Looking forward to Ford’s upcoming Jeep Wrangler rival
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Back in 2004, the Ford Bronco concept made its debut at the Detroit auto show. The Bronco concept has—aside from a cameo in the upcoming movie Rampage—avoided the spotlight ever since. With adventurous younger buyers flocking to off-roaders such as the Jeep Wrangler, Ford sensed an opening in the market and announced at the 2017 Detroit auto show that the Bronco would return to its lineup in 2020, along with the reincarnated 2019 Ford Ranger pickup. Here’s what we expect from the reborn 2020 Ford Bronco.
It’s no secret that original Ford Broncos have seen somewhat of resurgence of late. With prices of clean late-’60s models creeping north of $50,000—and considering how some of the original Broncos drive—we have to believe that its iconic design is a significant factor for its increase in value. We expect the 2020 Bronco to look a lot like a modern take on the original Bronco design. Think more along the lines of how Ford designed the current Mustang and GT supercar rather than a slavishly retro design like the 2002 Ford Thunderbird.
According to Ford president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs, the 2020 Bronco will be “true to its heritage” and immediately recognizable.
Based on a teaser image Ford released earlier this year, we expect the new Bronco will sport a squared-off two-box shape like the original, with an upright windshield, big side-view mirrors, flared fenders, and a tailgate-mounted full-size spare. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see some more modern design details in the reborn Bronco, such as a grille inspired by Ford’s F-150 Raptor pickup.
By the time the Ford Bronco went out of production in 1996 after a 30-year run, it was more or less a two-door version of the Ford F-150 with back seats and a covered cargo area. Expect the new Ford Bronco to borrow heavily but not overtly from the new 2019 Ranger midsize pickup, which will be built on the same Wayne, Michigan, production line as the Bronco. The new Bronco will utilize body-on-frame construction and share its platform with the Ranger.
The Bronco could also come in short- and long-wheelbase forms to accommodate two- and four-door versions. With the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited outselling the two-door model roughly three to one, the first-ever Ford Bronco four-door’s business case speaks for itself.
Under the hood
The 2004 Ford Bronco concept
Those holding their breath for a V-8-powered Bronco better inhale and hop on the EcoBoost bandwagon. Ford has completely embraced engine downsizing, replacing naturally aspirated V-8s and V-6s with twin-turbo V-6s and single-turbo I-4s, respectively.
The Bronco’s base engine will likely be the same as the 2019 Ford Ranger’s, a 2.3-liter turbo-four. Ford hasn’t confirmed horsepower figures for the Ranger yet, but the same engine puts out 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque in the 2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost. Similarly, smart money says a 10-speed automatic will be available on the new Bronco, but it’s unclear whether a business case can be made for a six-speed manual. The Bronco does have a larger enthusiast appeal than the pickup, though.
We also expect a twin-turbo V-6 to be available at some point on the new Bronco, if not at launch then in time for a midcycle update. Ford’s EcoBoost 2.7-liter V-6 seems like the most likely candidate. It produces 325 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque in the F-150. A diesel could be a possibility, as well.
The only powertrain Ford has confirmed is a hybrid powertrain of some sort. We’ve caught a camouflaged F-150 plug-in hybrid out testing, and we have to imagine the 2020 Ford Bronco hybrid’s powertrain would be related.
The Ford Ranger Raptor
With the Jeep Wrangler all but owning the rock-climbing scene, Ford head of global markets Jim Farley hinted that the Bronco would follow the Raptor’s desert-runner path rather than taking Jeep head-on. That’s not to say the Bronco won’t be capable of crawling up the Slickrock Trail in Moab, but it sounds like it’ll be more biased to high-speed desert racing. Considering the original Bronco cut its teeth racing on the Baja peninsula, it’s not a bad move for Ford to make.
With that in mind, we wouldn’t be surprised to find Fox Shox suspensions, like those found on the F-150 Raptor and global market Ranger Raptor, available on the most hardcore off-road Bronco model. A locking rear differential is almost a guarantee, and a limited-slip front differential should help make a difference when tearing across the dunes. The Bronco should also have a variety of off-road modes to help with different types of terrain, such as mud, snow, rocks, or sand.
We also expect standard all- and optional four-wheel drive, similar to how Ford has approached the new 2018 Expedition and 2019 Ranger. On both models, a more fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive system is available to satisfy buyers who don’t do any hardcore off-roading, while those who need it can opt for a true four-wheel-drive system complete with low-range.
One of the hardest working parts of any off-roader is its axles, and the Bronco should be covered there, too. Automotive News reports that Dana, which also builds solid axles for the Jeep Wrangler, was picked to supply the axles for both the 2019 Ford Ranger and 2020 Ford Bronco. The Bronco will have a solid rear axle just like its Ranger brother. Automotive News also reports the Bronco will get a solid front axle like the Wrangler, but we’re a bit skeptical—a solid front axle is superior when it comes to rock crawling, but an independent front suspension like one found in the F-150 Raptor is better suited to high-speed off-roading.
All Right, How Much?
The 1966 Ford Bronco
Our best estimate is that the 2020 Ford Bronco will start at $30,000, with prices quickly shooting north toward $50,000. That might sound pricey, but considering Ford just teased a smaller off-road SUV to slot beneath the Bronco, it looks like the Blue Oval is attempting to offer an off-roader to adventurers of all tax brackets.
When we reached out to Ford for comment regarding the 2020 Bronco, a spokesperson said, “We don’t speculate about future products. However, the all-new Bronco arriving in 2020 will be a no-compromise midsize 4×4 SUV for thrill seekers who want to venture way beyond the city.”
About 14 years after the concept was first revealed, the 2020 Ford Bronco might be unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January.