New Ford Bronco has the Jeep Wrangler in its crosshairs.
On Monday, the Ford Motor Company introduced a new series of Bronco vehicles, capitalizing on an iconic name first launched in 1965. The new Broncos, which are composed of two- and four-door SUVs, and one crossover utility vehicle, are designed to help Ford recapture much of the off-road glory it enjoyed in years past.
Production is slated to begin in early 2021 for the standard Bronco models. Ford says the base version will cost $29,995, plus destination. Buyers can reserve one immediately for just $100. The two-door seats four; the four-door seats five.
Ford is touting the new Broncos through its “Built Wild” campaign, which they say is based on “thrilling experiences” through its “heritage-inspired style, engineering and smart off-road technology, plus innovative features to help outdoor enthusiasts create adventures in the most remote corners of the world.” In other words, the new Broncos capture the heritage and capabilities of the original, while incorporating current engineering practices and technologies.
“We created the Bronco family to elevate every aspect of off-road adventure and equipped them with class-leading chassis hardware and exclusive technologies to raise the bar in the rugged 4×4 segment and take people further into the wild,” said Jim Farley, Ford chief operating officer. “They’re built with the toughness of an F-Series truck and performance spirit of Mustang – and come wrapped in one of the most stunning and functional off-road designs that’s true to the original Bronco design DNA.”
Standard Four-Wheel Drive
The new Broncos will feature four-wheel-drive exclusively, something that’s certain to catch the attention of off-road enthusiasts. Depending on the configuration, the new Bronco will benefit from as many as seven driver-selectable modes including Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, with Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl for off-road driving.
A pair of four-wheel-drive systems are offered on all Bronco models: a base arrangement and a more advanced package. The standard system makes use of a two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case, while the optional advanced system features a two-speed electromechanical transfer case that adds an auto mode for on-demand engagement to select between 2H and 4H. Ford says power is distributed to a Dana™ 44 AdvanTEK® solid rear axle and Dana AdvanTEK independent front differential unit – both with available Spicer® Performa-TraK™ electronic locking differentials for improved traction over rough terrain.
Ford has a pair of powertrain choices for the 2021 Broncos. The standard 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a familiar one, as it is utilized in various Ford products, including the Mustang. In the Bronco, it develops 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Also available is a 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine with 310 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque.
The base engine works with either a 7-speed Getrag manual or a 10-speed automatic transmission. The Getrag unit is especially interesting as it is composed of the six standard forward gears and one crawler gear. As for the V6, it comes with the automatic only.
The new Broncos will enjoy excellent off-road capability thanks to its available best-in-class 11.6-inch ground clearance, upwards of a 43.2-degree approach angle, a maximum 29-degree breakover angle, and a 37.2-degree departure angle. Ford also says the new SUV will enjoy best-in-class water fording capability of up to 33.5 inches. The Bronco also has exposed tow hooks in the front and rear and available heavy-duty modular steel bumpers with an integrated Ford Performance accessory winch mount.
Strategically placed steel shields will protect critical hardware. On the higher-capability models, these will include an available front bash plate, along with shields for the engine, transmission, transfer case, and the fuel tank. For drivers tackling the most challenging conditions, Bronco’s available side rock rails are designed to support the weight of each side of the vehicle.
“Bronco two- and four-door models leverage the company’s Built Ford Tough durability and performance testing and take it even further off-road with Built Wild Extreme Durability Testing in the harshest possible environments, including the brutal trails of the King of the Hammers off-road competition,” said Dave Pericak, director, Ford enterprise product line management, Icons.
Heritage Design Cues
Although the all-new Bronco shares nothing with the original, many of the earlier design elements are present, offering a recognizable connection that should instantly win fans.
Up front, the BRONCO insignia makes a bold statement showcasing what this SUV is all about. Other features include dual round headlamps, an upright windshield, removable roof, tight overhangs, and frameless doors that are also removable.
Introducing the Bronco Sport
The Bronco SUVs may arrive after the first of the year, but they’ll be preceded by the Bronco Sport, an entirely different model. This one seats five. The Bronco Sport rides on a unibody chassis, while the Bronco SUVs are true utes with a fully boxed frame arrangement. Thus, the smallest member of the family, which is considered a subcompact (to the compact/midsize Broncos) — likely designed with the Jeep Renegade in mind — won’t have the off-road chops of its siblings.
Nevertheless, it won’t be a mere pretender either – Ford says the cute-ute will have a ground clearance ranging from 7.8 to 8.8 inches, depending on the trim and wheel package. Further, it will have a standard 21.7-degree approach angle, 18.2 degrees on the breakover, and a robust 30.4-degree departure angle. Moving up to the top trims, those numbers rise appreciably to 30.4, 20.4, and 33.1 degrees, respectively.
Bronco Sport Motivation
Like the Bronco SUVs, the Bronco Sport features a pair of engine choices. The standard motivator is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. Also available is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque.
Both engines work with an 8-speed automatic transmission. In the upgraded engine this transmission includes manual shifting and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The Bronco Family represents a sea change for Ford as the company abandons nearly every car model in the states for utility vehicles and trucks. In the Bronco, Ford harnesses a proven and well-respected name, not unlike the Mustang.
Will customers line up for the new models? We think so. We also believe that the Bronco SUVs pose a formidable threat to the Jeep Wrangler which has long enjoyed a near stranglehold on the segment.
The Bronco Sport should carve a niche, especially as it supplies arguably the best off-road chops in its class, including bettering the Jeep Renegade. Likely, it will do two things:
1), serve as the entry point for the Bronco brand, and
2), introduce more drivers to the pleasure of off-road fun.
Of course, if you’re a trail thumping maven, the standard utility vehicles offer the most appeal. This writer longs for the opportunity to test one on the rugged trails of Uwharrie National Forest in North Carolina, the same place where we drove the Jeep Wrangler and the Ford Ranger.
Photos copyright the Ford Motor Company.