Ford is positioning its resurrected Bronco as the most off-road capable 4×4 SUV on the market. So with all this ultra-tough cred and equipment, would it make for a good vehicle for traveling into rough earthmoving jobsites? In the video below, we go deep into the design and equipment details to find out.
If you’re an earthmoving or excavation or a utility contractor, especially one whose time and attention is split between several different jobsites, you need a vehicle with off-road capability. After all, your job is to tame the environment.
Obviously that means if you’re in the middle of doing the taming, you need a vehicle that can get you to the heart of what needs to be tamed.
For the vast majority of folks who ply these trades that vehicle is a pickup truck. And for good reason. The pickup is the Swiss army knife of construction vehicles. It hauls, it tows, it crawls through tough terrain. And in the last decade or so, it’s become the ultimate vehicle for switching between work and home life. They offer massive amounts of room on the inside, they haul groceries and camping gear and kids just as effectively as they haul tools, materials and a crew.
Plus, as we detailed in our recent video on the 2021 Ford F-150, now you can even spec out that pickup with an on-board generator powerful enough to run a crew’s worth of tools.
But for some contractors and a lot of tradespeople, there might be a new option on the table. Ford recently unveiled the 2021 Ford Bronco, the long-awaited resurrection of an iconic vehicle. Now, we’re going to go deep into the details of this new truck but before we do, since the point of this video is to take a close look at the Bronco and decide whether it can be used not just for fun but also work, let’s address the obvious.
There’s no bed on this thing and for a lot of folks that’s an automatic dealbreaker.
It doesn’t have much in the way of cargo volume either. With the rear seats down, the Bronco has just 4 cubic feet more cargo volume at 77.6 cubic feet, than the much smaller Ford Edge. Keep in mind though that thing does after all share a basic platform with the Ford Ranger—while giving you a bit more legroom than Ford’s midsize pickup.
That being said there’s a lot of folks out there who would like to only need one vehicle that can easily switch between work and play, between heading to the jobsite and heading to the lake with the kids. For those folks, the Bronco makes a pretty compelling case with standard four-wheel drive, standard stick shift, roomy rear seating on the new four-door model, a potentially lower price than Ford’s F-Series pickups—especially those spec’ed out with four-wheel-drive—and vastly more customization options.
The most striking thing about the Bronco and really the thing most people have been excited about ever since Ford starting teasing this truck more than two years ago, is the design. I’m not exactly going out on a limb here in saying that Ford absolutely nailed the look of the new Bronco. It’s a great looking truck. Distinctive, modern, tough, but clearly and firmly rooted in the early Bronco heritage.
Which was kind of the point. Ford says that it started the design process for the 2021 Bronco by generating a life-size digital scan of the very first generation Bronco.
Now depending on your age, a different image might pop into your head whenever you think of the Bronco. For me, that image is of the mid-90s Bronco. I love that truck. I never had one, but always wanted one. For a lot of folks though, the image that has endured is that of the first-generation Bronco, and for good reason. That design came about in the mid 1960s and it really does boil down the essence of what the truck was intended to be—a bare bones rival to the iconic Jeep CJ-5.
As the Bronco got older and more generations of the vehicle heaped on, it really just became a chopped up F-150. But because Ford started the reboot of this new Bronco with that scan of the first-gen Bronco, that original Bronco had the largest influence not just on the design of the new truck but the proportions as well.
The result is really a design that returns to the roots of this vehicle not only visually but functionally as well.
Paul Wraith, the Bronco’s chief designer says that the design team keyed in on the original’s square proportions, short overhangs and wide stance—design aspects that not only give the new Bronco a distinctive look but are also key to the functionality of a truly off-road capable SUV.
Wraith has also pointed out the new Bronco’s flat side profile. That profile and the truck’s flared fenders and open wheel wells also add to the truck’s functionality while giving it a look that we haven’t seen on anything other than a Jeep in decades.
Ford engineers could have gone about the look of the Bronco the easy way. They could have modified the F-150 or the F-150 Raptor to make one of those pickups into a smaller 4×4. But they didn’t. They didn’t just go back to the drawing board, they went back to the original drawing board in the hopes of returning this vehicle to its original intent. And that is a big driver in the positive reactions the new Bronco is drawing.
The other big deal with this new generation of Bronco is that while the two-door is making a triumphant return, you can also get it in a four-door configuration for the first time.
Both the two- and four-door models have removable roofs and doors. The two-door models come with a standard three-section roof system with left and right front sections and one rear section. On the two-door models you can opt for a four-section roof that adds an extra removable panel over the rear seats and cargo area.
On the four-door models, a cloth soft top is standard and has a tilt-up function for quick access to the cargo area. If you want a hardtop on the four-door, Ford offers one with four removable sections: left and right front sections, a center panel and a rear panel.
As for the removable doors, Ford says those found on the Bronco are the easiest to remove on the market. Another key design bonus is that no matter if you have the two-door model or the four-door, you’ll be able to remove your doors and store them on-board. Such a nice bonus there.
Cowl-mounted mirrors—the cowl by the way runs from side to side of the truck just under the windshield there—retain side visibility even with the doors off. And Ford says the trail sights on the front fenders serve as tie-downs with a 150-pound capacity.
So the Bronco looks great. But as the pickup market has made very clear over the last decade or so, big tires and a blacked out grille can often be window dressing for a truck with no four wheel drive or any actual off-road equipment.
That is definitely not the case with the Bronco.
One of the things that Ford mentioned right off the bat is that they’ve taken everything they’ve learned in building F-Series pickups and put them into the new Bronco. So you don’t have to worry about this thing being less tough or less durable than an F-150 or Super Duty. That F-Series DNA is baked into Bronco almost as a thought extension of the Raptor.
To that end, Ford has made four-wheel-drive a standard feature across the Bronco lineup—even at the Bronco’s base sticker price of $29,995.
Of course, because customization is one of the big driving factors behind the new Bronco’s design, there will be two 4×4 systems to choose from:
The base 4×4 system includes a two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case, meanwhile the Advanced 4×4 system features a two-speed electromechanical transfer case that adds an auto mode for on-demand engagement to select between 2Hi and 4Hi.
Like the F-Series trucks and the Ranger with which the Bronco shares a platform, the Bronco is built atop a fully-boxed high-strength steel chassis with what Ford says is best-in-class suspension travel—a 17-percent increase in both the front and rear over the Bronco’s closest off-road SUV competitor.
One interesting thing missing from Ford’s announcement is what the body of the Bronco is made of. All the F-Series pickups have aluminum bodies now. But since it shares the Ranger’s platform, and there’s no mention of aluminum in Ford’s announcement, it’s likely the Bronco similarly has a steel body just like the Ranger does.
A Dana independent front suspension and a Dana solid rear axle design with five-link coil springs are standard equipment as well.
In terms of the Bronco’s stance or the specs that let you know how ready for off-road action the truck really is, Ford says the truck will have best-in-class 11.6 inches of ground clearance. It will also have up to 43.2 degrees of approach angle, 37.2 degrees of departure angle, up to 29 degrees of breakover angle and another best-in-class in 33.5 inches of water fording capability.
Several of those numbers, the ground clearance, approach, breakover and departure angles, depend on you equipping the truck with the optional 35-inch Goodyear Territory tires which Ford says are a segment first.
The Bronco design incorporates steel shields for protecting critical hardware and if you spec out a model with higher off-road capability you can opt for a front bash plate plus shields for the engine, transmission, transfer case and fuel tank. And if you plan to crawl extreme rocky terrain with your Bronco you can opt for side rock rails that Ford says are strong enough to support the weight of each side of this truck.
Further increasing off-road access and recovery capability on the Bronco are exposed tow hooks on both the front and rear of these trucks. You can even opt for modular steel bumpers with an integrated Ford Performance winch mount.
In terms of other optional equipment, Ford is offering Spicer PerformaTraK electronic locking differentials, and long-travel, position-sensitive Bilstein dampers with end-stop control valves at every corner.
Earlier we mentioned those 35-inch tires and in a show of how serious about off-road durability Ford is about the Bronco, they’re also offering beadlock-capable wheels which Ford says are another segment first.
Given the influence the F-Series and Raptor trucks had on the Bronco, I was hopeful we’d see a robust set of engine options on this truck, but unfortunately that’s not the case. You’re limited to two EcoBoost options here and while these are both solid engines, they’re also both under 3 liters.
The standard engine is Ford’s inline 4 cylinder 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost. If you need more power than that engine’s 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, you can opt for the 2.7L twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 which will give you 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque.
Again, very capable engines, and not horrible numbers in terms of output—actually far from it, Ford is rightfully pointing out that these are class-leading engine numbers for both 6- and 4-cylinder engines in this segment—but it still would have been nice to see the 3L PowerStroke diesel make an appearance for a torque boost—after all Jeep recently announced it was brining its 3L diesel to the Jeep Gladiator—and it would have been especially nice to see the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 as an available option given how incredible the combination of that engine with Ford’s 10-speed transmission are in the F-150 Raptor.
Speaking of transmission this is definitely a bright spot. The standard transmission is a 7-speed manual. That’s right a stick shift on a new truck. The stick gives you 6 speeds plus one crawler gear and Ford says when its paired with the advanced 4×4 system the combo generates a class-leading available crawler-gear ratio of 94.75:1.
Unfortunately the stick is only available if you opt for the base 2.3L engine for some reason. Ford’s fantastic 10-speed automatic is your other optional choice and it’s available with either the 2.3L or 2.7L engine. The 10-speed offers a maximum 67.8:1 crawl ratio when combined with the advanced 4×4 case.
We don’t have any fuel economy figures yet, but we do have towing and payload figures. Max towing is 3,500 pounds and max payload is 1,170 pounds for the two-door model and 1,370 pounds for the four-door. Those are small fries compared to most half-ton pickups, another potential dealbreaker for anyone looking to use this thing for work.
Ford didn’t just equip the Bronco with off-road capable hardware and design, they also thoughtfully considered how technology could make this a better off-road vehicle with new four-wheel drive systems and what they’re calling the Terrain Management System with seven GOAT or Go Over Any/All Terrain Modes.
These modes are optimize the truck for traversing specific terrain types and include Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.
Ford has also included a suite of driver assist technologies specific to off-roading. This Trail Toolbox includes Trail Control—essentially cruise control for low-speed trail driving—Trail Turn Assist which provides tighter off-road turning radiuses, and Trail One-Pedal Drive which allows you to accelerate and brake through just the accelerator pedal.
Let’s talk about all of the available trim levels on Bronco. Technically, there’s right around a couple dozen different combinations or levels you can configure the truck into, which is a lot. But like I said, a big feature of these new Broncos is the high-degree of customization Ford is offering not just to enthusiasts but to the general public who just think that this is a cool-looking truck and really like the idea of dialing it in exactly how they want it.
The way it breaks down is there are seven “Equipment Series” as Ford is calling them. And these can be outfitted in a standard, Sasquatch, Mid, High or Lux Package depending on the series. We won’t get into the specifics of each trim and package here because honestly that would take a whole video by itself, but essentially, Ford is trying to target different types of customers with each trim level or “series”.
For instance, Ford says the Base model is aimed at those who want a “no-frills” 4×4. Big Bend is for those who want a higher level of comfort plus some technology features. Black Diamond ups the off-road equipment and adds a washable interior. The Wildtrak will be the go-to option for anyone who wants the top-of-the-line off-road experience. It goes on from there.
The most interesting package available is the Sasquatch package. Beyond a great name, this adds the 35-inch tires, deadlock-capable wheels, front and rear locking diffs, the Bilstein shocks, fender flares and a 4.7:1 final drive ratio. And it’s available even on the Base equipment series.
In addition to all the trims and packages Ford is also offering more than 200 accessories through its dealerships and 11 color choices.
In terms of price, it’s looking like the Bronco will stack up very competitively with the Jeep Wrangler. The Base model runs just under $30,000, but the Bronco appears to top out at around $60,000 if you’re going with the First Edition equipment series which checks all the boxes in terms of optional equipment.
Inside the Bronco, there’s the screen-based instrument cluster and infotainment center that you’ve come to expect from a Ford vehicle. Like the 2021 F-150, the Bronco will get Ford’s upcoming Sync 4 system with over-the-air vehicle updates and the optional 12-inch touchscreen. An 8-inch touchscreen comes standard.
Behind the steering wheel you’ll find an LCD instrument panel. Ford says this cluster was inspired by the cluster found on the first-ten Bronco with an emphasis on gauges and controls being clearly visible.
On that large touchscreen in the center of your dash, you can call up more than 1,000 trail maps that Ford is including. Ford says the maps work with or without and internet connection to the vehicle and are available on both the 8- and 12-inch displays. The maps allow you to not only keep track of where you are, but also document where you’ve been and share your treks online.
Washable rubberized floors with integrated drains and marine-grade vinyl seats are an available option. Plus, despite their high-tech pedigree, all the instrument panel surfaces are wipeable and all the dash-mounted switches are made with seamless silicone rubber to protect against dirt and water.
The roll cage on the Bronco is a high-strength steel and features integrated side curtain airbags.
So, that’s the new 2021 Ford Bronco. It’s the first vehicle reveal I can remember in recent memory that has nearly everyone excited or pleased with its execution.
Now, will it make a good work vehicle? I think for some, heck even a lot of folks I think it actually would make a good work vehicle. Is it a perfect vehicle for construction? No. The off-road cred is undeniable. But while the Bronco can get you and a few of your crew into any jobsite, no matter how remote or misshapen, the lack of real cargo space and the paltry towing and payload numbers would likely drive anybody in construction considering this truck to stick with their pickup—at least during the work week.
That being said, I know of a lot of contractors that prefer an SUV like a Chevy Tahoe, or Ford’s Excursion or Explorer as their primary work vehicle. For those who need an off-road capable truck but aren’t towing or hauling a bunch of materials around, this is an exciting new alternative to the Explorer or Excursion.
But what do you all think? How well did Ford do in the resurrection of the Bronco badge? Separately, is this a viable work truck or does it make no more sense than bringing a Wrangler to work? Let us know what you think in the comments below.