Written by Eric Becker
The wait is finally over, and we have three words – job well done. In what could easily be hailed as one of the most hotly anticipated new car releases in a decade, Ford has finally pulled back the cover on the all-new family of Broncos: A trio of off-roaders able to tackle the suburban sprawl or conquer the back 40 with aplomb.
To say the anticipation for the new Bronco was palpable would be an understatement. Since Ford mentioned word of an all-new Bronco back in January 2017, the collector car community witnessed a surge in demand for the classic first-generation Bronco. “Ford announcing an all-new generation of Bronco certainly added fuel to the fire of the already growing interest in the classic models,” said Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson.
Since the announcement was made, Barrett-Jackson has seen an 88-percent increase in the average sale price of classic Broncos, with record sales regularly being set. A recent example: a custom 1976 Bronco just brought in $195,250 at Barrett-Jackson’s Online Only July 2020 Auction, a record for that year’s model. Additionally, according to a 2018 report by Hagerty, the average price of first-gen Broncos has risen 200 percent since 2008. Suffice to say Ford’s decision to reintroduce the serious off-roading credentials of the Bronco to the lineup was a brilliant move.
With actor Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame narrating the introductory film, Ford touted the trio of Broncos’ off-road chops, equating the all-new stable of 4x4s as being “built with the toughness of an F-Series and performance spirit of a Mustang.”
Blue Oval fans, please check to see if you’re still breathing.
The new stable of Broncos includes a two- and four-door model, built on the fully boxed, high-strength T6 architecture deployed in the Ford Ranger. This release marks the first time the Bronco has been offered with four doors, as well as the first time for a spinoff model, the Bronco Sport. Ford reckons it as “the Bronco of small SUVs,” and it’s easy to see why.
Boasting much of the same off-road savvy tech as its big brother, the Bronco Sport is more mountain G.O.A.T. than pony – G.O.A.T. being both a reference to the original Bronco’s nickname in the 1960s and an acronym for Ford’s all-new terrain management system, as in “Goes Over Any Type of Terrain.” Dial the mode and the Bronco’s driveline optimizes behavior to perform at its peak over any and all topography. In total there are seven selectable modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.
Here’s where things begin to differ in the Bronco stable. Though the Sport leads its class in off-road prowess, it’s geared more towards on-road duties. For the more adventurous, the larger sixth-generation two- and four-door models are more certainly more gravity-defying ibex, with all due respect to the family’s bucking equine star.
Let’s start with the big news first: A manual gearbox is offered. Hoorah! And it’s more than just a standard 6-speed affair; it’s – as Ford calls it – a six-plus-one manual. What’s the plus-one, you ask? It’s Getrag’s new 7-speed that features six forward speeds and an ultra-low (94.75:1) crawler gear for the biggest rocks and thickest mud. The 7-speed manual is only offered when paired to the 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-4, but with 270hp and 310 ft/lbs of torque on tap, it’ll do just fine.
The EcoBoost four shares a 10-speed automatic with the 310hp twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 that rotates the Earth with 410 ft/lbs of torque. As with any serious off-roader, the Bronco opts for heavy-duty transfer cases. “Cases” plural, as there are two options to please even the most ardent off-roaders. The standard case is a 2-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly unit, while the optional advanced unit features a two-speed electromechanical transfer case that adds an auto mode for on-demand engagement to select between 2-High and 4-High. Opt for the turbo-4 with the manual and the upgraded transfer-case for an insane first gear low-range torque multiplication of 95:1 – yikes, perhaps more Alex Honnold than ibex. After all, the “Free Solo” star was a feature in the advertising campaign.
In total there are seven trim levels (including the First Edition), as well as a few additional packages. The awesomely named “Sasquatch Package” pairs 35-inch Goodyear Territory mud terrain tires with 17-inch beadlock wheels and is the must-have kit for true off-roaders. Equipped with Big Foot-esque 35-inch tires, the Bronco boasts some seriously impressive stats. Featuring 11.6 inches of ground clearance, a maximum 29-degree breakover angle and 37.2-degree departure angle, as well as water fording capability of up to 33.5 inches.
The new Bronco’s styling pays homage to the original but is freshened with a healthy dose of 21st-century industrial design. The classic round headlamps are shrouded in a modern grille, which – like many options – is interchangeable depending on specification. Bisecting the grille and emblazoned front and center is the proud BRONCO logo.
The Bronco was developed with modularity, modernity and muscle in mind; nearly everything can be tailored to spec. We eagerly await members of the all-new Bronco family to cross the Barrett-Jackson auction block, and for the inevitable Raptor variant to tear the trails asunder.
We have to say it again: Ford, job well done.