1965 to 1996 were the good years for Ford Bronco fans. Five Bronco generations were conceived in Ford's engineering and design labs and brought to life on the floor of Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, over those four decades.
Each model year and generation promised and delivered improvements and additions that continued to whet Bronco owners' appetites for this dependable, off-road performer, all the while attracting legions of new fans and first-time Bronco owners. Sure, there may have been some missteps along the way (Bronco II, anyone?), but every family has to have that one crazy uncle. It was indeed the Golden Age of Bronco, and it was never going to end.
Until it did.
BRONCO STAGES A COMEBACK
The Bronco ice age ensued for 30 years, until a glimmer of hope was offered up at a place that is notoriously gray and cold during the winter months – the Motor City. At the 2017 Detroit Auto Show that January it was announced that Bronco would indeed be galloping back with the introduction of two Bronco models scheduled for delivery in the summer of 2021. Any lingering concerns that perhaps Bronco fans had forgotten about the brand or that it may have lost its appeal during the three-decade hiatus were quickly put to rest by reservations for the 2021 Bronco “First Edition," of which only 3,500 would be produced. That quantity was quickly blown through, however, prompting Ford to double it to 7,000 units, which also sold out quickly.
TWO BRONCO MODELS JOIN THE STABLE
That first 1965 Bronco was designed as a direct competitor to Jeep's CJ-5, so it's only fitting that the chatter in car review circles today centers on new Bronco being a direct and serious competitor to Jeep's Wrangler – both in features and off-road capability. While the Sport model is targeted more to on-road driving (it can still handle off-road), Bronco's focus and appeal is decidedly off-road.
Much like its predecessors, Bronco features a removable hard top, but with a twist, as there's no crossbar between the front and back seats, which adds to the feeling of openness. While that's appealing, the most exciting addition for 2021 is removable doors that eliminate one of the last barriers between occupants and the outdoors they crave, and that drive the challenge squarely into Jeep's camp. On the four-door model, those doors are easily stored in the rear cargo area – something Wrangler owners can't do – making swap out and storage-on-the-go convenient, particularly if bad weather creeps up. Even on the two-door model, the doors will fit on board, provided that the rear seats are folded down and nothing else is stored in the smaller rear cargo area.
OFF ROAD COMES INTO FOCUS
Available in seven distinct models – including base, First Edition, and “Badlands" – the latter is for drivers who “crave the extreme in their off-roading," Ford says.
Putting muscle behind its focus on Bronco's off-road capabilities, all new Bronco and Bronco Sport Badlands owners receive membership to Ford's Off-Roadeo Driving School. The two-day experience at one of four available Ford off-road experience centers will remind experienced off-roaders, and teach newbies alike, about off-road essentials.
Enabling Bronco to power through whatever Mother Nature throws its way off the beaten path, is Ford's terrain management system, appropriately named GOAT – “goes over any type of terrain." The system features seven different driving modes, including sand, slippery, eco, sport, and normal, and on the Badlands, mud/ruts and rock crawl for extreme performance.
Another off-road asset is Bronco's Sasquatch package, a standard feature on all Wildtrak models, and available as on option on all Broncos. The package includes 35-inch tires, front- and rear-locking differentials, Trail Control™, a 4.7 final drive ratio with electronic-locking front and rear axle, and a high-clearance suspension with fender flares.
The new Bronco also claims several “best-in-class" features important in off-roading, including:
- Ground clearance at 11.6 when equipped with 35's
- Water fording at 33.5 inches thanks to a high-mounted air intake
- Departure and breakover angles of 37.2 and 29 degrees, respectively. Novice four-wheelers take note that the departure angle is that at which the vehicle can climb without its back bumper hitting the ground, while breakover refers to the angle between the vehicle's wheels and the underside of the midsection. That's an important one to remember, for instance, when contemplating whether to drive over a large rock. If doing so exceeds the angle, the middle of the vehicle will make contact with the surface and result in a stuck situation as all four wheels will be off the ground.
Because 4x4ing is a dirty business, Bronco's interior features marine-grade vinyl as an easy-to-clean option. That choice is complemented with rubberized, washable floors that feature integrated drains. The instrument panel was inspired by the first generation Bronco model and is easy to read. Powering the Bronco is either a best-in-class 2.7L six with EcoBoost delivering 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque or a 2.3L four cylinder with EcoBoost providing 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Transmission options include a seven-speed manual or a 10-speed automatic.
Potential buyers who are chomping at the bit to take delivery of a new Bronco and the trails should realize that, at the time of this writing, deliveries won't begin until June, 2021, with some buyers having to wait until 2022 for all deliveries to be completed.
The base price for the two-door starts at $29,995 while the four-door begins at $34,695.
Buckle up, because it's going to be a wild ride.
What do you think of the new Bronco? Let us know in the comments.