Another blast from the past is back. This time, it’s the 2021 Ford Bronco 4x4, an iconic nameplate with a rich history as a rugged, no-nonsense off-roading SUV.
Ford’s expertise in the field dates back to the Second World War – that’s when the auto maker entered a government competition to build rugged utility vehicles for American soldiers in battle. Ford created the GP – short for General Purpose. More than 270,000 GPs were built for Allied forces. And when soldiers returned home, they scooped up surplus GPs, but they were too tiny and uncomfortable for regular daily life. So Ford went back to the drawing board and built a more upscale and spacious, yet durable off-road SUV. And the Bronco was born.
Revealed on August 11, 1965, the first Bronco hit the streets in 1966. At launch, it had four-wheel drive and a 105 hp, 2.8-litre I-6 mated to a 3-speed manual transmission. Over time, it gained more power and capability, yet always remained true to its rugged roots. But in 1996, Bronco reached the end of its line when it fell out of favour with consumers, replaced by more popular family-oriented SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Expedition. Still, over three decades and five generations, Ford sold over 1.1 million Broncos.
“We had an iconic nameplate that customers still love today,” says Mark Grueber, Bronco consumer marketing manager, by telephone from Dearborn, Mich. “In our research, we found there was still a great level of awareness and a strong opinion of Bronco. They knew it was from Ford. They knew it was a 4x4. They heard it was coming back and they had a general impression that it was a cool truck,” he adds.
Now, twenty-five years later, Ford hopes this sixth-generation Bronco will recapture the heart and soul of its past and steal sales in the lucrative, rugged SUV segment, especially from competitors like Jeep. The 2021 Bronco will be offered as a two-door, four-door, and a smaller “sport” model.
Ford is targeting nostalgic Bronco fans, diehard off-roaders and also a younger demographic who have never ventured off the beaten track before.
“This Bronco is fit for the wild,” boasts Paul Wraith, Bronco’s chief designer. “There’s nothing on this truck that is superfluous – everything exists on it for a reason. There’s no decorative chrome works, extraneous styling – its modern because its designed for function, not fashion,” he adds.
Originally, the code name for the first Bronco was “Goes Over Any Terrain” or G.O.A.T. – a term Ford’s product manager at the time, Donald Frey, coined to signify Bronco’s all-around off-road capability to tackle any terrain.
“We assure you all new Broncos will be true to that original spirit,” affirms Grueber. Bronco’s Terrain Management System with G.O.A.T. is designed to help drivers conquer anything. The driver-selectable G.O.A.T modes include Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Sand, Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl for off-road driving. Two 4x4 systems will be offered: a base setup with a two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case and an advanced 4x4 system with a two-speed electromechanical transfer case with an auto mode to select between 2H and 4H. For adventurers, the two- and four-doors will have 11.6-inch ground clearance, a maximum 29-degree breakover angle and 37.2-degree departure angle, water fording capabilities of up to 33.5 inches, and towing up to 3,500 lb.
The new Bronco retains its iconic looks and the fun factor. Some models have quick-release removable and stowable roof panels and doors for an open-air convertible-like feel. On four-door models, all four frameless doors can be stored on board with protective door bags – there’s no need to store them in the garage or lock them to trees when off-roading. Ford claims they’re easier to remove and store compared to the competition – a.k.a. Jeep.
Other cool innovative features include a bolt-in, bring-your-own-device mounting rack so gadgets such as GoPro cameras, navigation units, or cellphones can be attached to the mount. So, there’s no need for suction mounts on the windshield or long wires dangling over the instrument panel.
Cabin cleanup is easy thanks to items such as optional rubberized washable flooring with removable drain plugs so you can hose it out, controls made of silicon that withstand water and dirt, and marine-grade vinyl seats that resist mould and mildew. In the rear, Bronco has a wide-opening swing gate, a built-in bottle opener, and a slide-out tailgate so you can sit and watch the sun set on a warm night.
The 2021 Bronco Sport, the smallest Bronco, goes on sale later this year. Prices range from $32,199-$40,199. While the Bronco two-door and four-door 4x4s, available with more than 200 factory accessories, will arrive next spring. Prices will range from $40,499 – $61,994.
2021 Ford Bronco two-door and four-door 4x4
- Base price: $40,499 – $61,994
- Engine: 2.7-litre EcoBoost V6 engine with 310 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque or 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine with 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque
- Transmission/Drive: 7-speed manual and available 10-speed automatic transmissions, 4x4
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km city and highway): TBC
2021 Ford Bronco Sport 4x4
- Base price: $32,199-$40,199
- Engine: 2.0-litre EcoBoost® engine with 245 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque or a 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine with 181 horsepower and 190 lb.-ft. of torque
- Transmission/Drive: 8-speed automatic transmission, 4x4
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km city and highway): TBC
- Jeep Wrangler
- Jeep Compass
- Land Rover Defender
- Toyota 4Runner
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