Give Ford dual kudos: for reprising one of its most iconic nameplates and for equipping its 2021 “built wild” Broncos with the style and substance necessary to succeed in the fierce SUV arena. Riding on two different platforms and available in two- and four-door body styles, the new Bronco brand will be the eighth member of Ford’s rambling SUV/crossover household when it reaches showrooms at the end of this year. A standard 4×4 driveline underlines these new models’ off-road chops. Due in showrooms for spring 2021, the base two-door Bronco will start at $29,995 including destination fees, while the four-door starts at $34,695; base price for the Bronco Sport that goes on sale by the end of 2020, including destination, is $28,155. A $100 deposit will hold your place in line a Bronco starting today.
This bright-eyed four-door dispatches the familiar Ford oval to its rear hatch so no one will miss the BRONCO script splashed across its face. It’s a five-passenger unibody design with key chassis parts—strut-type front suspension, semi-trailing-arm independent rear suspension, a coil spring at each corner—shared with the Ford Escape. While the wheelbase is a longish 105.7 inches, the Sport’s 172.7-in overall length falls between the 1966–77 first-generation Bronco and the 1978–96 second-through-fifth-generation big-boy designs. (Smallish Bronco IIs were offered from 1984 through 1990.) The new Bronco Sport is a sub-compact SUV aimed at customers who take their off-road weekends seriously. Access to its cargo hold is provided by a rear liftgate equipped with a hinged window.
Engine choices include a 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbo producing 181 hp and a 2.0-liter turbo four delivering 245 hp. An eight-speed automatic is standard and paddle shifting is optional with the larger engine. A twist knob labeled G.O.A.T (goes over any terrain) selects one of three off-road modes, including Baja, Mud/Ruts, and Rock Crawl. Add to that four on-road modes: Normal, Eco, Slippery and Sand, and Sport. Chassis and powertrain functions are automatically tailored to suit the occasion. A special “trail control” setting maintains a steady off-road speed both forward or in reverse via automatic throttle and brake applications.
There are five distinct Bronco Sport trim levels (the base model, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands, and First Edition) and a wide assortment of 17- and 18-inch steel and aluminum wheels offered with all-season and all-terrain radials. Badlands and First Edition models get the 2.0-liter engine as standard, along with unique tuning for the front struts and hydraulic rebound stops to help smooth out off-road driving. Ground clearance ranges from 7.8- to 8.8-in and fording ability varies from 17.7-in with the base all-season tires to 23.6-in with the all-terrain tires.
There are four steel bash plates included to help protect the Bronco Sport off-road, and Ford offers frame-mounted front tow hooks. Cloth and leather seat trim are both available. An overhead rack is standard equipment and a stepped roof accommodates two bikes in the cargo hold. Thoughtful touches include available washable rubber flooring, silicone-sealed control switches, and a storage bin below the second row passenger seat for wet or muddy gear.
Bronco two- and four-door
The two larger, more capable Broncos share a platform with Ford’s mid-size Ranger pickup including body-on-frame construction, a control arm front suspension, a live rear axle located by five links, and coil springs all around. The two-door edition seats four while the four-door accommodates five. A side-hinged tailgate with fixed glass carries the spare wheel. These Broncos, engineered for customers who venture off-road weeks at a time, ride securely on a fully-boxed steel frame.
While the two-door is only slightly longer and taller than the Bronco Sport, the four-door is notably bigger than any past Bronco thanks to its 116.1-in wheelbase, 189.4-190.5-in overall length, and up to 78.7-in of height.
Two engines are offered here: a turbocharged 2.3-liter I-4 rated at 270 hp with 310 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 producing 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed Getrag manual transmission (with a creeper first gear) is available with the four-cylinder engine while a 10-speed Ford automatic can be had with either engine.
Two different two-speed transfer cases are geared for off-roading, the more advanced of which has an electromechanical transfer case and the ability to automatically switch between 2H and 4H. Pick the base engine with stick shift (and the more aggressive transfer case) and the total first-gear low-range torque multiplication is an awesome 95:1. That combo won’t top Mt. Everest but it should earn king of the hill honors at your local mudhole. Every large Bronco has 33.5-in of fording ability and at least 8.3-in of ground clearance. With the largest 35-in tires fitted, ground clearance is 11.5 in. The Bronco employs a Dana 44 AdvanTEK solid rear axle and Dana’ independent front axle unit, both of which can be optioned with Spicer Performa-TraK electronic locking diffs.
Ford designers invested extra effort in making these big Broncos proficient off-road. Plastic fender flares are easily removed to increase lateral clearance or to remedy scrape damage. The aluminum doors are fitted with frameless glass to minimize their size and weight. That in combination with quick-disconnect door stops, wiring, and hinges allows the owner to strip the doors and stash them in zipper bags for storage at home or in the cargo hold. The five hard or soft roof panels are also easily removed for open-air motoring.
The interior switchgear is rubber covered without gaps to block moisture intrusion. There are four grab handles for bracing over rough terrain. The rubber floor covering is equipped with troughs and drain holes to facilitate quick rinsing after a dusty day in the saddle. The standard seat trim is marine-grade vinyl capable of taking a (wet) licking without damage. Leather is optional for those less interested in exploring their back forty. Prominent front fender loops (Ford calls them “trail sights”) serve two functions—they pinpoint the forward corners to help clear boulders and they provide a secure means of tying down kayaks and other gear loaded onto the optional roof rack. Readily removable covers integrated with the windshield frame ease the addition of overhead lights for deer spotting. Four-door models come standard with a cloth soft top, but a hard top is also available. Hard tops feature removable rear quarter panels that can be lifted off with the roof panels still attached.
In addition to seven distinct trim and equipment levels, there’s a cool Sasquatch package that includes 17-in forged-aluminum wheels and bead-locks available across the board. While 16-in all-season radials are standard with base trim, 17-in all-terrain or mud-terrain tires come in the six other trim packages. Off-road-friendly technology arrives in the form of the Bronco’s so-called Trail Toolbox, which bundles low-speed cruise control, torque-vectoring turn radius assist, and one-pedal acceleration/braking controls for slow rock-crawling. Steel shields are in place to protect the Bronco’s otherwise vulnerable bits, but higher-level trim packages are outfitted with protection for the engine, transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank, plus a front bash plate. Ford says that its available side rock rails can “support the weight of each side of the vehicle.”
Clearly, Ford has the Jeep Compass, Cherokee, and Wrangler fixed in its sights. These new Broncos are a shrewd mix of fresh appearance, aggressive functionality, and technological reach that will make them serious contenders. As Ford confirms all pricing, offers driving opportunities, and outlines the full roster of more than 200 factory-supported aftermarket accessories, we’ll be back with pertinent updates.