So we’ve all been hearing news and seeing leaks surrounding Ford bringing back the Bronco, and it’s just been music to my ears. It’s the kind of news that makes me wish I knew more church hymns. The fun and happy ones, not the doom and gloom, ominous ones in latin. I’ve been a lifetime Bronco lover, from the classic, more Jeep-like original, all the way up to the much bigger OJ-era beasts (so much so that I just bought one).
So while Ford is having their fun in mercilessly teasing us with a slow trickle of information, spy shots, and a few leaks, I figured I would take a deeper look at what we can piece together from all this and try to get a good picture of what the final product will be. From what we have heard, it looks like there will be a big Bronco based on the Ranger, and then a baby Bronco based on the global Ford Everest platform — we’ll be taking a look at the Ranger based version.
But first if I can take a moment and have us all hold our hands in prayer to the mighty horse-themed car gods and pray Ford doesn’t mess this up and kill my dreams. Take as much time as you need, I’ll wait.
“What’s it gonna look like?”
So we know from what Ford has said, and from what we’ve seen so far that this is definitely a throwback to the classic ’66-76 Bronco, both in (relative) size, overall design. Being based off the new Ranger, this will be a bit smaller than the last bronco we got, which was essentially just a shortened F-150 with a cap on the back. The classic layout is there, boxy shape, tire mounted on the tailgate, most likely a removable top, though this time both in a classic 2-door configuration as well as 4-door (I’ll get into more in a bit).
As we can see in these latest spy shots (thank you to Jalopnik), we can peak through that cheeky Bronco camo and see that the round headlights and inner daytime running lights right next to them are a definitely a modern take on the originals. Of course no new vehicle would be complete without the obligatory LED ring around the lights, because even a retro-throwback like this can’t escape the latest fads (not that I’m complaining).
If the Baja prototype racer is anything to go on (and I think it is), then we can expect some Raptor-esque lettering across the grille, this time featuring the name BRONCO as opposed to FORD like the Raptor or even the original Bronco for that matter.
The real interesting design detail that the Baja prototype showed, though, are those iconic front fender ridges, which I always felt were an interesting design detail unique to the classic Bronco — and it’s a detail that all the best fan renderings have shown so far as well, so it’s heartening to see that the Ford had similar thoughts. This detail is backed up in the camouflaged leaked images, as the chunky disguising paneling they put on top of the hood deems to slant from the sides inwards towards the middle.
Oooh, this is the juicy part. The third brake light, or CHMSL (Center High-Mounted Stop Lamp – catchy, ain’t it) tells a lot about what’s hiding under all the camo. The light mounted over the spare tire seems like a pretty clear indication of a removable top, as it would be cheaper and easier to just mount it in the roof behind the rear glass like any other SUV otherwise. That plus how much work they put into masking the profile of the roof has me wondering if there is a soft top version as well, as that would be very obvious in the silhouette if they didn’t hide it.
It’s an interesting detail that the spare tire is mounted dead center, as opposed to off to the passenger side as has been traditional for Broncos of I believe all generations. The mounting of the tire in relation to those massive 35″ tires (same size as the SVT Raptor) shows that they really put thought into the size of tire that off-road enthusiasts are going to want to run. With a Wrangler, a 35″+ tire is going to blog a lot more of the rear window, but with the tire mounted so low here, it’s clear they thought ahead. There doesn’t look to be much extra room to move up to a bigger size, though, given that bumper clearance.
“Can it do Jeep stuff?”
The Bronco has always been an off road staple. That’s kinda the whole point of it, isn’t it? The original was a Jeep alternative, then it became basically an F-150 that could fit on more trails as well as your family. This new one seems to be going back to that original idea, which is great news to me. Let’s get into the details:
A common complaint being thrown around is that the new Bronco has independent front suspension (IFS), but I think it was the right move for Ford to do. Currently, the only similar vehicle left with a solid front axle is the Wrangler/Gladiator, and when you look at it from the broad consumer’s point of view, that solid front axle is as much of a pro as it is a con. While yes, the Jeep’s solid axle gives it a bit of an edge in rock crawling scenarios and makes for a little more ease in suspension modification, it also gives the Jeep just about the worst on-road handling of any consumer vehicle on dealer lots today.
Ford is trading a little bit of suspension capability for comfort and competency on the road — you know, where these will spend 95% of their time. By the way, that gap in rock crawling performance isn’t as big a deal as it once was. Land Cruisers, 4Runners, Tacomas, Rangers (which this is based on) and hell, even the last generation of Bronco had IFS, and those are no stranger to rock crawling trails all over the place.
Plus, as we’ve seen from the Raptor (and this Baja prototype), this opens the Bronco up to high speed desert running as well. Also, it still retains the Ranger’s solid rear axle, so you still have that potential for flex out back. That sounds like a worthwhile trade to me.
Off road ability:
I’m very impressed with the dimensions of this thing. The breakover, and departure angles all look like they were seriously gunning to dethrone the Wrangler. As for approach, I am hopeful that the camouflage is exaggerating the bottom lip in the front. Of course most new trucks and SUVs have plastic bumper skirts that hang down for aerodynamic reasons (that plastic cuts through the air better than suspension components), so at the very least, whatever is hanging down there should be as easily removable as they are on an F-150.
The camouflaged prototype looks to have some steel factory rock sliders, so hopefully those will be retained in the final design. The wheel arches look to have plenty of room in case one of you maniacs wants to bump up the tire size (love you guys) without too much lift.
Speaking of tires, can we just give Ford a pat on the back for doing their part in cramming such huge 35″ tires under these vehicles. First with the Raptor, and now the smaller Bronco? I thought it was wild when I heard the Wrangler Rubicon would come stock with 33″ tires, and now here we are. For most people, 35’s are the goal size to build everything else around, so that gives the Bronco a big advantage in terms of modification needed right from the factory.
Seriously, the first step for a large percentage of Wrangler owners is to throw a lift and 35s on. Not only is that added expense and work, but you’re also running big tires on a vehicle not designed for them, so unless you re-gear the differentials to compensate for the tires, you’re losing useable power, your speedometer will be off, and are hampering your low-range crawl potential. Alternatively, that same buyer can just turn around and buy a Bronco instead and skip all of those drawbacks.
If these are competitively priced with the Wrangler, then that fact alone is a serious value proposition.
Next week I’ll be going more into the powertrain (it’s good news) and what these design decisions mean for the off road market as a whole.
So what do you think? Is Ford holding back some dealbreaking detail that is going to sink this whole thing? Or do we have a real winner on our hands? Let me know below!
Lead image credit: Ford Motor Company