It took a few extra weeks after the new, improved June-edition Detroit Auto Show got canceled by COVID, and a few extra days after some coincidental (or not) timing weirdness with O.J. Simpson’s birthday, but the all-new Ford Bronco is finally here … and it’s looking better than it has in decades. The rugged, new Bronco is built with unbridled adventure top of mind and uses both classic and cutting-edge tools to deliver it. The Wrangler had better watch its back, because there’s a new 4×4 in town.
Last seen in production in 1996, the Bronco has benefited from its near-quarter-century vacation. The nameplate could have merely diluted away into another boring, modernized “me too” SUV but instead it’s resurrected as a hardcore off-roader fully inspired by the 1966 first-generation original. It comes in both traditional two-door configuration, for those wanting the most nimble off-road ride, and – for the first time ever – more family/passenger-friendly four-door variety. The Bronco two-door measures in at 173.7 in (441 cm) from its vertical face to its vertical tail, about 7 in (17.8 cm) longer than the two-door Jeep Wrangler. The additional two Bronco doors tack on nearly 16 in (40.7 cm) to extend the measuring tape to 189.4 in (481 cm), or an inch (2.5 cm) longer than the Wrangler Unlimited.
Thankfully, Ford’s designers swallowed back any impulse to splash the Bronco with a modern makeover (we’re shaking our head disapprovingly, Land Rover). Instead, they started off by digitally scanning the short, capable first-generation Bronco to use as a reference throughout, developing an equally rough and ready utility vehicle for 2020.
“Similar to the first-generation model, Bronco’s square proportions, short overhangs and wide stance are optimized for off-road adventure,” explains Paul Wraith, Bronco chief designer. “The side profile features a flat, no-nonsense surface with clear-cut edges and robustly flared fenders. Large, open wheel wells are a modular design with a quick-release attachment for simple customization.”
Of course, the 2021 Bronco is not nearly as short as that 151.5-in (385-cm) first-gen model, but it does pack the lovely set of figures below:
Below that stout Bronco body with all the right angles is an equally rugged boxed high-strength steel chassis. The available beadlock wheels (and up to 35 inches of tire) are secured in front via an independent suspension and at the rear via a Dana 44 AdvanTek solid axle cushioned by five-link coil spring suspension. Long-travel Bilstein dampers can be added in optionally at all four corners to improve off-road durability and smoothen out harshness.
The Bronco comes powered by a pair of “race bred” EcoBoost engines, topping out with a 2.7-liter V6 that churns out an estimated 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder kicks out 270 hp and 310 lb-ft. The standard seven-speed manual transmission comes ready for low-speed rock crawling with available crawler-gear ratio of 94.75:1. The available SelectShift 10-speed automatic, meanwhile, smooths out the roadway drive to and from the trail out while still offering a 67.8:1 crawl ratio.
The Bronco’s baseline standard 4×4 system has a two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case, while the available 4×4 upgrade dials it up to elecro-mechanical two-speed shifting with auto on-demand 4H engagement. Dana Spicer electronic differentials are available for both the front and rear. Available semi-active stabilizer bars disconnect for better articulation during bumpy off-road driving and reconnect to improve high-speed stability and steering.
Ford loads the Bronco with plenty of other off-road-angled tech, including a seven-mode Terrain Management System with selectable “G.O.A.T.” (go over any terrain) options like Sand, Baja and Rock Crawl; a cruise-like Trail Control system for low-speed trail driving; a Trail Turn Assist system that shortens up the turn radius via torque vectoring; and single-pedal acceleration/braking for more precise rock crawling control. Also included among the available options is an info-nav system with topographic mapping and more than 1,000 preloaded off-road trail maps.
Nothing beats some fresh air in the remote backcountry, and Ford lets it in via foldaway hardtop and soft-top options. The two-door Bronco comes standard with a three-piece modular hardtop clinging to the steel roll cage, comprising a rear panel and individual driver- and passenger-side front panels. The four-door Bronco comes standard with a folding soft top, but buyers can opt for a four-panel modular hardtop. Both hardtops have removable rear quarter windows and are designed for easy one-person install/removal. The frameless doors are also removable.
The Bronco interior is a mix of cutting-edge and retro, starting with the available easy-clean rubberized floors with integrated drains and hardwearing marine-grade vinyl seats. The digital LCD instruments are styled like the original Bronco and complemented by an available 12-in Sync 4 infotainment system with 360-degree camera view. Assistance tech options include Ford Co-Pilot360, AdvanceTrac with roll stability control and trailer sway control.
Ford will kickoff Bronco production at its Wayne, Michigan assembly plant in early 2021, rolling the first models out to dealerships by spring. It plans to break down pricing closer to launch, but it gives the base MSRP of the two-door model at US$29,995 after $1,495 destination and delivery fee. Buyers who want to stake a claim on this highly anticipated 4×4 can put down $100 for a reservation starting today at ford.com.
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