Ford Unveils its New Bronco Family of Rugged SUVs After a 25-Year Hiatus

Ford Unveils its New Bronco Family of Rugged SUVs After a 25-Year Hiatus

Author: Eric Walz   

The auto industry has changed a lot since 1996, which was the last year the Ford Motor Co. sold the long-running Bronco SUV after three decades of production. At the time sedans ruled the road and Ford's biggest selling vehicle was the Taurus sedan. But now the Bronco is officially back, Ford revealed the three new Bronco models for the first time on Monday night.

Ford is hoping to resurrect part of its storied history with the new Bronco lineup while at the same time looking towards the future by building the new Bronco with modern technology, as it did with the upcoming Mustang-inspired Mach-E electric SUV. 

Ford's new Bronco family of SUVs are poised to become a big rival to the long-running Jeep Wrangler, which has been produced by Jeep since 1986 back when the original Bronco was still around. 

Ford is squarely targeting the adventure seeking crowd with its rugged and capable new Bronco, including weekend warriors that like to do a little off-roading from time to time. Ford made sure it pulled out all the stops making sure the Bronco can handle anything their owners can throw at it.

"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 4x4 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." 

The new Bronco family includes three completely new models, a two door, four door and a Sport model. 


The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport

The three new Bronco models are built to be tough and were built around the original Bronco's G.O.A.T heritage, which stands for "goes over any type of terrain". This DNA was purposefully engineered into the new truck. Ford wanted to make sure the Bronco would be a highly capable vehicle and not just another shiny and tech-laden SUV that's more suited for trips to a shopping mall.

The Bronco Sport's suspension is complemented by Ford's new Terrain Management System, with up to seven available G.O.A.T. modes at the push of a button. Standard modes include Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand. Additional settings for Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl modes are available on Badlands and First Edition.

The Badlands and First Edition Bronco models come with a standard 4x4 system with a twin-clutch rear-drive unit with a differential lock feature to allow greater off-road performance that's similar to a traditional mechanical locking differential. The system can automatically send torque to any wheel where its needed. The result is some serious off-road capability that's not found in many vehicles today.

"Bronco Sport has the toughness and smarts to help turn off-road novices into 4x4 pros," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer. "Bronco Sport embraces the needs of outdoor enthusiasts, every inch of it was designed and engineered with weekend adventurers in mind."

Ford said the Bronco Sport was tested in extreme conditions in places such as in the extreme heat of the Johnson Valley desert in California. 

Ford also designed the new Bronco family with increased ground clearance that's well suited for off-road trails. The extra height allows for better approach and departure angles for conquering steep terrain, the company says.

All Bronco models feature an independent front and rear suspension. The suspension has been optimized to help drivers confidently maintain vehicle composure on rugged terrain.

On the Badlands and First Edition series, the system includes tuned front struts with hydraulic rebound stops designed to provide a quieter, less jarring off-road experience, Ford claims. 

The Bonco's 46-millimeter-diameter monotube rear shocks are among the largest in the class Ford claims, helping provide improved response and more comfort off-road, while softer springs and anti roll bars offer greater maneuverability over obstacles.

The Bronco Features an "Off Road Cruise Control System." 

Other unique features include what can be described as an "off road cruise control system." dubbed "Trail Control." The exclusive technology improves the Bronoc's vehicle's off-road prowess, Ford says. 

The available feature enables a low-speed cruise control-like setting up to 20 mph forward and 6 mph in reverse for vehicle-controlled throttle and braking. This allows the driver to stay focused on navigating a rugged trail, while the Bronco handles all of the throttle and braking duties.

 Other features designed for life on the trails include an extra tall "safari-style roof" which provides additional headroom. The cargo area is high enough to hold two 27.5-inch-wheel mountain bikes upright. The taller roof is reminiscent of the Land Rover Discovery.

Two-door models come with a standard three-section roof system, which includes left and right front sections and a rear section. An optional modular top with four sections adds a removable panel over the rear seats and cargo area.


The interior of the Bronco Sport

Four-door Bronco models have four removable roof sections, including a full-width center panel and a rear section. The sections are designed to be easily removed by one person by unlocking the latches from the interior. Once removed, the roof sections are designed to be safely stored in the rear cargo area. 

Owners can also add more than 100 factory and aftermarket Bronco accessories to transport gear such as kayaks, surfboards, skis and camping equipment. With the new Bronco family, Ford is targeting people with an active outdoor lifestyle, rather than just the typical suburban SUV driver.

Five trim levels are available, including the base. The other 4 models are named after regions of the U.S. that are well known as outdoor playgrounds, including Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands and First Edition.

For trail adventures, Ford's optional SYNC 4 system includes either a 8 or 12 inch center-mounted dash display. The FordPass Performance app includes off-road navigation that allows owners to plan, navigate and share their off-road adventures right from the vehicle. The Bronco's advanced topographic trail maps are powered by class-exclusive trail content from NeoTreks' AccuTerra Maps, Trails Offroad trail guides and FunTreks trail guides.

"The trail mapping system available on Bronco is truly a game-changer in the off-road community," said Grueber. "It works online or off on either of the navigation-capable 8- or 12-inch SYNC systems, allowing users to select one of hundreds of available curated trail maps to map out and then track, capture and share their adventures with others."  

The Badlands and First Edition models are powered by a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that produces a targeted 245 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque. The Base, Big Bend and Outer Banks versions feature a smaller 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine that delivers 181 horsepower and 190 lb.-ft. of torque respectively. Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. 

The Bronco Sport, Badlands and First Edition include steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The 2.0 liter engine model features an upgraded cooling system with additional transmission and rear-drive coolers.

Other Bronco features are designed for convenience. A flip-glass rear window, low-load floor cargo area, overlanding-ready roof rack with capacity to make roof-top tent camping easy. The Bronco Sport also features an innovative slide-out work table, part of the available five-way configurable Cargo Management System. 

For powering essential camping accessories the Bronco Sport includes a 400-watt inverter and liftgate flood lamps that Ford says can illuminate up to 129 square feet.

The Badlands and First Edition series offer washable rubber flooring throughout the cabin and cargo area instead of carpeting, along with easy-to-clean cloth seating surfaces. All of the vehicle switches are silicone-sealed to keep water out. 


The Bronco Sport includes an innovative slide-out working table as part of the Cargo Management System.

For driving on paved roads, which many Bronco owners will probably do more often than off-roading, the Bronco features Ford's Co-Pilot360 suite of advanced driver-assist (ADAS) technologies as standard across the lineup.

It's the same safety features found on Ford's other models. It includes Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) featuring Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping System, Auto High Beam Headlamps and a rearview backup camera. 

Available Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ technology adds Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Lane-Centering, Evasive Steering Assist and voice-activated touch screen navigation. 

Ford's optional Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0 technology adds Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Lane-Centering and speed limit sign recognition.


The 2-door and 4-door Bronco models

The new Ford Broncos might become a big seller for Ford, given the popularity of SUVs and trucks in North America. However, Ford is facing new competition from electric truck startups that promise to offer more power, utility and environmentally friendliness with fully-electric and fuel cell powered adventure trucks. 

One such model is the Badger pickup from Nikola Motor and the Rivian R1T pickup from electric truck startup Rivian. Ford invested $500 million in Rivian in April 2019 and the two companies planned to co-develop an EV platform for future Ford models, but axed those plans due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

However, Ford still has an advantage to lure buyers in with the Bronco's storied heritage. The automake hopes to do the same with the new Mustang-inspired electric Mach-E SUV, which is scheduled to arrive at dealers later this year.

The 2021 Bronco two-door and four-door models will be built at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan where the original Broncos were made starting in 1966. MSRP for the base two-door Bronco is $29,995, including $1,495 destination and delivery.

Interested buyers can reserve a Bronco on Ford's website with a $100 refundable deposit. 

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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