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A yellow 2021 Ford Bronco 2door is parked in sand next to a blue 1970s Bronco.

Is the 2021 Ford Bronco Anything Like Its Past?

After much speculation, the 2021 Ford Bronco is finally here. It’s always tricky when giving a vehicle a name with so much nostalgia attached to it, especially one as beloved and capable as the Ford Bronco. We’ve all seen this formula fail miserably before. You can’t just throw a name at an all-new vehicle and expect it to have the same cachet as its predecessor. The Chevy Trailblazer comes to mind, but there are many others that have not lived up to their nameplates, and it’s not that they are bad vehicles, it’s just that they’re different, and lending them the iconic nameplate doesn’t seem right. It usually feels like a wasted opportunity. So today, we are going to examine whether or not the 2021 Bronco lives up to its name. Let’s get into it!

Off-Road Ready?

The 2021 Ford Bronco might be the first in some time to actually live up to its expectations. It returns as a two-door model and also as a first-ever four-door model. And it returns with its own aura and renewed energy. It’s different, but it retains the good stuff from its past—the power and off-road mentality are what you would expect from previous generations, and the styling, while reminiscent of another time, is entirely its own.

Here is a vehicle that is finally capable of challenging the Jeep Wrangler for off-road supremacy. Off-road enthusiasts have been waiting for a vehicle like this for a long time now. It’s a wide-open niche market that has been dominated by Jeep. The only other competitor is the Toyota 4Runner, but the 4Runner cannot hold a candle to the Wrangler Rubicon. It’s just not a fair comparison. Of course, there’s the Land Rover Defender, but those seem to attract the Hollywood, or Marin County crowd more than the Rubicon Trail crowd.

But now we finally have a true rival, which is always good for the consumer, so let’s take a look at what the Ford Bronco brings to the table and see if this is actually as good as seems at first glance. To start, the 2021 Ford Bronco is a body-on-frame SUV. This is good news for off-road fans because Ford could have made it a crossover SUV to appeal to a wider commercial audience. The Bronco also features best-in-class ground clearance, suspension travel, and crawl ratio. It has a crawl ratio of 94.7:1. That’s great—in fact, it’s better than the Wrangler Rubicon. That’s a huge amount of force being applied to the ground, motivating the tires forward.

The 2021 Ford Bronco also comes with two capable four-wheel-drive systems. You will find technology such as a terrain management system, trail control, trail turn assist, and trail one-pedal drive, which all make off-roading easier and more accessible. Trail control has a low-speed off-road cruise control, while trail turn assist can help to reduce the turning radius when on a tight trail. Trail one-pedal drive helps to control acceleration and braking. And the terrain management system includes G.O.A.T (Goes Over Any Terrain) modes so that you can select which type of terrain you happen to find yourself on. There’s even a 360-degree camera that offers a spotter mode so that you can see what’s around the tires. If that’s not enough, there are over a thousand trail maps available in the navigation system, which can be accessed off-line.

What’s Under the Hood?

The 2021 Ford Bronco features two engine choices, and both are solid choices. A diesel option would have been nice, but for now, these are two good engines with lots of torque. The first engine is a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-4 with about 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. This is the standard engine, and as standard engines go, it brings a lot of value to the Bronco. This engine has more torque and horsepower than its main competitor’s standard engine, the Jeep Wrangler. But without a diesel option, the Wrangler has it beat in the torque war.

The next engine is a 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 with 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. You can find this engine in the F-150, too, so you know it’s powerful and efficient, as the F-150 returns 21 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway with this engine. The standard transmission is a 7-speed manual and is only available with the smaller, standard engine, but this engine receives a 10-speed automatic transmission. Consider that 1966 Ford Bronco featured an engine with only 105 hp and a 3-speed manual transmission, and either powertrain is an excellent set-up. The 2021 Ford Bronco is also capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds, so not only does it offer off-road capability, but it provides SUV-like capability as well.

What’s Standard?

The 2021 Ford Bronco brings a lot of standard features to the market. The base model 2-door Bronco comes standard with a modular hardtop where you can remove some or all of the pieces. This means it comes standard as a convertible, for open-air driving, as you cruise through the backcountry or drive through town. If you want a true convertible, you will want a soft-top or modular hardtop on the 4-door model. The hardtop is easily removable, and the soft top is also removable.

The aluminum doors feature quick releases to make it easier. With the 4-door, you can even store the doors on board. Four-wheel drive is also standard on all Bronco models. This four-wheel drive system features a shift-on-the-fly system, so you can drop in without having to stop. The base Bronco also features 16-inch steel wheels with 30-inch all-season tires. This provides 8.3 inches of ground clearance and can go up to 11.6 inches with 35-inch tires.

A yellow 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is parked on a pile of rocks.

Trim Levels Explained

With many trim levels, there are plenty of options to customize your Bronco, and with 200 accessories that can be installed by a dealer, there are endless ways to customize. Moving up in trim levels brings 17-inch wheels on the Big Bend model and 32-inch tires. Ford’s safety suite—Co-Pilot360—is also available on this model. The Black Diamond trim adds a more substantial front bumper, as well as a steel rear bumper, skid plates, and a rubberized floor. The Outer Banks trim, however, is where you will find most of the tech and convenience features. With a 12-inch navigation screen and updated audio system, you can expect to be impressed with this trim level.

The Wildtrak trim brings a more high-desert approach to the Bronco. With 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels, for advanced off-roading, this is going to be a fun trim to check out when it’s released. The ultimate off-road trim, however, one which will bring competition for the Wrangler Rubicon, is the Badlands model. With 35-inch tires, a front stabilizer bar disconnect, and locking differentials, this is one serious off-road vehicle. You can also add the Sasquatch package to any trim level, which will bring you instant off-road chops with 17-inch beadlock wheels, the topline 4-wheel-drive system, high-clearance suspension, electronic front and rear axles, and high-performance off-road stability suspension with Bilstein position-sensitive shocks. With all of these options, this beast can be made perfect for each and every individual.

A Rivalry Developing

Overall, it sounds like Ford did not mess this one up. Ford could have taken the crossover-SUV route, but they chose to take the road less traveled. Luckily for all of us, the 2021 iteration looks like it will live up to its name and carry on the Bronco’s off-road legacy. And with a starting price of $28,500, it’s definitely set to go head-to-head with the Jeep Wrangler. It should be a fun rivalry to watch develop.

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