It’s been teased for years. Then it was formally announced back in 2017. And now, the Bronco, Ford’s hard-core, open-air Wrangler competitor is finally here. Let’s take a close look at it; its chassis, drivetrain, roof options, interior, and a few intricate details. Let’s also look at what sets it apart from the Jeep Wrangler.

Some basics: it’s available as a two- or four-door, 4×4 only, with a choice of soft and hardtops. It has removable doors. A choice of 4-cylinder or V6 engines, and manual or an automatic transmission. Ford made sure that the Bronco edges out the Wrangler in crawl ratio, ground clearance, suspension travel, water fording, breakover, and departure angles. And they also made sure their wheels are bigger.

Let’s geek out and break this down…

Trims:

Base:
• 4×4 with part-time selectable engagement
• 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine
• 7-speed manual transmission with crawler gear
• Easily removable doors and roof
• Terrain Management System with five G.O.A.T. Modes
• 16-inch silver-painted steel wheels, 30-inchP255/70R16 all-season tires
• SYNC 4 with 8-inch touch screen
• Carpeted flooring
• Cloth seats

Options:
• 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine (requires 10-speed automatic)
• 10-speed automatic transmission with Trail Control
• Advanced 4×4 with automatic on-demand engagement
• Sasquatch™ Package

Big Bend – includes Base content plus:
• Terrain Management System with six G.O.A.T. Modes
• 17-inch Carbonized Gray-painted aluminum wheels
• 32-inch P255/75R17 all-terrain tires
• Leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob
• LED fog lamps
• Carbonized Gray grille
• Privacy glass

Options:
• 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine (requires 10-speed automatic)
• 10-speed automatic transmission with Trail Control
• Advanced 4×4 with automatic on-demand engagement
• Heated front seats and remote start(10-speed automatic only)
• Sasquatch Package
• Mid Package

Black Diamond – includes Big Bend content plus:
• Heavy-duty modular front bumper,powder-coated steel rear bumper
• Rock rails and heavy-duty bash plates
• Terrain Management System with seven G.O.A.T. Modes
• 17-inch black-painted steel wheels
• 32-inch LT265/70R17 all-terrain tires
• Auxiliary switches in overhead console
• Marine-grade vinyl-trimmed seats and rubberized washout flooring

Options:
• 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine (requires 10-speed automatic)
• 10-speed automatic transmission with Trail Control
• Advanced 4×4 with automatic on-demand engagement
• Sasquatch Package
• Mid Package

Outer Banks – includes Big Bend content plus:
• Terrain Management System with six G.O.A.T. Modes
• 18-inch black-painted machined-face aluminum wheels
• 32-inch P255/70R18 all-terrain tires
• Signature LED headlamps and taillamps
• Body-color exterior door handles, mirror caps and fender flares
• Powder-coated tube steps
• Cloth heated front row bucket seats
• Mid Package

Options:
• 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine (requires 10-speed automatic)
• 10-speed automatic transmission with Trail Control
• Advanced 4×4 with automatic
on-demand engagement
• Leather-trimmed seats
• Sasquatch Package
• High Package
• Lux Package

Wildtrak – includes Outer Banks content plus:
• Mid Package
• Sasquatch Package
• 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine
• 10-speed automatic transmission with Trail Control
• Advanced 4×4 with automatic on-demand engagement
• Terrain Management System with seven G.O.A.T. Modes including Baja
• Modular Shadow Black-painted hardtop
• Wildtrak hood graphic
• Carpeted flooring
• Cloth heated front row bucket seats

Options:
• Leather-trimmed seats
• High Package
• Lux Package

Badlands – includes Big Bend content plus:
• Terrain Management System with seven G.O.A.T. Modes including Rock Crawl and Baja
• 17-inch Carbonized Gray-painted machined-face aluminum wheels
• 33-inch LT285/70R17 all-terrain tires
• Unique Badlands suspension with front stabilizer bar disconnect
• Heavy-duty modular front bumper, powder-coated steel rear bumper
• Auxiliary switches in the overhead console
• Marine-grade vinyl-trimmed seats and rubberized washout flooring

Options:
• Leather-trimmed seats
• Sasquatch Package
• Mid Package
• High Package
• Lux Package

First Edition – includes Badlands content plus:
• Lux Package
• Sasquatch Package
• First Edition hood and bodyside graphics
• Modular Shadow Black-painted hardtop
• Safari bar
• Carpeted flooring
• Unique interior
• Leather-trimmed seats with the heated front row, 10-way power driver’s seat

Package Descriptions:

STANDARD
LED headlamps, black door handles, mirror caps, fender flares and fender tie-down hooks, manual air conditioning, push-button start.

MID
Two-door Intelligent Access with lock and unlock functionality, 110V/150W AC power outlet, ambient footwell lighting, auto-dimming rearview 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 three
month trial, SYNC 4 with enhanced voice recognition, Ford Co-Pilot360™ including Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, BLIS® with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping System, Auto High-Beam Headlamps and a rearview camera with backup assist grid lines.

HIGH
Mid Package content, plus 12-inch center stack touchscreen, 360-degree camera, additional sound deadening, Forward Sensing System, side view mirror LED approach lamps.

LUX
High Package content, plus Adaptive Cruise Control; 10-speaker B&O Sound System*; Evasive Steering Assist; heated steering wheel; universal garage door opener; two additional front row USB smart-charging ports; Voice-Activated Touchscreen Navigation System and wireless charging pad.

SASQUATCH
17-inch black-painted aluminum beadlock-capable wheels with 35-inch LT315/70R17 BSW Mud-Terrain tires, electronic-locking front and rear axles, 4.7:1 final drive ratio, high-clearance suspension, position-sensitive Bilstein shock absorbers, and high-clearance fender flares.

The important part – this Sasquatch package is available on every model, including the base model, and is the key package to have for a serious off-roader.

Body:

Unlike the F-150, the Bronco has a steel body and obviously a steel frame. It’s available as a two or four-door model. There a passenger-side hinged tailgate with the spare tire attached to it. Both have removable top and doors. The windshield is fixed.

The strong, fixed windshield simplifies the Bronco’s safety bar design. Other than the windshield header there is no other roof cross-bar until behind the rear passenger bench. This makes for a very airy feel when the top is removed. What can be described as an eight-point cage is connected to the windshield, B-pillars, C-pillars, and rear back stays.

Doors:

All side doors are frameless, as in no window frames, and are removable, with more typical internal hinges, unlike the Wrangler’s external hinges. Because they are frameless doors, they are about half the size of a conventional door when the windows are rolled down. This is why Ford says these doors can be stored inside the vehicle, whereas Wrangler doors need to be left behind. An additional benefit is that the side windows seem rather large.

The real wizardry is in the rear side doors. Like most, the bottom rear portion of the door has a cut out for the rear wheel. That means that the rear side window either cannot be lowered all the way or there is a fake vent window. But that’s not an option in cars with frameless rear windows that are set in removable doors. Ford shaped the rear window so that it does roll down all the way but has a button rear corner cut on the bottom rear.

Pictured above are accessory modular doors.

Tops:

Two-door models come with a standard three-section hard roof system, similar to the one on the Jeep Wrangler; left and right front sections, and a rear dog house section. Side windows on the dog house pop-out, for an airier feel with the rest of the top on. An optional premium top is split into four parts and has a section over the rear seat that is removable and can be painted body color.

Four-door models have four removable hard roof sections – left and right front panels, a full-width center panel and a rear section. A soft top is standard on four-door models. Ford addressed an issue that the Wrangler soft top has had forever – it has a unique tilt-up function for quick access to the rear cargo area.

Ford says that all roof panels can be removed by one person by unlocking the latches from the interior. For customers who don’t want to choose between a soft or hardtop, the four-door model can be optioned with both. We’re guessing the two-door is hard-top only.

Tailgate:

The tailgate door is hinged on the passenger side, with a handle on the driver’s side. The spare tire is mounted to it. The reverse camera protrudes through the center bore of the wheel. The license plate is mounted on the left, in the bumper, just like the Wrangler. But The Bronco also has a pickup truck-like tailgate that slides out from under the trunk floor. It works as a sitting area or a picnic table.

Fenders:

The tires on the Bronco range from 30 to 35-inches in diameter. To properly cover all those tires and make the just one metal fender, there are two types of fender extensions added to the steel fender, based on the model and tires used. Wrangler uses a similar approach, with the Rubicon fenders having two additional inches of clearance.

Powertrain:

Base engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged direct injection DOHC EcoBoost inline-four. It makes a projected 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. torque. This is the engine that is currently in the Ford Ranger. Opinion – this engine, with its flat torque curve feels more like a V6 in the Ranger.

Optional engine: 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged port and direct injection DOHC EcoBoost V6; projected 310 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. torque. Opinion – I sampled this engine in the Ford Edge ST. It’s very responsive for a turbocharged engine, with minimum lag and a lot of low-end power.

Transmissions:

Standard transmission: 7-speed (6+1 crawler gear) Getrag manual (offered on 2.3-liter engine only).

Optional transmission: 10-Speed automatic (available on both 2.3- and 2.7-liter engines).

Transfer cases:

Standard: 4×4 with part-time selectable engagement – two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly with 2.72:2 low ratio

Optional: Advanced 4×4 with automatic on-demand – two-speed electromechanical transfer case with 3.06:1 low ratio

Differentials:

Front: Front Axle: Dana AdvanTEK independent front differential unit with available Spicer Performa-TraK electronic locking differentials.

Rear: Rear Axle: Dana 44 AdvanTEK solid rear axle with available Spicer Performa-TraK electronic locking differentials.

Non-Rubicon Wranglers use Dana 35 axles. The Rubicon uses Dana 44. The AdvanTEK gears are slightly smaller in diameter, 220mm vs. 226mm, as per Spicer, the manufacturer. Further, Spicer says that the AdvanTEKs are lighter, with reduced noise, vibration, and harshness. Both axles have torque capacity of 8,200Nm or 6,048 ft-lb of torque.

While the locking axles are available on the more capable models, Ford did not say if lower models would have limited-slip differentials available. Rear LSDs are optional on the Wrangler but not on the Toyota 4Runner. The Ford F-150 Raptor and the F-250 with Tremor Off-Road Package have front LSDs.

Suspension:

Front: Independent with twin alloy A-arms and coil-over springs for optimum off-road stability and control with available Bilstein Position-Sensitive Dampers. Those Bilsteins have external gas reservoirs. Semi-active hydraulic front stabilizer bar disconnect is available. Surprisingly, Fox shocks, which are on the Rubicon, Raptor, and Toyota’s PRD Pro models, are absent from the Bronco.

Rear: Solid five-link rear axle with coil-over springs with available Bilstein Position-Sensitive Dampers.

Off-Roady stuff:

Trail Control – cruise control for low-speed trail driving. Trail Turn Assist tightens off-road turning radiuses through torque vectoring. Trail One-Pedal Drive acceleration/braking control makes for more precise and confident slow-mode rock crawling.

There are skid plates for the engine, transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank. Rock-sliders are available, real ones, that you can put a jack under and lift the vehicle.

Off-road capabilityTwo-doorFour-door
Ground clearance8.4/11.68.3/11.5 (Base/35-inch tires)
Suspension travel front/rear (millimeters)200/215 (Base)200/215 (Base)
240/261 (Badlands)240/261 (Badlands)
Approach angle (degrees)35.5/43.235.5/43.2 (Base/35-inch tires)
Breakover angle (degrees)21.1/29.020.0/26.3 (Base/35-inch tires)
Departure angle (degrees)29.8/37.229.7/37.0 (Base/35-inch tires)
Ramp travel index (Badlands only)560/700500/620 (Projected)
Maximum water fording (inches)33.533.5

Wheels and Tires:

  • Depending on the model, the Bronco has either 16, 17, or 18-inch wheels. The base model has 16s, the Outer Banks has 18s, and the rest are 17s.
  • Tire sizes begin at P255/70R16 (30-inch) all-season on the base model. The Outer Banks gets a 32-inch LT255/70R18 all-terrains.
  • The rest of the models have either 33-inch or 35-inch tires. The badlands has LT285/70R17 all-terrain or optionally mud-terrain tires. Those are the same sizes as the Wrangler Rubicon.
  • 35-inch LT315/70R17 BSW mud-terrain is either standard or optional on other models. Those are the same size tires as on the F-150 Raptor.

Colors:

Conclusion:

There you have it, the 2021 Bronco. There is also a Bronco Sport, which we will discuss in the near future. The big Bronco takes aim directly at the Jeep Wrangler and seems to be improving on many things that Jeep does not do so well – tops, doors, interior, highway drive.

We can’t wait to drive one.