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  • Writer's pictureCory Fourniquet

The Bronco Returns!

After a 20+ year hiatus from the market, Ford is finally launching a brand new Bronco and they pulled no punches when designing this rig to go head-to-head against the longtime leader in off-road capability, the Jeep Wrangler (and Cherokee).

Ford announces the NEW Bronco Family of Vehicles. A Bronco Sport crossover as well as a 2 and 4 door Bronco SUV.

"You Need a Bronco" a phrase that was repeated many times during the online reveal.

Ford came out swinging and pulled no punches in its assault on the Jeep brand and their largely uncontested spot atop the off-road vehicle hierarchy in America. Battle lines have been drawn and now Ford and Jeep are going head to head in the newest frontier of American vehicle wars.

With the rise of popularity of the SUV, it was no doubt bound to happen that more automakers would seek out the coveted off-road market. With many pretenders out there, Ford set their aim to the top. We will focus more on the "Baby" Bronco, the Bronco Sport (officially) in another post, but this blog is all about the Bronco that everyone has been waiting for since Ford first teased us years ago with the news of its return.

2 & 4 Door Models

Taking a page directly from the Jeep JK & JL playbook, Ford has reintroduced their heritage-inspired off-roader in 2 and 4 door versions. Jeep has shown this to be a popular move since first introducing the 4-door JK Wrangler in the 2007 model year, quickly becoming the best selling model of the 2. Ford no doubt expects their own 4-door model to be the sales king of the 2, but for serious wheeling, nothing beats the short wheelbase and ease of maneuverability of the 2-door variant.

Speaking of doors, all are removable, and in a direct shot to Jeep, they can be stored on-board in the cargo area of the vehicle. This solves the age-old problem of what to do with your doors when they are not on your vehicle. With their frame-less design around the windows, their compact form factor when removed allows this to be possible. Now you can take a road-trip with the doors in-place and remove and store them in their protective covers when you arrive at your destination. Word is still out on exactly how the doors are removed as we do not see any exposed hinges like the Wrangler, but we anticipate it being just as easy.

Another feature aimed squarely at the competition is the body-mounted review mirrors that stay in place even when the doors are removed. No need for aftermarket replacement mirrors for open-air fun, Bronco has you covered with these mirrors affixed just ahead of the A-pillar. All switchgear for the windows and mirrors have been moved to the center console to ease in wires and electric components in the doors.

Pictured above, the 2 and 4 door models of the NEW Ford Bronco

Raise the Roof

Just like the original, and its competition, the roof is completely removable in both the 2 and 4 door models. Unlike the original, modern safety standards include a frame to support the vehicle in the event of an unfortunate rollover. Keep the shiny side up folks! Unlike the competition, there is no center-mounted crossbar to obstruct skyward views in the 4 door model. Wide open are the skies above you in this rig! Also in response to struggles of 4 door Wrangler owners, Ford has made this hardtop modular, coming off in not 1, not 2, not even 3 pieces, but 4 total sections for many configurable options and more ease of removal and storage when going topless. (2 door models have a 3-section removable roof.) The front two seats have removable sections for each side, much like Jeep's patented Freedom Top®. Behind that is what appears to be a single panel over the rear seating area, with another section in the very back including the side and rear windows. This modular approach will reduce the weight of each section, as well as the footprint of the roof when attempting to store in your garage.

Arial view of the modular hardtop offered on the 4 door Bronco.

Ford has also included an available factory roof rack system. Since a folding windshield is not an essential design element, like its competition, Ford was able to leverage the windshield frame and modular hardtop for additional storage up top while still allowing open air wheeling in the front seats.

Bronco's roof-rack system

It's What is on the Inside That Counts

Ford went with a minimalist interior design that works well in this rig, in our humble opinion. Keeping lines simple and buttons and switchgear to a minimum, this interior should not only age well, but fair well when put to the test. From a hose-ready vinyl interior that can be washed out and drained with floor drain in a snap, all the way up to a lux leather interior, Bronco buyers should be able to spec out their rig just the way they would like it.

There were many nice touches and Easter eggs throughout this interior, starting with the GoPro mount on the dash for ease of recording your wheeling adventures, to the "No Step" inscription on the back of the center console, the Bronco takes cues from new and old to envelope its occupants in a rugged and capable interior.

2 door models come in 2+2 configuration, with individual bucket seats in the rear vs a full bench, while the 4 door variant can host 5 occupants with its rear bench seat. Seats come in vinyl, cloth, or leather options.

Technology abounds inside the Bronco as well. Interior goodies include a base 8" touchscreen up to an optional 12" unit both boasting Ford's new SYNC 4 software; auxiliary switches overhead for aftermarket accessories; the aforementioned accessory ready mounting points with charge port on the top of the dash; seat backs with sections for you to clip all your gear; 2-Door Intelligent Access with lock/unlock; ambient foot well lighting, auto-dimming rear-view mirror; dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control; heated front seats; illuminated visor mirrors; Remote Start System (automatic transmission only); Reverse Sensing System; subscription Navigation with 3-month trial; and Ford Co-Pilot360™: Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping System, Auto High-Beam Headlamps, and Rear View Camera with Backup Assist Grid Lines; 360-Degree Camera; additional sound deadening materials; Forward Sensing System; and side view mirror LED approach lamps and spotlight; Adaptive Cruise Control; B&O Sound System with 10 speakers including a sub woofer; Evasive Steering Assist; heated steering wheel; universal garage door opener; 2 additional front row smart-charging USB ports; Voice-Activated Touchscreen Navigation System; and wireless charging pad.

Interior amenities

Under the Hood

Two engine options are available at launch. The base engine is the 2.3-liter turbocharged direct injection DOHC Ti-VCT EcoBoost® I4; projected 270 horsepower, 310 lb.-ft. torque, while the upscale offering is Ford's 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged port and direct injection DOHC Ti-VCT EcoBoost® V6; projected 310 horsepower, 400 lb.-ft. torque. Those two engines allow Ford to claim best-in-class gasoline four-cylinder torque over Jeep's 295 lb-ft of torque in their 2.0L turbo four. Ford also claims best-in-class six-cylinder gasoline power with their EcoBoost®over Jeep's 285 hp & 260 lb-ft of torque in their 3.6L V-6. No word yet on a turbo-diesel or an answer to Jeep's just announced 392 V-8 (concept), but there is plenty to love with these two engines.

The 2.3L comes with a class-exclusive 7-speed manual transmission and has optional class-exclusive 10-speed automatic. The manual transmission features a unique crawl ratio of 94.75:1, and you guessed it, that is class-leading (to Wrangler's 84:1). Much to our dismay, the manual is only available with the smaller 2.3L four-cylinder. We would LOVE to see the manual in the mighty EcoBoost®, but sadly we can only beg Ford for that pleasure. #SaveTheManuals!

Now for What Matters When Venturing Off the Beaten Path

The Bronco had a clear target in mind when it selected the off-road performance metrics of their new Bronco and it bests its competition in almost every conceivable way. Starting with approach, departure, and break over angles, Bronco has claim to best-in-class numbers across the board. with a 43.2 degree approach, 37.2 degree departure, and a 29 degree break over on most capable models, leaving Jeep behind with their 44/37/27.8, respectively. Ground clearance is best-in-class as well with their 11.6" of available clearance, besting Jeep's 10.8". Water fording is also best-in-class at 33.5" to Jeep's 30". You can see Ford had a mission with the Bronco and they succeeded on all fronts.

The 4x4 system in the Bronco has two flavors, mild and wild. First is the Part-Time Selectable Engagement with electronic shift-on-the-fly two-speed transfer case. "This system offers the driver three modes plus neutral. In 4H and 4L, the system provides mechanically locked 4x4. When 4L is selected, wheel torque increases for conditions like deep sand, steep grades, or pulling heavy objects. Flat towing is possible by putting the transfer case into the neutral position." The more advanced option has automatic engagement. "Advanced 4x4 system features a two-speed electromechanical transfer case (EMTC) that adds an auto mode for automatic on-demand engagement to select between 2H and 4H. In 4A, the system continuously varies power to the front wheels for optimum performance for all on-road conditions."

The Bronco also features up to 7 G.O.A.T. modes, standing for Goes Over Any Type of Terrain, obviously.

"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."

Trail control, a driver-activated cruise control system, comes standard on automatic transmission equipped Broncos and helps drivers easily navigate over rough terrain. It manages throttle and braking at individual wheels while maintaining a constant speed so the driver can focus their attention on steering over the tough terrain.

A feature long rumored ahead of the launch was Trail Turn Assist. This available feature reduces the turning radius while driving at low speeds off-road by applying the breaks to the inside rear wheel. Truly a unique feature and one that is sure to help get through tight spaces.

Trail 1-Pedal Drive is another one of Bronco's unique off-roading capabilities sure to help any driver navigate tough terrain. This feature enables low-speed crawling which lets drivers bring the vehicle to a stop without using the brake pedal, rendering two-footed driving a thing of the past by bringing the rig to a stop while letting off the accelerator. 1-Pedal driving is nothing new to the electric vehicles of the world, but it is a nice feature to see for venturing into the unknown as well.

Lastley, we must talk about what a H.O.S.S. this suspension is. I am, of course, talking about the Bronco's High-Performance, Off-Road, Stability, Suspension.

In perhaps the only concession to Jeep, the front suspension of the Bronco is of the independent variety, which allows for better on-road manners, but does not account for the great articulation of a solid front axle. This suspension features twin alloy A-arms and coil-over springs for optimum off-road stability and control with available H.O.S.S. System with Bilstein® Position Sensitive Dampers.

In the rear, we find the requisite Solid five-link rear axle H.O.S.S. (High-Performance, Off-Road, Stability, Suspension) System with coil-over springs for optimum off-road capability and durability with available H.O.S.S. System with Bilstein Position Sensitive Dampers.

"Rear Axle: Dana 44™ AdvanTEK® solid rear axle with available Spicer® Performa-TraK™ electronic locking differentials
Front Axle: Dana AdvanTEK independent front differential unit with available Spicer® Performa-TraK electronic locking differentials"

Inside the cabin are selectable "Off-Road Hero" switches for the locking front and rear axles as well as the front disconectable stabilizer bar, as well as the aforementioned Trail Turn Assist and hazard lights.

Step up to the available Sasquatch Package for the best in all off-road goodies as it features 17" black-painted aluminum beadlock-capable wheels with 35" LT315/70R17 BSW Mud-Terrain tires, electronic-locking front and rear axles, 4.7 Final Drive Ratio, high-clearance suspension, position-sensitive Bilstein™ shock absorbers, and high-clearance fender flares. This package is available on ALL, yes ALL 7 trim levels, take that Wrangler Rubicon.

Speaking of trim levels, there is one to suit every driver, from base to First Edition, and everything in between Ford has made a trim level for you. May I just take a minute to praise the marketing team at Ford for these names?

While we are talking about great names an marketing, lets not forget the colors of this rig. I will take mine in Velocity Blue....or Cyber Orange Metallic, or maybe Area 51....scratch that Antimatter Blue....this is tough!

Speaking of Ford, I have mentioned them a lot in this article, but we have only found one solitary Blue-Oval badge anywhere obvious on these rigs, that is because Ford is set to launch these lifestyle vehicles as their own brand that far exceeds the boundaries of the vehicle itself. Ford expects to combat Jeep on 2 other main fronts: Community and Events. Set to compete with the already well-established and long-running community with their own Jeep-wave, Ford announced the Bronco Nation, a nationwide community for the all-new and classic Bronco models and their owners. "Built by a passionate and knowledgeable community of enthusiasts, Bronco Nation celebrates an iconic brand and encourages everyone that loves Bronco to join. Check them out for curated content, community forums, events, interactive maps, and more."

Set to combat events like the annual Easter Jeep Safari, Ford also announced their Off-Roadeo training program, "The Bronco Brand comes to life at the Off-Roadeo. An off-roading and outdoor adventure playground – built for all skill levels – with experiences that will build confidence, inspiring Bronco owners to continue to treat themselves to getting out to the wild for years to come. This exclusive experience will invite owners to choose from one of four epic locations, immerse them in the Bronco lifestyle, provide incredible drive experiences, and create unforgettable memories while celebrating community, adventure and the great outdoors."

We long to hear what you think. Does this new ride have what it takes to dethrone the King? Is this a legitimate competitor to the Wrangler, we sure think so. Competition has already spurred the Jeep team to step up their game, teasing us with the 392 Concept the morning of the Ford Reveal. What more can we expect from this battle of the beasts?


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