2021 Ford's Bronco returns after 25 years to give the Jeep Wrangler a run for its money
Ford's new Bronco is perhaps the year's most eagerly anticipated vehicle debut as the legendary off-roader makes its comeback after more than two decades away. The Bronco will go into production in early 2021 as a classic two-door and, for the first time, as a four-door version. Vehicles will arrive in Ford's North American dealerships next spring. Sadly, there are no plans to bring the revived 4x4 to the UK, although it's likely (hopefully?!) that more than a few will find their way into the country via independent specialists.
Ford is capitalising on the rapid growth in rugged utility sales stateside to reboot a classic design. The look of the new model taps into the enduring popularity of the first generation, which ran from 1965-1977. The design team, led by Paul Wraith, even made a digital scan of a '1976 Bronco owned by Ford's British VP of design, Moray Callum, to use as inspiration in the creation of the 2021 edition. The resulting design carries clear links with the past, such as the short overhangs, squared-off styling, a reworked version of the horizontal grille bar and trail sights on the hood, but the new Bronco also packs a ton of tech, both mechanical and electronic, to help owners in their off-road exploits.
The truck rides on a modified version of the Ranger's mid-size pick-up architecture and will be built alongside it in Wayne, Michigan. That means 2.3-litre EcoBoost power as standard (expected to be 270bhp and 310ft-lb of torque) but the Baja 1 000-tested 2.7-litre V6 EcoBoost (provisional 31 0bhp and 400ft-lb of torque) is also available. Suspension is via coil springs at both ends — independent at the front, with a Dana AdvanTEK front diff, and via a Dana 44 AdvanTEK solid axle at the rear.
Options include front and rear Spicer Performa-TraK electronic locking diffs for improved traction over rough terrain and long-travel, position-sensitive Bilstein dampers with end-stop control valves. An electronic disconnecting front anti-roll bar can also be specified for increased articulation; it comes as standard on the most rugged of the four Bronco trim levels, which is named Badlands.
If you pick the right options, Ford is claiming best-in-class (i.e. better than Wrangler) figures for suspension travel (1 Qin front, 10+in rear), ground clearance (11.6in), breakover angle (29 degrees), departure angle (37.2 degrees) and water-fording capability (33.5in).
An available Terrain Management System with what Ford is calling 'G.O.A.T.' (go-over-any-type-of- terrain) modes should help drivers unlock the Bronco's potential off-road.
Up to seven selectable modes are offered, depending on the model, including Slippery and Sand, Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl. Speaking of crawling, the new seven-speed manual transmission (6+ 1) brings a crawler-gear ratio of 94.75:1 — another class best, says Ford. It's 67.8:1 with the optional 10-speed auto.
The durability of the off-road hardware was proved out in a programme that went beyond Ford's normal 10-million-mile testing demands and included some of the trails used for the famed King of the Hammers off-road race in Johnson Valley, California. Electronic technology that would have been hard to imagine when the first Bronco was launched is also brought to the mix on the 2021 model. A Trail Toolbox includes Trail Control — cruise control for low-speed trail driving — and Trail Turn Assist to tighten off-road turning radii through torque vectoring. Trail One-Pedal Drivel controls acceleration and braking from a single pedal to make life easi1r during slow-mode rock crawling.
Modern navigation technologies have been applied to the trails, too. Customers who opt for the 12in SYNC-4 infotainment setup, which also brings over-the-air updates to the Bronco, get seamless integration to the FordPass Performance app. This enables owners to plan, navigate and share off-road adventures on more than 1 000 topographic trail maps. The SYNC system also displays a 360-degree camera system complete with off-road spotter views to provide tyre position information when off-roading, reducing the need for a human spotter. Meanwhile a neat dashboard rack was developed to hold your mobile phone after engineers' phones spilled off the dash during extreme testing.
Ford has built customisation potential into the Bronco from the ground up — good news for owners who will want to personalise their truck, either from Ford's catalogue of approved parts and accessories (more than 200 at launch) or from what's sure to be an avalanche of suitable components from aftermarket specialists. The body structure is modular for easy disassembly and Bronco is stamped into the bolt heads that are designed for removal — like the 'F' in Ford-made Jeeps during the Second World War. Six switches mounted overhead ready for aftermarket use have pre -wired leads to key accessory points.
Ford has made provision to store the doors on board in bags — all four, in the case of the longer-wheelbase Bronco four-door — so there's no need to leave them chained to a tree when owners hit extreme trails. The roof parts (three on the two-door, four on the four-door) have also been made smaller to ease handling. The roof cross-member has been moved rearwards on both variants to provide uninterrupted views for all passengers. Bronco pricing for US buyers starts at $29,995 (about £23,400) for the base two-door model. Looking at the stunning pictures that Ford has published of the revived machine, we can't help but think they're getting a bargain.
Watch out Jeep Wrangler — Bronco's coming to get you!
Underneath is a modified version of the Ranger's mid-size pick-up architecture.