage of Mt. Fuji, that feat so impressed Japan’s National Police Agency that it ordered nearly 300 for itself and made the BJ (the Land Cruiser’s forerunner) their official police car.
The Land Cruiser name was coined in 1955 by Japanese technical director Hanji Umehara, somewhat by default. He noted of the naming process, "In England we had another competitor — Land Rover. I had to come up with a name for our car that would not sound less dignified than those of our competitors. That is why I decided to call it 'Land Cruiser’ ”.
At this point, the Land Cruiser was decidedly more civilian friendly than its ancestors, wearing more stylish bodywork and offering a smoother ride, due to its elongated leaf springs. It also carried 133 horsepower, which was pretty robust for a vehicle of its type in the mid-’50s. With its combination of solid engineering and a fast-growing reputation for dependability, it’s no surprise that the Land Cruiser had already sold more than 50,000 units by the time the Ford Bronco made its debut.
This Toyota SUV has become a favorite with families and its size has been consistently enlarged over the years to make it a bona fide people hauler. In contrast, before its 25-year hiatus, the Bronco underwent a dramatic expansion in the early going and then remained about the same size until its swan song in 1996. When the modestly proportioned original Bronco gave way to the second generation, its length increased by a whopping 28”, its wheelbase by 12” and it gained nearly three quarters of a ton in curb weight over its predecessor.
Despite any history these two revered models share, they have unquestionably different core purposes in their current iterations. The new Ford Bronco is an unabashedly rugged SUV, but also offers a surprising level of comfort for its segment, while the Land Cruiser is downright opulent and yet still more capable than you might expect in some regards.
As has been the case with previous comparisons, the figurative winner is highly subjective. If hauling around a family is priority #1, the Land Cruiser holds a definite advantage, whereas if a combination of off-road surefootedness and good road manners on the asphalt is the goal, the Bronco takes the lead. So, it largely comes down to a couple of key questions — does the Bronco offer a level of comfort and spaciousness that will suit regular weekday commuting and can the Land Cruiser handle itself once it veers off the asphalt? Let’s take a look at some key benchmarks.
It won’t take too long to find one very key distinction between the Ford Bronco and the Toyota Land Cruiser — and it’s a big one. That would be the impact on your pocketbook. We’re not minimizing the cost of a Ford Bronco — it’ll set you back anywhere from about $33,000 in its Big Bend configuration, up to just over $61,000 for the coveted First Edition, assuming aggressive dealer markups aren’t factored into the equation. On the other hand, the Land Cruiser proudly plies its trade as a family flagship and carries the price tag to prove it — if you plan on hopping aboard this vessel, plan on paying dearly for the privilege, as it starts at around $85,000.
Let’s Take a Lap Around the Exteriors
While their outward appearances differ markedly, these are actually two fairly similarly proportioned vehicles. A 4-door Bronco stands roughly the same height as the Land Cruiser and measures just six inches shorter, which is less than you’d likely expect, based on initial visual impression. While the Bronco’s width will vary, with the Badlands edition coming in at 76” and the WildTrak at 79”, these two readings bracket the Land Cruiser’s 78”.
Because the Bronco was designed largely with off-road agility in mind and the Land Cruiser, though more suited to rugged terrain than you might expect, is primarily a people-hauler, there’s a marked difference in their front and rear overhang. As a result, despite its greater length, the Land Cruiser features a wheelbase that’s four inches shorter than the Bronco, whose front and rear wheels are positioned much closer to its corners, just as they were in its original iteration back in the ’60s.
Beyond the Doors
Just a quick glance at the respective interiors will reinforce the notion that, despite both vehicles being members of the SUV segment, they’ve got different priorities. But the seemingly more cavernous Land Cruiser doesn’t hold quite the same advantage in spaciousness that you might expect, although its third seating row is something the Bronco can’t match. Whether in hard top or soft top configuration, the 4-door Bronco actually enjoys both a headroom and legroom advantage over the Land Cruiser, but gives up about 4” of shoulder room in both its front row and second rows, as well as about 3.5” in hip room.
As we’ve mentioned, Toyota infused its earliest take of the Land Cruiser with respectable power and the model’s current edition takes things up more than a few notches from there. Its featured 5.7 liter V8 is a strong engine, good for 381 horsepower and 401lb-ft of torque. Despite its cutting-edge technology, the Bronco’s twin-turbo, 2.7 liter V6 gives up quite a bit of size to its Toyota competitor — a full 3 liters of displacement is quite a bit to overcome, after all. Because of this gap, the Bronco’s powerplant won’t yet match the horsepower output of the Land Cruiser — at least not until a fortified version of the model comes out. MotorTrend recently found that the Bronco’s Ecoboost V6 packs more of a punch than initially thought, but it tops out at 330 hp on premium fuel, although its 415lb-ft of torque actually exceeds that of the Land Cruiser.
In practice, this power gap won’t put the Bronco at a performance disadvantage. Its curb weight of approximately 4450lbs makes it a whopping 1350lbs lighter than the Land Cruiser and, armed with its responsive 10-speed automatic transmission, it’s expected to get from 0-60 in around six seconds. That’s pretty rapid acceleration for an SUV. Despite its considerable heft, the Land Cruiser is a surprisingly strong performer in its own right, covering that same distance in 6.65 seconds.
Technology has certainly come a long way since the mid-’60s, when the original Bronco took more than 20 seconds to reach 60mph!
Off the Asphalt
If you’re planning on plenty of future adventures while off the asphalt, the Bronco definitely becomes far more attractive. Due to its off-road centric design, it holds decided advantages in nearly all of the measures we use to gauge overlanding supremacy. Armed with the 35” tires that come with the Sasquatch package, its 43.2 degree approach angle, which measures a vehicle’s ability to transition from a flat surface to an incline without scraping its front end, beats the Land Cruiser by a full 12 degrees, and its departure angle advantage — the same measurement for the back end — is even greater. It also vanquishes the Land Cruiser handily where breakover angle is concerned.
In previous posts, we’ve seen that the Bronco is particularly adept at water fording, as it's capable of navigating a stream that’s 33.5” deep. Unarmed with the Bronco’s plating that protects its engine, transmission and transfer case, competing models haven’t fared nearly as well, as they’re generally limited to depths that reach only to mid-hub, which is about 12”. Though still not quite a match for the Bronco in this regard, the Land Cruiser does come out better than most SUVs would, as it’s capable of handling a depth of 27.5”.
For most of us, price point is going to be a consideration. For the cost of a well-equipped Land Cruiser, you could nearly put both a First Edition Bronco and a lesser-tier Bronco in your garage. And, once again, despite its off road-centric design, the Ford Bronco makes a strong showing in those aspects that make for a comfortable weekday commuter, despite taking on an SUV that carries a much heftier price tag.
By contrast despite the Land Cruiser’s well-earned reputation as an opulent, family-forward SUV, it does also have some off-road utility, providing your adventures off the asphalt don’t get too spirited. However, if there are frequent overlanding trips in your future, the Bronco becomes a much more likely choice.
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