Ford Bronco is back. And how!

When it was introduced in 1966, Ford Bronco was one of the pioneers of the body-style we call ‘SUV’ today. Over the next 30 years and five generations, the Bronco developed a cult following in the American market only to be axed in 1996. After a 24-year hiatus, the iconic nameplate returns later this year with Ford unveiling the all-new Bronco range last evening to satiate hordes of American fans and loyalists who were starting to get really impatient waiting for this reveal.

Going against the legendary Jeep Wrangler, the born-again Bronco has it’s task cut out. Is Ford’s newest model up for the challenge? What’s good about it? What could have been better? Let’s find out. 

Good: Bronco is now a sub-brand with 3 models

For most of it’s existence, the Bronco has been a standalone model. The Bronco II – that just shared the name but had completely different underpinnings and was made from 1980 to 1987 – was a notable exception. In it’s comeback though, the Bronco has grown into a whole sub-brand of sorts. The line-up comprises three models – the two-door Bronco, the first-ever four-door Bronco and the smaller Bronco Sport. None of them have the ‘Blue Oval’ logo up front. Instead, they have B-R-O-N-C-O written in a bold font across the grille. Bucking bronco logos are placed on the tailgate, steering wheel and gear-shifter, signaling the confidence Ford had in ‘Brand Bronco’.

While the two Broncos are hardcore, body-on-frame off-roaders built off the Ranger platform, the Bronco Sport is an Escape-based monocoque for those who prefer the boxy look and feel but prefer car-like dynamics and can do with limited off-road capability. With the trio, Ford has expanded the reach of Bronco to a wider customer base that a standalone two-door model would have struggled to impress.

Good: Bronco’s retro-modern styling works

Re-imagining an old classic is always an exercise akin to treading a thin line. A slip is all it takes to fall flat on your face. In that context, Ford’s designers have done a fab job with the new Bronco. 

The all-new Bronco looks faithful to the ‘classic’ 1966 model, yet is thoroughly contemporary. The boxy, squared-off looks with the wheels pushed off to the corners is macho, timeless and purposeful. The lighting signature up front, the nameplate writ large across the grille, the massively-flared and clad wheel arches, the A-pillar mounted rear view mirrors and frameless doors are the highlights. Both the two- and four-door models have modular roof sections and removable door panels , providing the occupants a quick and easy open air experience. 

The Bronco Sport carries over a lot of the traits of the bigger siblings but has it’s own distinct identity. Exclusively available with a fixed roof and four doors, the baby Bronco carries the family flag proudly in its front lighting signature, the way the grille’s enclosure encompasses the headlights and those shoulder lines that kinks up just before it meets the C-pillar. The C-pillar itself has a different treatment, not very dissimilar to some Land Rover models of the past.

The interiors look the part too. The design is straightforward, no doubt, but the colours chosen for the upholstery give these mud-pluggers a plush look while the optional 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system with the latest SYNC 4 makes this a tech-rich cabin.

Built Wild they may be, as Ford calls them, there is no denying the fact the Broncos are handsome brutes!

Good: Broncos are purpose-built G.O.A.T vehicles

No, the GOAT here isn’t what you think it is. It means “Go Over Any Terrain” - a phrase that fits the Bronco to the tee and was coined for marketing the 1966 model. Ford’s venerable SUV has always been manufactured with an intent to take it’s occupants to places a regular automobile can’t dare enter. That purpose hasn’t changed one bit. The new Bronco, just like it’s arch-rival Jeep Wrangler, is designed to shine off-road. Be it bashing dunes, climbing rocks, fording water bodies or tackling slush, the Bronco twins are game for it. 

With a spec sheet that reads 295 mm ground clearance, 43.2° approach, 29° ramp-over and 37.2° departure angles and 850 mm water-fording capability when equipped with the optional, factory-fitted 35-inch wheels, option of an electronic, shift-on-the-fly transfer case with a 2.71:1 low ratio or an advanced unit with a 3.06:1 low ratio, Dana AdvanTEK independent front differential unit and Dana 44 AdvanTEK solid rear axle, it is clear Ford has given the Broncos hardware worthy of the G.O.A.T tag. Even the Bronco Sport, looking at Ford’s press images and videos, appear to be quite capable off-road albeit to a much-lesser extent. Depending on the variant, Bronco can offer up to seven terrain modes, cheekily called GOAT modes – Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl!

Trail Toolbox, a cheekily-named suite of tech features, are on offer to further elevate the off-road experience. This includes Trail Control (cruise control for low-speed trail driving), Trail Turn Assist (four-wheel torque vectoring to tighten off-road turning radii) and Trail One Pedal Drive (acceleration and braking controlled through a single pedal for more precise and confident rock crawling).  

Complementing those impressive hardware and software bits are the many thoughtful touches inside the cabin. From front wheel-mounted cameras that relay output to the dash-mounted touchscreen to tackle those tricky off-road sections better to the well-positioned grab handles, those seatback-mounted MOLLE hooks, washable rubberized floors with integrated drains, marine-grade vinyl seating surfaces and the exclusive Trail Mapping System with over 1,000 curated trail maps, every single detail has been thought through.

Best part is, even the Bronco Sport can flex its muscles off tarmac and has the utility hacks to take your outdoor gear with you. Just don’t take it to places where you would a Bronco!

Good: Surprise, there’s a manual transmission!

The bigger Broncos have two engines on offer. The base is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost mill that churns out 270 horsepower and 420 Nm of torque. This engine can be paired to either a 7-speed manual transmission (6-speed manual with a crawler gear) or a 10-speed automatic transmission. For those who want more, the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 should do with its 310 horsepower and a whopping 542 Nm of torque. The V6 is exclusively mated to the 10-speed auto gearbox. 

The Bronco Sport carries over the 1.5-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine that now delivers 181 horsepower and 258 Nm of torque. The top-end Badlands trim and the First Edition get an exclusive 2.0-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost good for 245 horsepower and 372 Nm of torque. A 8-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive hardware are standard across the range. 

Good: Bronco has a rich heritage

Many new cars are launched every month but not all of them have a rich heritage. Bronco, though, has one to be proud of. Sure, the Bronco has never been a big-seller – a fact it’s cumulative sales of just over 1.1 million units across three decades and five generations would allude to. But the way in which the Bronco weaved itself into the American car culture in the seventies and eighties set it apart. In fact, it was this trait that landed Bronco a legion of fans and loyalists who swore by it and made vintage Broncos hot properties in used car showrooms and auction lots. Though Ford hasn't explicitly stated, the Bronco Sport, too, can be considered the spiritual successor to the Bronco II that was made between 1984 and 1990.

If they play their cards right, Ford can build on this legacy to make the Bronco a super hit. So far, they are on the right track.

Good: There’s a Bronco for everyone

Taking a cue from Jeep, Ford is betting big on customization options for the Bronco. When the first models start reaching dealerships later this year, there would be over 200 Ford-backed aftermarket accessories including some factory-branded ones that customers can opt for. In addition to that, Ford claims hundreds of customization opportunities right off the line to make every Bronco out there unique and different to the rest. From different door designs to choose from to overhead-mounted, silicon-sealed accessory switches with pre-wired leads, the Bronco is ready off the factory to head to your favourite tuner.

The same extends to Bronco’s pricing too. With pricing that extends from $29,995 for the Base two-door variant and goes all the way up to $64,995 for the four-door “First Edition”, there is a Bronco for everyone, literally! The smaller Bronco Sport has a more acceptable pricing delta – starting at $28,155 for the Base variant and ending at $39,995 for the ‘First Edition’.   

Not so good: Is Bronco late to the Jeep party?

Now, this is a tough one. Being one of the first SUVs ever made, Bronco had a head start no other rival could dream of. Jeep, of course, is an exception but remember, the Wrangler wasn’t called a Wrangler back then. In that sense, Bronco should have been the oldest SUV in production had Ford not stopped the model in 1996. Between then and now, demand for SUVs and high-riding wannabe SUVs (crossovers, in other words) shot through the roof with every car-maker building many of these to keep their cash registers ringing. Some, like Ford, have even taken a bold stance to cull every one of their cars and focus only on SUVs and crossovers. 

All this while, Jeep made merry with the Wrangler firmly establishing itself as the de-facto choice for hardcore off-roading enthusiasts. That’s the same set of folks the Bronco is out to impress now. Ford, without a doubt, is late to this duel.

Overall, Ford has hardly put a foot wrong so far with the Bronco. Yes, they could have launched this a few years ago but it's better late than never.

If the interest shown for the numerous leaks and hundreds of articles on Bronco’s resurrection since the news leaked out in 2015 is anything to go by, the Bronco is well-armed to take the Wrangler head-on. Watch this space, this is going to be epic!

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