- the 2021 ford bronco made its debut tonight looking every bit like the jeep wrangler's worst nightmare, and ford says dealers will have it next spring.
- the new bronco comes with a choice of two engines, both ecoboost turbos, and in two- and four-door versions.
- the base two-door starts at $29,995, but with 200 accessories, a desirable sasquatch off-road package, and a choice of six trim levels with names like black diamond and wildtrak, you're going to have some choices to make.
you can sasquatch any trim to get the hoss but you only get the creeper on the four. what are we talking about? oh, just bronco stuff. you gotta know the lingo, and ford is introducing plenty of it. the 2021 ford bronco is here—or will be, at dealers, next spring—and with it comes a torrent of jargon. we'll explain all the details. but the first thing to know is that you're gonna want that sasquatch package. which comes with the hoss, or "high-performance off-road stability suspension."
the bronco, available in both two- and four-door models, starts at $29,995 for a base two-door and $34,695 for the four-door. that setup comes with a 2.3-liter ecoboost inline-four (projected to make 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque) and a seven-speed getrag manual transmission. ford likes to call first gear a crawler gear, which, when paired with the optional automatic four-wheel-drive transfer case, delivers a 94.8:1 crawl ratio—similar, actually, to a wrangler rubicon. the shift pattern puts that gear, "c", below reverse, to keep it out of the way during daily driving. the manual is only available with the 2.3, which can also be paired with a 10-speed automatic. the optional 2.7-liter ecoboost v-6 is slated to make 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. so whichever engine you choose, your bronco is going to be turbocharged.
six trim levels, plus a first edition
whether or not to boost, then, is one decision bronco customers won't have to make. beyond that, the bronco decision tree gets wild. you know how, when there's a hot new model, a car company will typically roll out some kind of launch-edition trim? the bronco has that—dubbed first edition, and kitted out with maximum off-road gear and luxury options—along with no fewer than six other trims. above the base model, there's the big bend, which upgrades the 30-inch tires to 32 inches. then comes the black diamond, which brings skid plates, rock rails and a locking rear differential. outer banks is your more luxury-oriented trim, sort of like a wrangler sahara. the wildtrak is the desert runner, bringing the 2.7 v-6, 35-inch tires, and position-sensitive bilstein dampers. and the badlands is like a wrangler rubicon, optimized for gnarly trail work with 33-inch tires and a disconnecting front sway bar. the badlands also comes with marine-grade vinyl upholstery and a rubberized hose-it-out floor, though you can option it up with a fancier interior.
got all that? good, because there's one more thing: the sasquatch package. that's your primo off-road gear: 35-inch goodyear territory mud-terrain tires, a 4.70 final-drive ratio, locking front and rear spicer differentials, 17-inch black-painted beadlock-capable wheels, high-clearance suspension and fender flares, and the bilstein dampers. sasquatch broncos also get a full three inches of extra track width. the package can be added to any trim level, but it's standard on wildtrak and first edition. so your bang-for-the-buck off-road beast will be a base model with sasquatch.
ground clearance & fording depth are impressive
solid-axle enthusiasts will find one out back: a five-link dana 44 with coil-overs. but even the old broncos gave up solid front axles for 1980. so it's unsurprising that the 2021 bronco uses an independent front end, which is advantageous for every situation outside of extreme off-road articulation. and even then, the bronco offers a semi-active disconnecting front sway bar to enable the best possible articulation (you disconnect it via a button, but it reconnects automatically). besides the dynamic benefits of ifs, including lower unsprung weight, the independent front end allows fitment of a sweet "bash plate" that protects the diff. the 11.6 inches of ground clearance for a two-door with 35-inch tires bests even the raptor. and a max fording depth of 33.5 inches is getting into amphibious-vehicle territory.
the independent front end and turbo gas engines are two areas—but not the only ones—where the bronco diverges from its most obvious benchmark (the one that rhymes with "peep tangler"). ford looked beyond automotive reference points, too. for instance: the polaris rzr side-by-side. the rzr might've influenced the bronco's doors, which are frameless, like a side-by-side's, and removable. the doors store in fitted bags that you can take with you (in the four-door, anyway), though they do eat up pretty much all the cargo space behind the rear seat. since the exterior rearview mirrors are mounted to the base of the a-pillar, you keep your mirrors even when the doors are off. your move on that one, jeep.
hose-out interior and removable top
the top is also removable. the two-door is a hardtop only, while the four-door comes standard with a soft top but can be ordered with both hard and soft tops. in both two- and four-door broncos, the roll bar (or, as ford's lawyers call it, "sport bar") starts behind the rear seats, so the sky is open from the windshield back past the rear seats. those seats can be marine-grade vinyl, and you can opt for a true hose-it-out interior, with rubberized flooring and removable drain plugs. the interior's switches and knobs are rubberized and silicone sealed as well. a squall might soak the passengers, but the bronco interior won't care.
the center console is flanked by huge grab handles. during development, ford actually set up a model bronco parked at an off-kilter angle, as it might be on a hilly trail or a boulder slab, and had the development team try climbing in and out. hence the grab handles, and the modular rack across the top of the dash that can serve as a base for phone mounts. an available sync 4 infotainment system dominates the center of the dash with a 12.0-inch screen, below which are knobs for volume and tuning as well as climate control. we all tend to use our phones for navigation, but the bronco's onboard system features off-road trail navigation that works absent a cell signal, which would be a nice feature when you're way out in the boonies.
atop the dash is a row of buttons that control the fun stuff: differential locks, off-road turn assist and traction control defeat, plus the hazard lights. although there are as many as three diff locks, there are only two buttons, for front and rear. that's because a given bronco might have the part-time four-wheel-drive system (and hence no center diff to lock) or the automatic system, in which case the center diff is locked via selecting “4h” on the rotary selector on the console. the off-road turn assist is similar to toyota’s system in the land cruiser, where braking the inside tires helps shrink the turning circle by aping a skid-steer.
goat drive modes
a terrain management system offers as many as seven drive modes, including baja and rock crawl. ford refers to these as goat modes, for "goes over any type of terrain." there’s also the obligatory hill-descent control and trail control, which is off-road cruise control. we'd suggest that your right foot might serve the same purpose pretty well.
six more auxiliary switches can be mounted up near the windshield header and wired to control extra lights, a winch, or whatever other electrified gimcracks you care to install.
and there will be plenty of accessories. ford plans to offer more than 200 of them, from different styles of fender flares to doors with a transparent lower panel that recalls the mclaren senna. the "trail sights" at the top of the front fenders can serve as mounting points for cables that run up to the roof and guide branches up over the truck—a page out of the old land rover camel trophy playbook—or work as tie-down points. ford says their carrying capacity is 150 pounds and they could be used to secure a canoe, but we're wondering how well you'd be able to see the road with a canoe across the hood.
in the back, a slide-out tailgate
at the rear of the truck (yes, you can definitely refer to the bronco as a truck), the tailgate and spare-tire carrier function the same way they do on a wrangler, with the tailgate hinged on the passenger side and serving as the mount for the spare tire and the center high-mounted brake light. but ford upped the bronco's tailgating game with a slide-out tailgate that you sit on or use to rifle through your gear ahead of all the extreme outdoorsy activities you're no doubt doing with your wicked new suv. below that is a receiver hitch and, like the wrangler, the bronco is good to tow 3500 pounds. unlike the wrangler, both two-door and four-door will pull that weight.
so there are the details. you probably have more questions, as do we. we've got the better part of a year to chew those over before the bronco hits the street. but our biggest question has already been answered. and that answer is no, they didn’t screw it up.
in fact, the production item looks more like a concept car than the actual bronco concept did in 2004. just look at it. you’re going to see those on the street. and off it. ford is now taking $100 reservations, commencing the next phase of the bronco rollout: getting in line.