After nearly two decades away, Ford’s famed 4X4 is back, and more rugged than ever. The newly unveiled 2021 Bronco SUV features a two- and (first-of-its-kind) four-door model designed to appeal to drivers interested in heading into the wild. In the COVID-19 era, that seems like a pretty good bet. Thankfully, the Bronco, which will start at just under $30,000, more than just looks the part: Its burly design is backed up by a sophisticated 4×4 drivetrain and plenty of tech that will assist in sending you far off the grid, should the need arise. Here are a few takeaways from the unveiling:
It’s aimed right at Jeep Wrangler drivers.
“We knew from research that customers were getting a bit fatigued with the one and only choice in the marketplace,” says Bronco Brand Manager Dave Rivers. “One of the interesting factoids that we came across is that the number one vehicle brand cross-shopped by Jeep owners is Ford.” In order to catch as many buyers in the space as possible, Ford developed a three-vehicle approach. The Bronco two- and four-door models, which share a platform with the Ranger pickup truck, will feature rugged, off-road 4×4 capabilities and al-fresco driving opportunities via removable doors and roof, à la the Wrangler. The Bronco Sport, based on the Ford Escape platform, offers a smaller, more citified entry-point into the Bronco family.
It’s got a retro Bronco look, but forward-looking tech.
The two-door and four-door Broncos bear stylistic cues from the blocky Bronco models of the ’60s and ’70s: flat body panels, short overhangs, flared fenders, an encapsulated grille. But the revived Bronco isn’t simply a throwback pastiche. It features plenty of new tech, including an optional 12-inch touchscreen connected to 360-degree cameras that feature off-road spotting views. The system features some pretty intensive trail-mapping capabilities, including over 1,000 trail maps from NeoTreks and AccuTerra that can be accessed even when you’re out of range.
It’s made to be driven with the top down.
The Bronco’s engineers and designers crafted the Bronco with a quick-change in mind. With the Wrangler, removing the hard-top roof and doors is a two-man job. With the Bronco, its three- or four-section roof can be removed in minutes, by one person. Similarly, the frameless doors can be removed and stored on board the four-door model. And since a rearview mirror is mounted to the cowl, taking off a door doesn’t mean losing visibility. “We had maximum open-air opportunities in mind, from riding into the sand dunes or cruising through the Everglades,” says Rivers.
Its off-road capabilities look legit.
Hardcore asphalt-avoiders will likely opt for an available seven-speed manual transmission, with a crawler gear capable of a best-in-class 94.75-to-1 ratio (others will get seven or 10-speed automatic). Similarly impressive for off-road acolytes are its available 35-inch tires, 11.6-inch ground clearance, and an independent front suspension and solid-axle rear, with Bilstein dampers at every corner. Engine options include a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 that will make 310 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque, and a 2.3-liter EcoBoost model that will make 310 foot-pounds of torque.
It’s built for abuse.
A Bronco should not be a precious thing—excluding the first-generation models now skyrocketing in value—so the Bronco’s designers built in a washable rubberized floor with a drain, along with marine-grade upholstered seating that’s easily washable and mildew-resistant. And some switches even have silicone seals on them. Meaning: An errant shower when the top is down shouldn’t make you cower in fear.