By Dan Sanchez
Photos courtesy Ford Motor Company
The Ford Motor Company was serious when it touted that the Bronco family of three vehicles shared the DNA from the 1966 model and SCORE’s racing heritage. All three models, two-door, four-door and Sport, all have four-wheel drive and selectable traction controls, while two and four-door models feature a Dana 44 rear axle with available 4.70:1 final drive ratio, 35-inch diameter tires, front and rear locking differentials, a seven-speed manual transmission, and an available 310 horsepower 2.70 liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6. For most off-road enthusiasts, those are some respectable components and numbers. If you weren’t hooked with the locking differentials, there’s more.
“We created the Bronco family to elevate every aspect of off-road adventure and equipped them with class-leading chassis hardware and exclusive technologies to raise the bar in the rugged 4×4 segment and take people further into the wild,” said Jim Farley, Ford chief operating officer. “They’re built with the toughness of an F-Series truck and performance spirit of Mustang – and come wrapped in one of the most stunning and functional off-road designs that’s true to the original Bronco design DNA.”
Advanced 4×4 Technology
Ford outfitted the 2021 Bronco with a Terrain Management System they call G.O.A.T Modes™ (GOAT was the nickname of the original 1966 Bronco) that features seven driver-selectable models from Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Sand, Baja, Mud/Ruts, and Rock Crawl. The base two-speed shift-on-the-fly transfer case can be upgraded to an optional two-speed electromechanical transfer case that adds an auto mode for on-demand engagement from 2H to 4H. The front and rear locking differentials are Spicer® Performa-TraK™ units and provide power to the rear Dana 44 solid rear axle. Some Bronco models also feature an available electronic front stabilizer disconnect for increased traction and articulation over extreme terrain.
A fully boxed high-strength steel chassis provides the base for an IFS front suspension and five-link, coil-spring rear suspension system. Long-travel Bilstein shocks feature end-stop control valves (bump-stops) for reduced harshness. Outfitted with 35-inch diameter off-road tires mounted to 17-inch aluminum beadlock capable wheels, the Bronco offers 11.6-inches of ground clearance and 29-degree maximum break-over angle and a 37.2-degree departure angle. Steel shields protect critical areas under the vehicle and optional skid-plates are available for the front, engine, transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank. Also available on the Bronco is Ford’s Trail Control™ cruise control for low-speed trail driving. An available Trail Turn Assist steering tightens off-road turning radiuses through torque vectoring, and a Trail One-Pedal Drive acceleration/braking control helps to provide precise and confident slow-mode rock crawling.
A Modern Drivetrain
Although the 2021 Bronco comes standard with a 2.3L four-cylinder making a respectable 270 horsepower and 310 lbs.-ft. torque, most off-road enthusiasts will undoubtedly choose the 2.7L EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 that puts out 310 horsepower and a very respectable 400 lbs.-ft. of torque. Hardcore rock crawlers may also select a 7-speed manual transmission, that when coupled with the automatic on-demand transfer case, provides a crawl gear ratio of 94.75:1. Desert off-road enthusiasts will like the 10-speed automatic transmission with a maximum 67.8:1 crawl ratio for high-speed desert runs. Two-door models sit on a 100-inch wheelbase while four-door models are 116-inches. Both feature a 3500 lbs. towing capacity.
An Open-Air Feeling
Bronco’s two and four-door models feature removable top sections that can be removed by a single person and two-door models can store the tops in the vehicle. All models come with frameless doors that can be easily removed and stored onboard in protective bags. The mirrors are mounted to the cowl so they stay in place when doors are removed. Just like the first Ford Bronco, the 2021 models also feature trail sights on the front fenders that also serve as tie-downs with a 150-pound capacity.
Inside, Ford engineers took the original Bronco’s appearance and adapted it to the 2021 model. The instrument panel is reminiscent of the early models with large gauges but a multi-function LCD screen displays all transmission selector modes as well as drivetrain terrain modes. Ford even added grab handles to the center console and instrument panel and included M.O.L.L.E. hooks to the seatbacks for added storage capability.
Ford’s SYNC®4 system is available with over-the-air updates and integration to the FordPass Performance app with off-road navigation. This allows owners to plan, navigate, and share their off-road adventures. Topographic maps within the system use content from a variety of popular trail map apps and guides. A 360-degree camera option is also available for optimum off-roading and viewing signals from trail spotters. “The trail mapping system available on Bronco is truly a game-changer in the off-road community,” said Ford U.S. Consumer Marketing Manager Mark Grueber. “It works online or off on either of the navigation-capable 8- or 12- inch SYNC systems, allowing users to select one of the hundreds of available curated trail maps to map out and then track, capture and share their adventures with others.”
Serious off-roaders can choose rubberized floors with drains, and marine-grade vinyl upholstery. Instrument panel surfaces are wipeable, with seamless silicone rubber on the dash-mounted hero switches, while rubber touchpoints protect against dirt and water. Six available up fitter switches mounted overhead are silicone-sealed to protect against the elements and to make customization easy, with pre-wired leads to key accessory points. A modern high-strength steel roll cage with integrated side curtain airbags in the upper structure and seats helps protect passengers from side impacts and complements driver and front passenger airbags. Available Ford Co-Pilot360™ driver-assist technologies plus standard AdvanceTrac® with Roll Stability Control™ and Trailer Sway Control help instill driver confidence
For those wanting a bit more luxury, leather trim seating is available on some models with six-way manual and 10-way power driver seat adjustability, and six-way manual, eight-way power passenger adjustability on four-door models. Rear passenger seating includes a 60/40 fold-flat on four-door models and 50/50 split fold-flat on two-door models.
Select Your Package
The two-door and four-door Bronco is available in seven different packages. It starts with a Base model then moves to the Big Bend with remote start, power outlets, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Black Diamond features modular front bumpers, rubberized flooring, and front bash plate. An Outer Banks model has body-color fender flares, leather-trimmed seating, and Sync 4 12” LCD touch screen. Badlands models feature a front stabilizer bar disconnect, front and rear locking differentials, and Advanced 4×4 automatic on-demand engagement. The Bronco Wildtrack comes standard with the 2.7L 310 horsepower engine and a Sasquatch Package that includes 35-inch tires with 17-inch beadlock capable wheels with high-clearance fenders, locking differentials, Bilstein position-sensitive monotube shocks, and a 4.7 final drive ratio The Wildtrak also has a black painted modular hardtop with matching painted grille and side-view mirror caps. The Bronco First Edition features the Sasquatch Package and Black Painted Modular Hard Top but also includes hood and body side graphics.
The Sport model is a smaller-sized SUV that features the same four-wheel-drive capability as its larger two and four-door siblings. Featuring the same G.O.A.T. seven selectable terrain management system modes, the Bronco Sport uses an independent front and rear suspension system with tuned front struts with hydraulic rebound stops and 46-millimeter diameter monotube rear shocks. Both provide a suspension with more control and a comfortable ride, but with off-road capabilities and articulation for challenging terrain. The Bronco Sport Badlands series comes with 28.5-inch all-terrain tires while First Edition comes with 29-inch all-terrain tires that are more aggressive for improved traction.
The Sport Badlands and First Edition series models feature a 2.0L Ecoboost that creates 245 horsepower and 275 lbs.-ft. torque. Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks models come with a 1.5L EcoBoost that creates 181 horsepower and 190 lbs.-ft. torque. Both engines utilize an 8-speed automatic transmission, and paddle shifters are included in First Edition and Badlands models.
What sets the Bronco Sport apart is the rear cargo area and liftgate that makes the vehicle Overlanding and campsite ready. LED lights on the liftgate and M.O.L.L.E straps are included, as well as zippered seatback pockets for additional storage. The cargo area has enough height to carry two standing mountain bikes with 27.5-inch wheels, and more than 100 factory-backed aftermarket accessories are available to help individual owners customize their vehicle to their adventure needs, such as biking, snow, water sports, and camping.
A low floor and flip-glass rear window make it easy for Bronco Sport owners to access and store gear. An Overlanding ready roof rack is ready for a roof-top tent, while a slide-out working table is part of an available Cargo Management system.
No matter which Bronco you choose, Ford made this family of vehicles adaptable to the needs of individual adventure seekers. Ford approved aftermarket upgrades (more than 300 are reported) are also available to customize both Bronco two and four-door models, as well as Bronco Sport models. Ford did it’s homework with the 2021 Bronco and surprised off-road fans with a vehicle that truly carries the DNA from the original and one that undoubtedly will continue to be legendary. SJ