After years of leaks, rumors, and boundless speculation, Ford confirmed that it’s finally bringing the Bronco SUV back to North American showrooms. The timing is certainly right: Gas prices are relatively low, motorists are buying SUVs faster than car companies can build them, and the footage of O.J. Simpson on the run is gathering dust along with the Sega Saturn in the pantheon of 1990s history.
After first confirming the new Bronco in 2017, Ford is finally ready to reveal the reborn SUV. The reveal will be live-streamed on Monday, July 13, at 8:00 p.m. ET across ABC, ESPN, and National Geographic. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about the 2021 Ford Bronco.
What will it look like?
Ahead of the reveal, Ford confirmed that the 2021 Bronco will actually be a “family” of three SUVs, including two-door and four-door models, as well as a smaller Bronco Sport model.
Expect all three models to have retro styling inspired by past Broncos. A leaked image of the two-door model posted on the Bronco6G forum showed plenty of references to the original 1966 Bronco, including a flat rectangular grille flanked by two round headlights. A teaser video released by Ford hints that the Bronco four-door and Bronco Sport will have a similar design theme.
Like the Jeep Wrangler, the Bronco two-door and four-door models will have a removable roof and doors, but don’t expect that on the Bronco Sport.
What’s under the sheet metal?
Developed as a true off-roader, the Bronco will feature rugged body-on-frame construction. It will ride on an evolution of the frame that underpins the current Ford Ranger pickup truck. That’s a good starting point, as the Ranger is already a fairly capable off-roader when properly equipped.
The Bronco Sport rides on a different platform than the other two models. Ford hasn’t offered any details on what that platform might be, but since the automaker doesn’t have any smaller body-on-frame platforms, the Sport will likely have more car-like unibody construction. Given Ford’s penchant for platform sharing, it’s possible the Bronco Sport could share some DNA with the Escape.
Ford hasn’t discussed tech, but the automaker is rolling out its Sync 4 infotainment system this year. Sync 4 will include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Ford has promised improved touchscreen graphics and voice recognition. Expect to see Sync 4 on at least one Bronco variant.
Even though it entered popular culture as a getaway vehicle, the Bronco started life as a true, no-nonsense 4×4 with better-than-average off-road prowess. The next-generation model will continue that trend by offering a generous amount of ground clearance, four-wheel drive, and possibly even solid axles manufactured by Dana, which also supplies axles for the rival Jeep Wrangler.
Ford hasn’t discussed powertrains yet, but if the Bronco is based on the Ranger, it would make sense to use the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 10-speed automatic transmission from that truck. That engine makes 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque in the Ranger, but is tuned to produce 330 hp and 350 lb-ft in the Mustang, so the Bronco’s output could be higher.
Expect the Bronco Sport to use a smaller turbocharged engine, possibly the 1.5-liter four-cylinder unit from the Escape. Despite its small displacement, that engine makes a respectable 181 hp and 190 lb-ft in the Escape, which should be enough for a compact SUV focused on slow-speed off-roading.
Ford has already confirmed that all Bronco models will come standard with four-wheel drive. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a version of the Terrain Management System from the Ranger and F-150 Raptor pickups as well. The system includes multiple driving for different surfaces, such as mud or snow. The Ranger’s Trail Control tech could be included as well. This basically acts as off-road cruise control, handling the throttle and brakes while the driver steers.
What will its rivals be?
The 1960s and 1970s were the best time to shop around for an open-top off-roader. American buyers had at least seven options to choose from, including models built by Jeep, Chevrolet, GMC, Dodge, Plymouth, International-Harvester, and, of course, Ford.
In 2018, the only topless 4×4 with body-on-frame construction is the timeless Jeep Wrangler. The Bronco will rekindle a decades-old rivalry by competing in the same segment as Jeep’s famous off-roader. It’s about time; we’re surprised the Wrangler has remained in a class of one for this long. The Toyota 4Runner also features body-on-frame construction, and can keep up with a Wrangler on the trails, but that capability comes in a plainer SUV wrapper.
The Bronco Sport will have a much larger rogue’s gallery to contend with. With its emphasis on off-roading, the Bronco Sport seems aimed at the Jeep Compass and Renegade. However, there are many other similarly-sized SUVs that buyers often cross-shop those two Jeep models against, from the Honda HR-V to the Kia Seltos. Most of these vehicles don’t offer much off-road capability, but that might not make a difference for many buyers.
When will I be able to buy one?
Ford will begin taking reservations for the 2021 Bronco at 8:00 p.m. ET on Monday, July 13 — right when the livestreamed reveal starts. Reservations require a $100 refundable deposit. More specific pricing and launch-timing information will be released in the coming months.
Updated on July 11, 2020: Added the latest Bronco news.