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The new Ford Bronco: What Ford wants to sell vs what enthusiasts want to see

Ross Ballot October 11, 2016 All Things Hoon, Featured 43 Comments
road-and-track-3

Source: Road and Track

So, the Bronco is coming back. Finally. Or supposedly, at least. It’s been twenty long years since we last saw a Bronco for sale on U.S. soil, and the revival of one of the most iconic 4×4 nameplates should be a marketing force to be reckoned with at Ford. But the rebirth of the nameplate doesn’t necessarily mean that the 2018 (2019?) model will live up to its past glory. Whereas Ford is just hoping for a sales hit, us enthusiasts are hoping for something that’s actually a vehicle worthy of the Bronco name.

But what would Ford need to do in order for the new so-called Bronco to be a worthy successor? Read on to see if you agree with me.

Recently, Jalopnik’s Andrew P Collins wrote a piece in which that the new Bronco won’t really be a Bronco at all. I’m not here to argue that. Sadly, it’s unlikely that the reinvented Bronco will share a body configuration with its predecessors. Much more likely is that it will be similar to, if not identical to, the Everest full-size SUV, which is based on the global Ranger platform. Obviously a large, four-door SUV isn’t the ideal body for a Bronco– we’ll get to that later– but it’s a lot better off going this direction rather than that of the front-wheel-drive Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet abomination.

Assuming it is actually on the Everest platform, the new Bronco will probably have four full doors, a hardtop, and dimensions larger than those of any of its predecessors. Platform sharing– and not creating a new chassis for one single vehicle– is the name of the game here, as is nameplate usage for the sake of marketing. As such, I’d be surprised to see a two-door body or a removable top. By using an existing base, Ford can crank out a bunch of SUVs with a name people see as important affixed to its side and tailgate, and can easily capitalize on nostalgia. It’s great idea, in theory and in practice, being that selling cars is in fact a business. Can’t say I would blame them for taking advantage of a storied name. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already, honestly.

motor-trend

The Ford Everest — Source: Motor Trend

But what the Bronco needs to be a sales success is very different from we’ll want to see in order for it to be a success in enthusiasts’ eyes. So, what would play into that classic off-roader formula that could create a modern masterpiece?

First and foremost, the body. Nothing is a true and proper Bronco unless it’s a boxy two-door. Any more and it’s just a Bronco in name, nothing more. Next is the top: it has to be a solid removable unit, just like all of us imagine when we hear “Bronco.” An optional softtop would be nice, but the hardtop is what matters. As for stance, it has to have something resembling off-road-worthy ground clearance; it doesn’t have to be a class-leader, but it needs to claim more off-road capability than the crossovers can. Once these things are covered, the most important items have been taken care of. I won’t call the rest “arbitrary,” but it’s not as vital to the Bronco mantra as is the way it looks and the sense of rugged aggression it gives off.

bronco6g

Ford’s 2004 Bronco Concept — Source: Bronco6G

But there’s more that we care about; appearance is nice, but we also want it to have to have the chops to back it up. On the size front, the interior should be roomy enough to fit four people comfortably, but with small enough exterior dimensions that it’s easily placed off-road and not a unmaneuverable behemoth on the streets.

motor-trend-3

Ford’s 2004 Bronco Concept — Source: Motor Trend

As for power, the option sheet *could* (should!) be graced with a slew of choices, but don’t get your hopes up. It would be great to be able to pick from the 5.0L V8, 6.2L V8, 3.5L EcoBoost, the Raptor’s twin-turbo 3.5L EcoBoost, and a small turbo-diesel. Each has different strengths, be it low-end power, high-end power, fuel efficiency, or tune-ability, but ultimately it’s more than likely that the truck would come with a “standard” EcoBoost motor, at first at least. That’s especially so if it’s an Everest-based truck. While being able to decide between a number of powertrain options would be a good treat, it’ll be a treat in enough itself if we get an actual Bronco, true to its name, at all. Engine choices would just sweeten the deal.

Oh, and how about a Bronco Raptor? Not that the name “Bronco Raptor” would make sense, considering the whole science thing, but a long-travel, wide-body, baja-beast of a Bronco would be a hell of a hooning toy. Among the most fun available, I’d wager. The antithesis to the Rubicon’s rock-crawling prowess, in two-door, high-speed fire-road-attacking form. Priced at around $40-50k, and it would sell incredibly as well. Also, there could be a Rubicon-esque model, with lockers and electronically disconnected sway bars and such. Now I’m just daydreaming though. Oh, and one more trim would be good for a laugh, for nostalgia and shit’s sake: an Eddie Bauer Edition.

gearheads-org

Source: Gearheads.org

Ford would be missing out on a huge opportunity if they don’t go after the Wrangler. The Jeep operates in what is, short of the Evoque Convertible, a monopoly in the four-wheel-drive topless segment. They move a huge volume of Wranglers– 200,000 in the U.S. alone last year, according to . For Ford to not take advantage of what’s a wide open chance to be competitive, that would be a poor choice on their part. A modernized Bronco wouldn’t even have to be a full-on Jeep beater, but a good looking, rough-and-tough convertible SUV with a hint of off-road cred and the Bronco name on it would almost have a free pass to good sales figures, and to stealing some of Jeep’s thunder. And how great would it be to see a newfound off-road battle to counter the on-road horsepower and supercar wars? A modern Bronco fighting the next-generation JL Wrangler for king of the dirt? Maybe even GM will jump into the mix with a modern Blazer; there were rumors of a GMC-branded full-size Wrangler competitor appearing in the next few years– Jimmy, anyone? I’m 100% on board with the off-road world having a massive revival. But for now, I (and we) can only hope it actually happens.

Of course, all of the above is speculation (and hopes/dreams) at most. The Bronco may have been “confirmed,” but there have been rumors for so long now that I won’t believe it’s true until the first one rolls off of the production line. Ford already has plenty of SUVs and CUVs; they would be doing themselves and the enthusiast market a huge deed if they made something that’s actually different, that harkens back to a sought-after nameplate, and that has the capability to match the macho looks. Oh, and of course there’s that whole part where they could compete with the Wrangler, but it seems like nobody wants to take a stab at that– yet. When it comes down to it, it’ll be great to see a Bronco on sale once again. But what we want, and what Ford will likely sell, could vary greatly. Is there a chance that our wants and their sales needs will align? Your guess is as good as mine. Time will only tell if they use “Bronco” as a marketing gimmick or if it proves to be a true successor. Let’s hope for the latter.

road-and-track-2

Source: Road and Track

  • Wadddayamean? “Bronco Raptor” makes perfect sense.

    • smalleyxb122

      As much sense as “Mustang Cobra”, anyway.

    • engineerd

      This is photoshopped. I can tell from the pixels.

    • Alff

      BRAAAAAPTOR!!!!!

    • Ross Ballot

      Oh man, I should have done my research before using that line!

      I’m equally impressed that the above photo exists as I am now ready for another Jurassic Park film. Kudos.

  • Batshitbox

    What I’m hoping for is something like the FJ Cruiser. Retro-stylish, off road capable, lots of aftermarket goodies, well hidden rear doors… What I’m expecting is a two-door Explorer. With four doors. And the grille from a Raptor. Basically nothing like the Bronco or the FJ Cruiser.

    Let’s call it what it is, the Bronco Three.

    • 0A5599

      Well-hidden rear doors? No, doors should be extra-cost options. Same for the roof.

      • It’s probably too much to hope for a folding windshield, vacuum wipers, and an oil bath air cleaner on the new model as well.

        • 0A5599

          Vaccuum wipers probably aren’t feasible. They involve too much suckage.

          A folding windshield and an oil bath are possible. The first rollover should take care of the windshield. You might have to wait a year or two for the oil leaks to bathe the air cleaner, though.

        • outback_ute

          Even the Landcruiser 70 windshield does not fold any more. On the pickup versions you used to be able to unbolt the roof and fold it down.

          • outback_ute

            This is a swb, but the pickup did the same thing. Incidentally they
            apparently stopped selling the swb and mid-wheelbase Landcruisers in
            Australia in 1993.

            The Prado (J150) was sold as a swb from
            2009-2013, while the Mitsubishi Pajero swb finished in 2009. The Land
            Rover Defender 90 has just recently had its swansong, it is no longer
            listed on LR’s website.

            The Suzuki Jimny is still around, but I
            think it is pretty clear that the market for a ‘traditional’ Bronco is
            very small in Australia. There may be some pent-up demand, and I would
            expect the same would be true in North America, and combined with the
            “halo” or image-building effect perhaps that might be enough to convince
            Ford management to go ahead with it.

    • Ross Ballot

      I could see them either calling it Bronco III or ditching the lineage altogether. They’ll either tack “III” on the end in hopes of making a vehicle otherwise unworthy of the Bronco name, or they’ll leave it just “Bronco.”

      • Perhaps they’ll go with the Bronco Division of Ford Motor Company.

  • engineerd

    It’s confirmed and most likely happening relatively soon. Ford is moving small car production from Michigan Assembly to Mexico and backfilling with most likely Ranger and Bronco production at Michigan Assembly. This tells me two things:

    1. It’ll be Ranger-based.
    b. It’ll have high enough margins to justify US labor rates.

    This is the current Ranger being sold in places like South Africa and Australia. I think it’s good looking, it has a good size, and a Bronco based on this could be quite capable and awesome offroad.

    My only hope is that Ford lets the SVT crew at it and tells them to Raptor-fy it. Then there could be two answers to all questions: Raptor and Bronco.

    Edit: I forgot to mention that my hopes might be a bit higher. I’m really hoping the new Bronco is more Troller and less Ranger.

    • Alff

      When I close my eyes and imagine the current Ranger broncofied, all I see is a slightly bigger Escape. I hope I just lack imagination.

      • Ross Ballot

        That would be disappointing. But is sort of what the Everest is. A bigger, body-on-frame Escape.

    • Ross Ballot

      I’d love to see a Raptor-ified, Ranger-based Bronco. That would have a good chance as my next vehicle, once depreciation sets in.

      Also, holy crap, I can’t get over how much the Troller in that picture looks like a TJ Wrangler. Maybe it’s the angle? I tried to find the same color combo but this is as close as I could get…resemblance is uncanny:

      • engineerd

        It is uncanny.

      • outback_ute

        The interesting thing about the Troller is even the new version looks to have a solid front axle, which is not on the Ranger.

      • Vairship

        Perhaps you just got…Trolled?

    • Rover 1

      That red ute above is the first Ranger, now last years model. The current facelift is a little more aggressive looking.
      .jpg

    • serowman

      So much this. I don’t expect them to just take the Troller as is, but since the current Troller T4 is based on same platform as the Ford Everest anyway I would love them to take some inspiration from it. Ideally I would like to see a short wheelbase 2 door and longer 4 door.

  • The Real Number_Six

    The gulf between car geek expectations and the final product is going to be vast.

    While we’re all wishing for an affordable Icon Bronco, what we’re actually getting is this:

    • neight428

      What a buzzkill. Next you’ll be telling me that bikini models aren’t instantly attracted to me and my new boat.

  • When talking about the global Ranger platform as rather unfit for a two door body: is this really as inflexible as former letter-bodies?
    From contemporary engineering, which Ford definitely has read a book about once, I’d rather expect something like recent VW platforms, which are a box of Lego components by design and definitely not a major limitation when going from four to two doors.

    • Manic_King

      Short Ranger exists in asia and AUS. Maybe this can be used:

      • outback_ute

        That isn’t sold in Australia, there was only one photographed at Ford’s proving ground. I assume they just use the Everest chassis which is roughly a foot shorter.

    • Ross Ballot

      I get what you’re saying. VW’ MQB platform is extremely versatile. From a money standpoint, it makes all the sense in the world. Ford would be taking a big risk to develop a platform for a for a low-ish volume seller…but that doesn’t make me want to see it any less

      • I wouldn’t expect platform MQB A4 glory (spanning from 1st gen. Audi TT 4WD roadster over Golf IV to 1st gen Octavia wagon) for an off-road platform. For such an application, optional reinforcement and some clever mounting for various suspension bits (and precautions for 2-door/soccer team stowage bodies) sound realistic to me.

        The current concern outside Ford seems to be “the base platform is four-door, so they will replace the rear door with solid panels which will look stupid”. I hope that Ford has a bit more up their sleeves than just replacing the fender panels.

    • serowman

      The current global Ranger platform is absolutely not unfit for a two door body. Ford actually builds a 2 door Wrangler-alike in Brazil called the Troller T4. The T4 is on the Ranger platform.

      • Thanks for bringing this up, I’m not disappointed by Ford.

  • smalleyxb122

    I know that most people seem to be hoping for something like the 2004 concept, but I think it looks ridiculous.

    If it doesn’t look like the Broncoraptor at the top of the page, I will impotently express my displeasure on all sorts of forums and blogs.

    • Ross Ballot

      While my mind hopes it looks like the rendering in the lede image, my bank account sincerely disagrees. The 2004 concept was cool at the time, now it’s a bit…meh?

  • Maymar

    Considering Ford’s already pretty well represented with 4-door SUVs (S – Escape, M – Edge, L – Explorer, and XL – Expedition, and also the Flex, sort of, maybe), I’ve been assuming the Bronco would be a 2-door Everest (or a 2-door Ranger SUV, if you prefer), if just because it’d have less competition. Although I suppose the Everest wouldn’t have much direct competition except the Toyota 4Runner (who’s from a similarly SUV-friendly company).

    • Scoutdude

      On the one hand I agree that they have enough 4drs but on the other hand this will be a Wrangler competitor and the 4dr is a big part of their business.

      • Maymar


        Fair point. What’re the odds that Ford can get the trademark on Centurion? Like the Wrangler, I’m sure it’d soften the blow of extra doors to have a removable roof.

  • Scoutdude

    The new Bronco will be aimed squarely at the Wrangler. So it having a removable top is highly likely on the one hand, on the other it has to be based on the next Ranger and will need to share a significant amount with it. So I’m afraid that the removable top will most likely be like the Big Bronco and not like the Early Bronco. Which could be a good thing as they could have one top work on both a 2 and 4dr version which could reuse a lot of the Ranger body parts.

    What I would like to see is n the vein of the Early Bronco in your choice of Roadster, Wagon and Sports Utility, but I’m not going to hold my breath. No one will buy a Roadster and the Sports Utility would be too much like a Ranger. So we will only get the Wagon version.

  • neight428

    Platform sharing seems inevitable. The formula of the global Ranger/Everest would be the business case path of least resistance, so it is easy to imagine that playing out. The SUV/CUV is the market these days, so one more might be ok, but this would seem to slot to the “rugged” side of the current Explorer and the smaller side of the Expedition. As market niches go, that is a pretty tiny sliver, but one that the Toyota 4Runner inhabits.
    I’m with the enthusiast groupthink for the most part, though it does not seem to be in the cards. A two door, short overhang body on frame chassis with a slightly longer wheelbase than a JK Wrangler and the longitudinal 2.7L Ecoboost V6 would get my actual dollars if it hit anywhere near the renderings in the styling department.
    In my experience, the removable hard top is more interesting in theory than in practice. Between my brother and I, we have owned 5 Broncos ranging from a ’69 to a ’94, and the more you remove and reinstall, the more fussy the weather stripping would get. Also, they are big, which in any case requires a lot of secure space to keep it out of the way when rolling alfresco and requires a Bronco full of bros to remove and re-install. Jeep still manages this feat though, so it is not impossible, just more difficult the bigger you go. So, that particular feature could be left behind and I wouldn’t be fussed.

    • Ross Ballot

      I hear you. You need a fair amount of room (or a clever ceiling hoist) and some actual manpower to get a hardtop off of a Wrangler, so I can only imagine doing so on the bigger Bronco. It’s one of the reasons a folding hardtop is supposedly in the cards for the JL Wrangler.

      Not sure how I feel about a Bronco with the 2.7L motor. Guess it really depends on weight.

      • neight428

        If we’re talking clean sheet, I’d have them throw in a 300-ish HP inline-6, but I was giving a nod the existing engine options for what seems plausible on a new/revised existing platform. I’m envisioning something smaller than the F150’s that perform reasonably well with the 2.7. If it ends up being full sized, then you need the V8 and 3.5L options.

        • Ross Ballot

          Yup, agreed. Depends heavily on weight, even if it’s physically large but doesn’t weigh a lot then a smaller engine would work.

          Lineup I’d like to see: 2.7L Ecoboost, 3.5L Ecoboost, 3.5L TT Ecoboost (Raptor motor), 6.2L V8…let us choose!

  • SoldierofaDifferentStripe

    I’d like to see a 2 door, 2WD Bronco. Chevy/GMC did it for a short time before the Tahoe / Yukon arrived. Even Dodge had a 2WD Ramcharger.

    • Ross Ballot

      I’d be surprised if they didn’t offer a base, RWD-only model. Although, Jeep stopped doing it on the Wrangler…

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