Brute Bronco 2-door SUV returns to do damage & take on the Wrangler

High-tech but trail-capable: Ford’s iconic Bronco 2-door is back with the Jeep Wrangler in its sights

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Few new vehicle debuts are as eagerly anticipated as that of Ford’s new Bronco, which is making its comeback after 25 years away. The 2-door and 4-door Broncos – including the 2021 Bronco Sport – will go into production in early 2021 with the first models arriving in Ford dealerships next spring.

Ford is capitalizing on the rapid growth in rugged utility sales to reboot a classic design. The look of the new 2-door taps into the enduring popularity of in particular the first generation, which ran from 1965-77.

The design team, led by Paul Wraith, even made a digital scan of a ’76 Bronco owned by VP of design, Moray Callum, to use as inspiration in the creation of the 2021 edition.

Mechanical highlights

The resulting design carries clear links with the past, such as the short overhangs, squared-off styling 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 adventures. 

Performance outweighting the Wrangler

Beginning with the chassis, there’s coil-spring suspension 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 stabilizer bar can also be specified for increased articulation.

2021 Bronco rear chassis with five-link solid axle, available Bilstein coil-over shock absorbers and M220 Dana 44 differential with electronic locking. Photo: Ford

If you pick the right options, Ford is claiming best-in-class (i.e. better than Wrangler) figures for suspension travel (10in front, 10+in rear), ground clearance (11.6in), breakover angle (29°), departure angle (37.2°) and water-fording capability (33.5in).

7 selectable drive modes

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 7-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 program 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 trail aids

2021 Bronco Exterior
The 2-door 2021 Bronco finds Trail One-Pedal Drive which controls acceleration and braking from a single pedal to make life easier during slow-mode rock crawling. Photo: Ford

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 radiuses through torque vectoring. Trail One-Pedal Drive controls acceleration and braking from a single pedal to make life easier during slow-mode rock crawling.

A better off-roading experience

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° camera system complete with off-road spotter views to provide tire position information when off-roading, reducing the need for a human spotter.

Meanwhile a neat dashboard rack was developed to hold your cellphone after engineers’ phones spilled off the dash during extreme testing!

Designed for customization

2021 Bronco off roading
With more than 200 factory-backed accessories available at launch, this 2021 Bronco two-door prototype shows how owners can personalize their SUV to get more out of their outdoor experiences. Photo: Ford

Ford has built customization potential into the Bronco from the ground up – good news for owners who will want to personalize 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. Bronco is stamped into the bolt heads that are designed for removal – like the ‘F’ in Ford-made Jeeps during WWII – and the six upfitter switches mounted overhead have pre-wired leads to key accessory points.

Ditch those doors

Naturally the doors and roof come off. Ford has made provision to store the doors on board in bags – all four, in the case of the longer-wheelbase Bronco 4-door – so no need to leave them chained to a tree when you hit the trails.

The roof parts (three on the 2-door, four on the 4-door) have also been made smaller to ease handling. The roof crossmember has been moved rearwards on both variants to provide uninterrupted views for all passengers.

2021 Bronco Interior
2021 Bronco two-door features open-air design roof and instrument panel inspired by the first-generation Bronco, with intuitive, clearly visible gauges and controls in this prototype version. Photo: Ford

Bronco architecture

Both new Broncos ride on a modified version of the Ranger’s midsize truck architecture and will be built alongside it in Wayne, Michigan. That means 2.3-litre EcoBoost power as standard (expected to be 270 HP, 310 lb-ft of torque) but the Baja 1000-tested 2.7 V6 EcoBoost (provisional 310 HP, 400 lb-ft of torque) is also available. 

New Bronco trim levels

The Bronco range has been packaged around different pursuits rather than steadily increasing levels of equipment. Note that the Sasquatch package, which increases the capability off-road with 35in tires, 17in bead-lock wheels, locking diffs and upgraded suspension, can be applied to any model. Here’s the list:

Base – for the purist, or as a base for customization

Big Bend – adds more creature comforts

Black Diamond – off-road features include HD bumpers, skidplates and a locking rear diff

Outer Banks – prioritizes style and technology, with LED lamps and available Bang & Olufsen audio system

Wildtrack – the desert runner, designed for high-speed off-roading. Gets the 2.7-litre EcoBoost as standard

Badlands – billed as the ultimate go-anywhere Bronco, with front and rear locking diffs and the disconnecting stabilizer bar

First Edition – 3,500 units, US-only – said to offer the best of all worlds

Bronco Family Timeline
2021 Bronco 2-door, 4-door, and Bronco Sport. Photo: Ford

2021 Bronco pricing

Bronco pricing starts at US$29,995/C$40,499. Prospective customers can already reserve a Bronco with a $100 deposit (US$ or C$) at ford.com and ford.ca respectively.

Graham Heeps
Based in Calgary, AB, Graham’s outlets include Autocar, Professional Motorsport World, Turnology.com and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology. A lifelong motorsports fan, he’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), the Guild of Motoring Writers and the Motor Press Guild, speaks German and collects Matchbox cars (at the same time).

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