When the Ford Bronco debuted back in 1966, it was an instant hit that spawned five total generations of rugged off-road sport utility vehicles. But the last time anyone could go out and buy a new one was way back in 1996, after which Ford discontinued the iconic model. The Bronco’s popularity has only grown stronger in the quarter-century since, prompting the automaker to bring back its “wild” SUV in two configurations – the 2021 Ford Bronco two-door, and the first-ever four-door version.
With the new Bronco, Ford has created a mixture of heritage-inspired styling, smart off-road technology and engineering, and a host of innovative features designed to one-up the segment stalwart, the Jeep Wrangler. Ford says the new Bronco is “built with the toughness of an F-Series truck and performance spirit of Mustang,” which makes for one interesting and capable adventure vehicle.
The main goal of the new Bronco was to provide customers with maximum four-wheel-drive, go-anywhere, anytime capability, and confidence. As such, it features some pretty impressive new technology to help in that department. That includes off-road mapping and drive technologies, along with an exclusive Terrain Management System with G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) Modes. Up to seven driver-selectable modes are offered including Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, with Baja, Mud/Ruts, and Rock Crawl for off-road driving.
All Bronco models come with two different four-wheel drive systems – a base setup and advanced 4×4. The base system utilizes 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. 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.
The Bronco is also available with segment-first Trail Toolbox, which gives owners a suite of exclusive technologies including Trail Control, which is essentially cruise control for low-speed trail driving. Trail Turn Assist (or front dig) tightens off-road turning radiuses through torque vectoring, and Trail One-Pedal Drive acceleration/braking control makes for more precise and confident slow-mode rock crawling.
The Bronco also sports a best-in class 11.6 inch ground clearance, maximum 29 degree breakover angle, and 37.2 degree departure angle, plus best-in-class water fording capability of up to 33.5 inches. Underneath, specially-designed and strategically-placed steel plates protect the Bronco’s critical components. Higher-capability models come with available rock sliders, a front bash plate, and shields for the engine, transmission, transfer case and fuel tank.
Interestingly, Ford’s design studio began the process of creating the new Bronco by completing a life-size digital scan of a first-generation model, and then worked from there. “Similar to the first-generation model, Bronco’s square proportions, short overhangs and wide stance are optimized for off-road adventure,” said 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.”
The architecture for the Bronco two-door and four-door features a fully-boxed, high-strength steel chassis that delivers best-in-class suspension travel – a full 17 percent more in the front and rear than the next closest competitor. The fully independent front suspension pairs with a solid rear axle with coil springs and five locating links to provide a balanced combination of off-road capability and on-road manners.
For those seeking a bit more off-road capability, long-travel position-sensitive Bilstein dampers with end-stop control valves are available, as is a segment-exclusive semi-active hydraulic stabilizer bar disconnect design that’s capable of disconnecting during articulation to increase ramp angle index, then reconnecting when it’s not needed.
Every trim level of the Bronco two-door and four-door is available with 35 inch tires and beadlock-capable wheels. In terms of power options, the Bronco is available with either Ford’s 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine with a projected output of 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, or the 2.7L EcoBoost V6 with a projected 310 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque.
Two transmission options are available on all Bronco models – Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission, or a new 7 speed manual (6+1). When paired with the advanced 4×4 system with automatic on-demand engagement, the new manual transmission generates a class-leading available crawler-gear ratio of 94.75:1. The 10-speed automatic transmission offers a maximum 67.8:1 crawl ratio when paired with the available advanced 4×4 transfer case.
Aside from their many similarities, the Bronco two-door and four-door begin to differentiate themselves when it comes to their respective top designs. Two-door models come with a three-piece roof section that consists of right and left-hand side front sections and one rear section. First-row panels stow away onboard on two-door models. The top is available with molded-in color or as an optional premium painted modular top with four sections that adds a removable panel over the rear seats and cargo area.
Four-door models have four removable roof sections – left and right front panels, a full-width center panel, and a rear section. A cloth soft top, standard on four-door models, provides easy access to the open air and a unique tilt-up function for quick access to the rear cargo area. For customers who don’t want to choose between a soft or hardtop, the four-door model can be optioned with both.
The roof panels on all models can be removed by one person by unlocking the latches from the interior. All modular hardtops have rear quarter windows that are removable in three steps – snap, push, and lift away without removing the roof panel. Ford claims that this process takes a fraction of the time than comparable competitor products. The sportbar is located behind the second row, which allows both Bronco two- and four-door models to offer the largest overall open-top view in its class.
The frameless doors on the new Bronco are similarly designed for easy removal and storage. The mirrors are mounted on the cowl, which helps retain visibility when they’re off. Additionally, trail sights on the front fenders also serve as tie-downs, like the first-generation Bronco, and have a 150 pound capacity for securing longer items like canoes, while also serving as trail sights for the driver.
The interior of the new Bronco is inspired by the first-gen model, but with modern materials and a style inspired by outdoor gear. The multifunction instrument panel is a full color LCD unit, while the infotainment screen comes in a stand 8 inch or available 12 inch SYNC 4 system. In the Bronco, the latest version of SYNC is capable of receiving over-the-air updates.
The system also works with the FordPass Performance app with off-road navigation, which allows owners to plan, navigate, and share their off-road adventures. The SYNC system also displays the available 360 degree camera system with off-road spotter views to provide additional visibility in technical pursuits such as rock crawling. Advanced topographic trail maps and more than 1,000 curated trail maps are powered by content from NeoTreks’ AccuTerra Maps, Trails Off-road trail guides, and FunTreks trail guides.
Other notable interior features include available grab handles that are integrated into the modular instrument panel and center console, MOLLE hooks mounted in the seatbacks, and attachment points built into the instrument panel to mount a bring-your-own-device rack, with 12-volt power connections used to mount cameras, navigation units, phones, and other devices.
For those that get dirty out there exploring the wild, the Bronco’s interior is also designed for easy cleanup. The rubberized floors are washable, and contain integrated drains. Marine-grade vinyl seating surfaces are designed to resist mildew, while the instrument panel surfaces are wipeable. Seamless silicone rubber is used to seal the dash-mounted hero switches and available uplifter switches, which are pre-wired for accessories and mounted overhead.
All Bronco models come with a high-strength steel roll cage with integrated side curtain airbags in the upper structure and seats. AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control and Trailer Sway Control come standard on all models, while a full suite of Ford Co-Pilot360 driver-assist technologies are also available.
Bronco buyers will have a slew of options to choose from, with seven unique models and four content packages, 11 color choices, and over 200 dealer-installed accessories available. Models include the no-frills base Bronco, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Wildtrak, and Badlands. A limited-production First Edition will also be offered at launch.
The 2021 Ford Bronco will be built at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant, with production beginning in early 2021. The first models will begin arriving at Ford dealerships in the Spring of 2021. The new Bronco will start at an MSRP of $29,995, though no other pricing has been released at this time. Interested buyers can reserve their Bronco now at Ford.com for a refundable $100 deposit.