The legendary Ford Bronco returns with cool retro styling, innovative features, and impressive off-road capabilities. While purists will decry the absence of a V-8 option, they’ll applaud the Bronco’s optional manual transmission and many nostalgic details. Its interior layout is simple but loaded with technology, such as an available 12.0-inch touchscreen and an off-road performance app. The cabin also contains durable, waterproof surfaces that protect things when the doors and the soft or hardtop roofs are removed. Its convertible nature—along with two- and four-door body styles—pits Ford’s most rugged SUV against the popular Jeep Wrangler. With a highly capable chassis and drivetrain, the 2021 Bronco has a legit chance to challenge the Jeep for the trail-rated crown. Those who don’t need as much capability will appreciate the smaller Ford Bronco Sport.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Sorry, folks. The Bronco doesn’t come with eight cylinders. Instead, you only have the choice of a four-pot or a V-6, but they’re strong ones. The standard engine is a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four that makes 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The other option is a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 that generates 310 horses and 400 lb-ft. Ford has confirmed that the Bronco will eventually offer a hybrid powertrain, too. A 10-speed automatic transmission bolts to both gas engines, but a seven-speed manual is only compatible with the smaller one. Despite being handcuffed to the engine with less torque, the seven-speed has a super-low 94.75:1 crawler ratio, which comes in handy for taking obstacles at low speeds. Every Bronco sends power to Dana front and rear axles through either a standard four-wheel or available all-wheel-drive system. Other noteworthy equipment options include 35-inch mud-terrain tires, beadlock-capable wheels, electronic locking front and rear differentials, long-travel dampers, and a sway-bar-disconnect feature. Until we have a chance to drive the new Bronco, we can’t confirm its capabilities. But its 11.6 inches of maximum ground clearance and ability to ford through up to 33.5 inches of water are impressive. Both the two- and four-door models are rated to tow 3500 pounds—same as the Wrangler.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Neither the EPA nor Ford have released any fuel-economy ratings for the 2021 Bronco. Once those figures are released, and we have the opportunity to test one on our 200-mile highway route, we can evaluate its real-world mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Available with two or four doors, soft tops or hardtops, and removable body panels, the Bronco offers the same open-air possibilities that make the Wrangler an outdoor person’s delight. The Ford’s interior has a few more innovations than the Jeep, too. For example, the Bronco has a rack built into the top of its dashboard that allows smartphones and GoPros to be mounted there, where they can be plugged in to nearby 12-volt outlets. It also has frameless doors that Ford claims are easy to remove, and the company says the extended-wheelbase four-door models have space onboard to store all four doors. Since the exterior mirrors are mounted on the base of the windshield, they’re still useable when the doors are taken off. When exposed to the elements, the cabin can be protected with the available rubberized flooring and marine-grade vinyl upholstery. Those who want a fancier environment can always opt for leather seating surfaces. The Bronco’s dashboard also boasts a row of rubber switches; an overhead set of auxiliary toggles can be added, too. While we don’t have any details on passenger space or cargo volume, we like the functionality of the “trail sights” on the tops of each front fender, because not only are they useful for locating corners during tight maneuvers but they’re also tie-downs that have a 150-pound capacity.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Ford’s latest in-dash Sync 4 software will power the 8.0- or 12.0-inch touchscreen that’s embedded in the middle of the Bronco’s dashboard. The setup allows over-the-air updates and can connect to the cloud and user’s smartphone wirelessly. The infotainment system also supports a host of modern infotainment features that include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot. The unit can also be upgraded with desirable options, such as built-in navigation and a more powerful B&O stereo.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Bronco hasn’t been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It will be available with a suite of driver-assistance technology, including automatic high-beams and parking sensors. The Bronco also has equipment that makes low-speed rock crawling and trail driving easier.