2021 Ford Bronco
- An all-new off-road-focused SUV
- Offered in two- and four-door configurations
- Part of the sixth Bronco generation, revived for 2021
Pros & Cons
- Offers extraordinary level of customization
- Impressive all-terrain specifications
- Cool retro styling without being kitschy
- Smart off-road-specific technologies
- Manual transmission only offered on the base engine
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What is the Bronco?
Pick your movie quote, either The Terminator's "I'll be back" or Frankenstein's "It's alive!" Either way, you've got the theme for the 2021 Ford Bronco. After a 20-plus-year absence, this storied SUV will arrive at Ford dealerships in the spring of 2021. This new Bronco derives a lot of its style and spirit from the original 1966 Bronco and goes head to head against two other off-roading icons, the Jeep Wrangler and the Land Rover Defender.
The 2021 Bronco will come in two-door and four-door variants that are both body-on-frame vehicles like a pickup truck. There's also a Bronco Sport model. It's based on the Ford Escape crossover SUV, and we review it separately.
What sets the new Bronco apart from its rivals, and indeed any other vehicle, are its modularity and customizable nature. You can remove body pieces, fenders and doors with relative ease, and there are plenty of hidden hard mounting points for accessorizing to your heart's content. Naturally, the Bronco has all of the all-terrain features needed to tame the wilderness too.
What's under the Bronco's hood?
The base engine for both the two- and four-door models is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. For the larger and heavier four-door, you might want to get the turbocharged 2.7-liter V6. It makes 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.
I'm particularly excited to see that the Bronco can be had with a seven-speed manual transmission. One of the seven forward gears is a dedicated crawl gear for serious off-roading. This transmission, unfortunately, is only offered on the base engine. Optional for the four-cylinder and standard for the V6 is a 10-speed automatic. A two-speed transfer case is standard for every Bronco.
How does the Bronco drive?
I haven't had the opportunity to drive the new Bronco yet, but I have ridden along as a passenger in a two-door Bronco. The four-cylinder engine, combined with the manual transmission, seems to have plenty of power. Select one of the more serious off-road drive modes and the Bronco electronically enhances the engine's sound to be deeper and louder. Yes, it's fake, but it sounds great and can actually serve a purpose. It gives you a better indication of how much you're revving the engine, which can be difficult to hear in the quieter modes and if you happen to be, say, wearing a helmet while bombing through the desert at high speeds.
The Bronco ably clambers over rough terrain and makes its way through deep sand. The relatively small size of the two-door Bronco also makes maneuvering on tighter trails easy. The forward-looking camera is also cool and helps take the guesswork out of picking a line when cresting over a peak.
Another cool party trick is the hydraulic front stabilizer bar disconnect system. You can disconnect the front stabilizer bar even when the suspension is under offset loads. Imagine an off-roading situation where one side the Bronco's front suspension is fully compressed while the other front wheel is hanging in the air. Pushing a button in the cabin disconnects the bar, greatly increasing articulation and letting that suspended wheel potentially drop back down to the ground.
How's the Bronco's interior?
Like the exterior, the Bronco's interior has a distinct nouveau retro look and feel. A broad horizontal dash dominates the cabin, with strategically placed grab handles that your passengers can use to help keep themselves in place as you bounce along a rocky trail. Those handles are easily replaced or removed. The doors are also easily removable, and Ford made it simple for you to stow the doors in the back. Rear passengers won't feel left out of the action either. With its elevated rear seating, the Bronco provides a more expansive outward view than a lot of other SUVs.
Ford has even given the Bronco an option for floor drains. Yes, that's right, after a day in the great outdoors, you can hose off the interior in Broncos so equipped and drain out the water. Vulnerable switches and knobs are sealed to prevent short circuits, and there are optional marine-grade vinyl seats to prevent damage. There are also plenty of other cool features, so check out our video above for a more in-depth look.
How's the Bronco's tech?
While the Bronco's styling has a distinct retro vibe, it's not missing anything technology-wise. Beyond Ford's latest Sync 4 infotainment system, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the typical advanced safety features, there are a lot of systems to help you get the most out of your adventures off-road. The navigation system, for example, works when you're off-road and features trail recommendations. (You can also share yours.) Strategically placed cameras can help take a lot of the guesswork out of picking the right line on a trail. There's even an option for a camera view that shows the terrain in front of each tire.
Additional all-terrain tech includes Trail Control. It functions like a slow-speed cruise control so you can concentrate on direction rather than the throttle. Trail Turn Assist allows the Bronco to make very sharp turns by braking the inside wheel while the vehicle almost pivots around it.
The new 2021 Ford Bronco clearly has the Jeep Wrangler in its crosshairs. From what we've seen so far, it has a very good chance at either meeting or beating the Wrangler. Of course, there's no way to tell until we get to drive it for ourselves, so keep checking back for driving impressions and additional information as we get closer to the vehicle's release in the spring of 2021.
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2021 Ford Bronco videosNew Ford Bronco Style Comparison
New Ford Bronco Style Comparison
SPEAKER 1: If you're into off-road vehicles, it's a great time to be alive. There are a lot of great choices out there, and it looks like the new Ford Bronco has the potential to be one of the best. There's no way to tell for sure until we get to drive it, so I thought I'd take the time to have a surface level chat about the Bronco's design, style, and how it stacks up against its two most direct competitors, the Jeep Wrangler and the Land Rover Defender. As always, hit that subscribe button below, because we have a ton of great content coming your way. And head over to edmunds.com for all your car shopping needs. If you haven't seen our Ford Bronco preview video yet, you might want to go check that out right now. Go ahead, I'll wait. When it comes to style, people often reference the past. Is it nostalgia, or does it take time for timeless style to develop? Personally, I think it's a combination of both. With the revival of the new Ford Bronco and Land Rover Defender, the Jeep Wrangler has its work cut out for it. All three are iconic off-roaders with impressive specs and modern engineering. But they also celebrate their heritage with motifs and design elements that date back several decades. The common thread? Well, they're all boxy with short overhangs for better off-road capabilities. Most of them are also a lot more primitive and utilitarian than the typical family crossover SUV. Let's start with the Jeep, since in a lot of ways it was the originator of this class, as one of the first mass-produced four wheel drive vehicles. The Jeep was instrumental in helping the Allies win World War II, and went on to become a symbol of freedom and sacrifice. It's easy to see its lineage, even with an eight decade difference. They're both purpose-built and fairly simple in design. After all, the fewer intricacies and complications means quicker production, and that was critical to the war effort. The Willys MA here shows the origins of the Wrangler's distinctive grill, with these upright metal slats. They're also the flat fenders and slab-sided body that are instantly recognizable. Other Jeep staples include the fold down windshield as well as the removable doors. The MB version is the one that we recognize as the traditional military Jeep. Note the grill is now stamped steel rather than those welded slats, because it speeds up production. After the war, Willys introduced the first civilian Jeep. That's where the CJ name comes from. Over the decades, it evolved, but remains easily recognizable. There have been some tweaks here and there, with maybe a little rounded-off corner here and rounded-off fenders there, and even, yeah, rectangular headlights. Ugh. The CJ title was dropped in favor of the Wrangler name in the late 1980s. The Jeep has the kind of brand equity that you simply can't buy. And the fan base is very dedicated, as evidenced by a handful of comments in that Bronco preview video. Then there's the Land Rover Defender. The Defender's heritage can be traced back to the original Land Rover Series I, II, III. Unlike the Jeep, these were developed for agricultural and light commercial duty in postwar England. They were similarly primitive, though. In the '80s, the Defender came on the scene with the squared-off style that so many of us come to love. The two main versions, Defender 90 and the longer Defender 110 were only sold in the US for a few years, which kind of made them forbidden fruit for a lot of people. Its rarity and price gained its own cult following, and that squared-off shaped and exposed rivets had a charm all its own. The Defender underwent its only true redesign last year. In the process, it lost some of that aforementioned charm. The new Defender is more of a modern reinterpretation rather than an evolution. It's softer in its style, which may be a disappointment to Defender loyalists. But it may also gain a wider audience as a result. To use a movie industry reference, it's great to have critical acclaim, but every now and then you need a blockbuster to keep the lights on. Now the problem is, this dumpster fire that is 2020 makes it really difficult to tell whether or not the Defender is a success or failure when it comes to sales. We'll just have to wait a little longer to see what the public's reaction is to it. There are hints of the original Defender here and there, but it's simply not as bad ass as the original. Sure, it has some mean-looking headlights, and that chopped-off rear tail section. But the rounding of the corners and the fenders almost remind me of a Honda Element from certain angles, and that's not exactly a compliment. I have no doubt that it's a very capable off-roader. And if current Land Rover vehicles are an indication, all that technical wizardry should make it a lot easier to navigate difficult terrain. Part of the allure of off-roading is actually in the struggle. It's that sensation that you're an integral part of reaching the destination. I have a feeling that the Defender might actually make things too easy, if that's even possible. The interior is a good example. It has echoes of the past, but it's overpowered by the modern and luxurious setting it's in. I'm sure it's a great glamper, and it's probably better to drive on the road. But in this instance, I'm falling on the side of edginess. I know, me, Mr. Luxury! Who knew? Plus I feel kind of bad mucking up that lovely cabin. And now, onto the new hotness of the moment, new Ford Bronco. Has the Bronco split the difference between the Jeep and the Defender? No. No, no, no. From my in-person experience, it's definitely a lot closer to the Jeep Wrangler than the Defender. In some ways, it's what I wish the Defender could have been, with its strong, retro identity, with all the tech and convenience features that we get from any modern car. I can see how some might feel that Ford was a little heavy-handed with the retro styling, because I sort of feel the same way. Or at least I used to. When you think of other retro revivals, like the PT Cruiser, Chevy HHR, or that monstrosity that was the last Thunderbird, yeah, I can see that. But man, it just seems to work for me with this Bronco. What really resonates with me is that they didn't put any retro features in there that didn't really serve a purpose. Like the peaked fenders that are a retro callback, but they allow the driver to get a better indication of where the corners are when they're off-roading. On the whole, it's the details that make the Bronco special. It's as if Ford let Jeep take over market research for two decades while they took a massive shortcut that isn't on any map, and ended up at the same destination at the same time. I suppose Chevy could have followed suit. But that new Blazer has abandoned all of its heritage in favor of mass-market appeal, as questionable as that may be. In the more affluent class, the Mercedes G Wagon, well that's more of a reboot than a sequel, because honestly, I still have a hard time telling the new one from the previous one. If successful, the Ford Bronco may usher in a new era of cool off-roaders. Or at least one can hope. I would love to see a revival of the Toyota FJ, and perhaps with a hail Mary pass in the automotive industry, maybe we could someday see an International Scout come back. Come on, Navistar. It's a license to print money. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the new Ford Bronco, the Jeep Wrangler, as well as the Land Rover Defender. Let me know what you think in the comments below. And as always, head on to edmunds.com for more information on the Bronco and all of its competition. To see more videos like this, hit subscribe.
The 2021 Ford Bronco is the hot vehicle of the moment. Mark Takahashi covers the new Bronco’s design and style and how it stacks up against its most direct competitors, the Jeep Wrangler and the Land Rover Defender.