So last week we went over what we can tell about what the new Bronco is going to look like, and a little bit on its suspension and how it will perform off-road. This time we’re going to get into what we know about its powertrain and what that means for its capabilities both on and off road.
That’s right, road manners still matter even in a big, beefy offroader with 35″ tires — as much as the hardcore guys don’t want to admit it, it’s true. Just look at modern sports cars these days. In the past a Lamborghini or a Ferrari was a total compromise. They were loud, hot, uncomfortable, questionably reliable at best, and good luck fitting more than a pack of gum as luggage if you wanted to also bring a friend along. But it’s the year of our (car)lord 2020, and automotive design and engineering have reached a point where these compromises just aren’t necessary anymore. Now they hit the trifecta of being capable, comfortable, AND actually work.
The same is true now for our off roaders. Case in point, have you ever driven or ridden in a new Raptor? They ride nicer than a standard F-150, are bar none the most capable high speed desert trucks in production today, do 0-60 in what the Mustang GT used to, and still have all the creature comforts and cool tech that you would expect from a $60k vehicle.
So if that formula works with high end sports cars and a street-legal prerunner, then why can’t it work for a rock crawler like the Bronco? I think it can. We’ll get into why that is along with some other details down below:
2021 Ford Bronco Powertrain:
Man, these Bronco leaks are just bringing one piece of good news after another. Are you one of the people that was disappointed with the Wrangler and Gladiator’s much unloved “minivan engine” 3.6l V6? Well it looks like the Bronco will be the most powerful vehicle in the segment now, and it’s really not even close. There are some potential disadvantages, but mostly this seems like a big win from where I’m sitting.
So it has been more or less confirmed that the Bronco will receive the 2.7l twin turbo Ecoboost motor from the F-150, making somewhere in the neighborhood of 325hp and a massive 400 lbs-ft of torque or at least that’s what the engine makes in the F-150. To put that into context, let’s take a look at what the competition is working with in the off road-y mid-size SUV space:
- 2.7l twin-turbo V6
Horsepower: 325 (probably)
Torque: 400 (probably)
- 2.3 turbocharged I4 (unconfirmed)
- 3.6l naturally aspirated V6
- 2.0l turbocharged I4
- 3.0l turbocharged diesel (coming later this year)
- 4.0l naturally aspirated V6
Lexus GX 460:
- 4.6l naturally aspirated V8
Land Rover Defender (coming later this year):
- 2.0l turbocharged I4
So if these numbers are at all accurate, the Bronco is really blowing everyone else in the space away in terms of power. No one is really close to matching the horsepower figures, and the only one that beats the torque figures is the 3.0 EcoDiesel, and well, that’s because it’s a diesel. Otherwise nothing comes close, so I think it’s safe to say that the Bronco will be the sportiest one of the lot — which might open itself up for a Raptor edition, seeing how successful its big brother has been for Ford.
That 2.7 Ecoboost has proven itself as being more reliable than some of the other Ecoboost motors out there as well, which makes sense given they built it after going through some teething issues with the 3.5 Ecoboost. One cool detail on this engine is the compacted graphite iron (CGI) block — something normally seen in diesel engines, and even NASCAR motors. While this makes for a heavier block than aluminum (like seen in other Ecoboost motors), CGI is definitely more robust, allowing the engine to be more compact, and eliminates the need for expensive cylinder liners and bore-surface treatment to be able to reliably handle the kind of power these engines make.
Unlike the good side where we have a decent amount of facts, this section will feature more in the way of speculation. Let’s take a step back and look at some of the qualities that made previous Broncos so good. From the 60’s all the way through the 90’s Broncos, they have featured relatively simple motors that are commonly found across the rest of Ford’s line-up. This has historically made them easy to work on, and parts easy to source.
This is especially important offroad where just about anything can happen, being able to work on your vehicle and to be able to make relatively easy trail repairs is paramount. With this 2.7 (and possibly 2.3l 4 cylinder as the base engine), one potential chink in the armor here is that these are without a doubt complicated engines. That’s one place the V6 Wrangler and 4Runner might potentially have an advantage, as both of those motors are naturally aspirated, and neither of them is particularly modern or more advanced than much else you can buy within the past decade.
Parts availability will probably be decent, with this engine being featured in the F-150, the Edge, and across a few Lincoln models, but it is still a cutting edge twin turbo V6, so reason would dictate that things are a little more likely to go wrong with this engine over the simple 351W of the full size Bronco era, or the classic 289 from the classic Bronco.
Who knows, though, this really is just speculation at this point. The 2.7 has been out for a few years now, and it seems to be decently reliable in the F-150, so fingers crossed. Also, it should be pointed out that if you want big power numbers like this, you’re going to have to make a sacrifice somewhere.
Is that trade-off worth it to you? Let me know in the comments below!
How do these figures factor in off road?
So if we are looking at a mini-SUV based Raptor, those power numbers look fantastic. But we have to remember that this new Bronco is aiming squarely at the Wrangler as its main competitor — and high speed desert running is not where the Wrangler shines, nor does it really try to. So let’s take a look at the merits of this engine through the lens of a rock crawler — as that is where the Wrangler is still the undisputed king.
In the world of rock crawling, low end torque is king above all else. From 1987 all the way until 2006, various Jeep models had what is widely regarded to be one of the greatest engines of all time; the AMC 4.0l I6. The reasons this engine was so highly regarded come down to the fact that it is just about unkillable, and the fact that it was so torque-y right off of idle — the two most important factors for a serious off roader.
So while Bronco’s power numbers are obviously way up from the Jeep 4.0’s old 190 hp and 225 lbs-ft of torque, the issue with turbo motors is that they need to get up in RPMs in order to spool up the turbos in order to actually make that power. Now luckily the 2.7l features two small turbos, which spool up much earlier than bigger ones, but is it early enough to make enough torque off the line?
If we look at some stock dyno charts that the company 5 Star Tuning did of the 2.7l and 3.5l ecoboost engines, we can see exactly when these engines make their power:
So if we look at that top green line, we can see that the engine makes over 300 lbs-ft of torque before 2500 RPM, which is pretty damn impressive. Even at 1,900 RPM the engine is making 280 lbs-ft of torque, so unfortunately even though we don’t have any figures below that, I think it is safe to say that the Bronco should fair decently well in terms of torque just off idle.
We haven’t gotten any sort of confirmation on the low range gear ratio yet, but if it shares a transfer case with the F-150, we will be looking at a low range gear of 2.64:1, which is pretty middle of the road. Depending on how much the torque falls of below 1,900 RPM, the new Wrangler might have a crawling advantage with the Rubicon’s 4:1 crawl ratio. Still, we just don’t have these details yet, so it’s difficult to tell at this stage.
The make takeaway here is that this engine seems like good news to me for most scenarios. Overall, the engine is powerful enough that it should be more than adequate in just about any situation in terms of power delivery. I just hope reliability isn’t a serious issue.
Stay tuned for next week where we’ll be going deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of the Bronco going with independent front suspension instead of a solid axle! There is a delicate balance to hit between on road manners and off road capability, and it seems like the Bronco and Wrangler are sitting just over the other side of the fence from each other in regards to these aspects. Luckily we can pull from experience with some other things on the market that tread a similar line.
Have any questions on the new Bronco? Anything aspect you’re worried about? Drop a comment below!