Hello, fellow mud-heads! Boy, have I got exciting news for you. I was planning to break down a 2021 Ford Bronco Sport vs 2021 Jeep Renegade battle royale for the crown of the ultimate off-roader when 343 Industries announced the upcoming release of the 2021 UNSC Warthog! If you even want to think about off-roading in 2021 and beyond, you have to get in one, or you might as well not bother and buy something “sensible” like a Hummer EV.
Off-roading vehicle segments are always full of competition, especially in the subcompact / compact SUV market. For years, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has been the undisputed king, staying one trim level ahead of other small off-roading SUVs like Jeep Wrangler Sahara and Jeep Wrangler Sport. Then the Renegade, a subcompact SUV, spontaneously manifested from the angst of all the Wrangler-on-Wrangler infighting like some weird kind of vehi-nuclear fusion. In the trail-rated Trailhawk trim, it gave customers who thought the Wrangler was too spacious to be considered “uncomfortable” just what they’ve always wanted.
With few other realistic options, we dirt-eaters have had to go Jeep or go home. What are we supposed to do, drive a car? But 2021 shines like a beacon to those of us who have languished, shackled in chains to the jail cell grille of our Jeeps when what we really wanted was an SUV we could put a saddle on. Ford’s announcement of a Bronco family for release in 2021 was a rallying cry––the Bronco Sport to our Renegade is a Patton to our Rommel, a great liberator from the previous de facto champion. “At last,” we cried out when Bronco Sport was announced, “We can drive over logs which are 0.1” too tall for our Renegades! No longer shall a precisely-20”-deep puddle prohibit our wanderings!”
But we were fools. Our so-called liberator is a false king. The best off-roading SUV in the universe is not a Bronco or a Jeep––it’s a Warthog.
Every vehicle has quirks and features to make it stand out from the competition. This lot are no different. The Renegade has its cutesy looks like somebody’s six-year-old tried to make a Wrangler out of Play-Doh on Take Your Kid to Work Day, and Jeep rolled with it. The Bronco Sport has its G.O.A.T. drive modes lending a sense of superiority to drivers like their Baa-dlands edition has something to do with Tom Brady, and as if minor adjustments to throttle sensitivity will somehow make their trip to the drive-in movies more thrilling. The Warthog has a freaking turret.
Every grass-grinder wants to personalize their ride. In various trim levels of the Renegade and Bronco Sport, you’ll get decorative options and minor mechanical upgrades. Various trim levels of Warthog come with various grades of centrally-mounted weaponry. Owners of lesser vehicles put up feeble defenses. “I like that my Renegade looks good at home and on the trail!” Renegade owners whine in defense of their highlighter-yellow abomination. “My performance is optimized for any driving conditions!” protest Bronco Sport owners who can’t manage to change driving behavior on their own when it starts snowing. “Brrrrr!” respond Warthog owners, I think, I couldn’t really hear them over their blazing gun.
Engines: Big? Check. Environmentally Friendly? Checker.
Driving always starts with the engine. While the Bronco Sport and Renegade have adorable combustion engines with up to 3.0L of displacement, the Warthog’s hydrogen-injected ICE is 12.0L. Know what that is? That’s BIG, like, ready to power you straight up a cliffside and launch into orbit big. It makes every other engine on the market irrelevant.
“But what about the environment?” cry the hippies, “The Renegade is so efficient!”. First of all, if you love the environment so much, why do you insist on driving on it, you monster!? Second, talk to me when your Renegade has a hybrid powertrain, and I’ll shut you down again because the “hydrogen-injected” part means the Warthog is running a fuel cell engine that’s got Kiichiro Toyota spinning in his grave. You don’t need to cry me a river Bronco Sport fan, because the Warthog’s 100%-water vapor emissions do that for you.
So who cares if the Warthog’s energy efficiency is the fuel-consumption equivalent of filling a truck bed with gasoline and lighting it on fire? It’ll be out there, having fun, shredding snow and whatever else, giving Renegade and Bronco Sport drivers brain freeze while they fiddle with their traction management systems and melt the ice caps with their emissions.
Are You Going to Let the Ground Talk to You Like That?
True rut-runners have to pay attention to a lot of technical details. Approach, breakover, and departure angles, plus ground clearance, all tell you what slopes and obstacles you can handle without hurting something expensive. Armed with such knowledge and a really good protractor, we could safely navigate our way across passable terrain that amicably conformed to our limitations.
In 2021 that’s all over thanks to the Warthog. With 49” tires almost twice the size of Bronco Sport’s biggest offering, mounted at the very front and rear of the vehicle, the Warthog doesn’t give a Grunt about “angles.” While the Renegade’s schnoz eats dirt if a slope pushes 45 degrees, the Warthog can literally drive straight up canyon walls. In rivers that would drown a Bronco Sport, the Warthog’s undercarriage stays dry.
The Bronco Sport and Renegade come equipped with drive modes and performance features to make it easier for drivers to handle rough terrain, plus recovery hooks for pulling them out of situations they can’t resolve alone. The Warthog comes equipped to terraform the land to its will. Path blocked by a wall of debris? The rocket launcher Warthog clears the way. Caught in a tangle of vines? The flamethrower Warthog thinks otherwise. Stuck on a slope? First of all, how? Second of all, Gauss Warthog can carve new ground and add propulsion from the recoil to the engine’s output.
At Home, In Town, and Abroad
“Normal” people only even think about going off-roading once or twice a year, but that’s not us. Sand snorters like us need to get off the beaten path now and then. That’s why this segment of vehicles exists, but of course, very few of us actually live out in the wilds. Most of us actually live in pretty civilized environments. The need to drive on regular roads means a certain balance of equipment is needed. In fact, the desire to easily navigate urban environments is the entire reason for the subcompact SUV segment (so Jeep says – I’m sticking with the “fusion of Wrangler’s angst” version of events).
The 2021 Warthog shows that the industry has been approaching this problem all wrong. While Jeep and Ford made pitifully small Renegade and Bronco Sport SUVs to achieve a small turning circle and “fit in tight spaces,” the Warthog achieves the same thing in a vehicle literally twice as big in every direction thanks to two features:
- 4-wheel steering, making it possible for the Warthog to literally turn on a dime, especially with skilled application of the handbrake, and
4-wheel steering has been seen before (looking at you, early-00’s GM trucks), but it hasn’t caught on. Some malarky about it being “expensive” or something. But with this feature, rock thumpers driving the Warthog can handle changes in direction that Bronco Sport and Renegade could only manage by bouncing off a trampoline. And any time you find yourself confronted by a space that you can’t fit in naturally (or unnaturally), your demolition-certified Gauss turret will fix that for you.
Actually Go Anywhere
It’s clear that trail pounders like you and me have had a rough go of it. We spent years capitulating to Jeep’s tyranny waiting for a new Bronco, but when Bronco finally came, it turned out we can’t even put a saddle on it. Honestly, what’s the point? It seemed we were doomed to be stuck with “off-roaders” that are concerned with things like “approach angle” and “ground clearance.”
Then the 2021 Warthog was announced. And all I hear is, “Brrrrrrrrrrrr!”