Ford Brings Back Bronco as a Serious Off-Road Vehicle, Adds Smaller Sport

July 13, 2020 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

The Bronco is back.

Ford Motor Co. unveiled the 2021 Bronco SUV Monday evening along with a smaller sibling called the Bronco Sport.

First launched in 1966, the Bronco SUV is famous for its off-road racing victories and notorious as the vehicle O.J. Simpson used during his slow-speed cruise from police on Southern California freeways following the death of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Ford stopped selling the Bronco in 1996. 

But in the intervening years, SUVs and trucks have come to dominate the U.S. auto market and now account for about seven of every 10 new vehicles sold. Ford is doubling down on that trend, having scuttled selling passenger sedans in the U.S to focus on SUVs and trucks. It just introduced the latest generation of the Ford F-150 pickup truck.

Using the slogan “Built Wild,” the new Bronco targets drivers engaged in an active outdoor lifestyle.

“Their vehicle is their largest piece of gear. It’s truly a pilot for life adventures,” said Sarah Turner, the automaker’s consumer insights manager.

Every Bronco will have four-wheel-drive, with the larger two-door and four-door models having significant off-road capability. Ford is using one of its global truck platforms for the vehicles. They have a body-on-frame architecture. The smaller Bronco Sport has unibody construction – like current crossovers on the market. Ford said it would have enough capability to get to just about any trailhead or remote fishing spot but won’t be the vehicle for rock crawling or desert racing.

STYLING

All share similar styling and design cues. They all share a single piece grille with round headlamps pushed to each side. Bronco, rather than Ford, adorns the grille at a level that bisects the headlights. The body style is flat, rather than curved, evoking the old Bronco with just a hint of vintage Land Rover Defender. The windshield is upright to improve visibility. Flairs at the front corners of the hood give the driver a better sense of where the Bronco sits on the trail, an advantage for off-roading. There is a separate roof in a different color. In the rear, there are simple, one-piece vertical tail lamps. It features large open wheel wells. 

The body-on-frame Broncos come apart like a Lego puzzle. The doors and roof are removable. Ford said it has developed a unique quick release system and provides onboard storage areas for the components. Additionally, a bolt system will allow owners to swap out fenders and panels.

“One customer, get their hands on all of this, no two Broncos will be exactly alike,” said Paul Wraith, the Bronco program’s chief designer.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

COMPETITION

Analysts like Ford’s approach and note that the vehicles will match up against offerings from the rival Jeep brand.

“Ford is expanding its lineup by selecting important segments where it doesn’t currently compete,” Sam, an analyst with Guidehouse Insights, told Trucks.com.

“With the Bronco family, they are turning their attention to Jeep and again duplicating the strategies that have made that brand a success. The hardcore Bronco looks to have all of the ingredients necessary to make it fully competitive against Wrangler,” he said.

Ford, for example, has adopted the full modularity and personalization strategy of Jeep.

“Ford has done some really cool things in terms of attention to detail that are missing from Jeep,” Abuelsamid said.

That includes the ability to store the doors in the cargo area, the drain plugs in the floor, the body-mounted mirrors, the tie-down loops on the hood and the dashtop mounting rack for phones and cameras.

“Assuming they deliver on the capability and there’s no reason to believe they can’t, this should prove to be a nicely profitable niche for Ford,” he said.

Here are all the details on the Bronco and the Bronco Sport.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

The 2021 Ford Bronco two-door starts at $29,995, including the destination fee. But that is for the base model. The price rises rapidly as buyers jump to four doors, add a bigger engine, luxury features and greater-off-road capability. The Bronco will reach dealers in the spring of 2021.

The 2021 Ford Bronco sport starts at $28,155, including the destination fee and will be on dealer lots later this year.

POWERTRAINS

Ford is equipping the Bronco with two powertrains. The standard is a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces up to 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to a 7-speed manual transmission with a crawler gear for the serious off-roader. Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission is available as an option. The other engine is a 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 that produces up to 310 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. It is matched with the 10-speed automatic transmission. Ford also will offer optional 17-inch wheels with 30-inch tires are standard. Options go up to 18-inch wheels with 35-inch tires.  

The Bronco Sport also gets two engines. The standard is a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that produces up to 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. There also is an optional 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces up to 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. Both are mated to 8-speed automatic transmissions. 17-inch wheels are standard, but there are 18-inch options with up to 29-inch tires.

OFF-ROAD METRICS 

That is the starting point for each vehicle. Options change some of the travel and other metrics. 

Ground clearance is 8.4 inches for the 2-door model and 8.3 inches for the 4-door Bronco. Front suspension travel is 200 millimeters, with 240 millimeters in the rear. The approach angle is 35.5 degrees and 29.8 degrees on departure. Maximum water fording is 33.5 inches. The wheelbase for the two-door model is 100.4 inches. It is 116.1 inches for the four-door Bronco.

Ford has equipped the larger Bronco models with an independent front suspension. At the rear, the vehicle has a solid axle design featuring coil springs with five locating links to provide strength and off-road control.

The smaller Bronco Sport has 7.8 inches of ground clearance. Front suspension travel is 188 millimeters, with 188 millimeters in the rear. The approach angle is 21.7 degrees and 30.4 degrees on departure. Maximum water fording is 17.5 inches. The wheelbase is 105.1 inches.

GOAT MODES

Ford is offering a driving system that it is calling G.O.A.T. for goes over any terrain. It also is a play on Bronco’s goat-like trail capability.  

“The G.O.A.T. modes are designed to help drivers better navigate any type of terrain,” said Mark Grueber, Bronco consumer marketing manager.

Depending on the vehicle, there are up to seven driver-selectable modes, including Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, with Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl for off-road driving. The terrain management system is available on both the Bronco and the Bronco Sport. 

Jerry Hirsch June 25, 2020
Ford unveiled a redesigned F-150 pickup truck, showing off a bolder body style and improved interior but keeping the same chassis.

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