2021 Ford Bronco: What it Can Learn From the Jeep Wrangler05/28/2019
As rumors circulate around the new Ford Bronco, it’s obvious that the upcoming model will not be the average suburban superstar crossover. This is not a vehicle meant to compete with cars like the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V. No, the new Bronco will be an affordable retro-inspired off-road SUV, and there’s only one other currently-available product we can think of that ticks all those boxes: the Jeep Wrangler. The newly redesigned Wrangler JL includes thoughtful changes over its predecessor that improve the tough little truck so much so that we named it our 2019 SUV of the Year. If Ford aims to capture some of the Wrangler’s sales, the Bronco team would be foolish not to take some inspiration from the venerable Jeep. Here are five things the Bronco team can learn from the Jeep Wrangler.
Doors off, roof off
The image of a topless, doorless Wrangler is as iconic as the military vehicle on which it’s based, and any Wrangler competitor would be remiss to skip out on features so crucial to the off-road experience. Plus, as we found in our Porsche 911 Cabriolet First Drive, top-down motoring is good for your health. Beyond just including a removable top and doors, make them usable! One of our favorite improvements on the new Wrangler is how easy it is to take apart, with a streamlined folding soft top, simplified flip-down windshield, and doors that clearly mark which tool you’ll need to remove them. If this report is accurate, Ford actually has the Wrangler beat on one count: the Bronco’s removable doors will be stashable in the cargo hold.
Give us options
One of the things that makes the Wrangler so versatile is that it’s offered in both two- and four-door configurations. While the pricier and more family-friendly four-door Wrangler Unlimited outsells its smaller sibling four to one, the two-door has an advantage off-road with its tighter turning radius, shorter wheelbase, and smaller footprint. The two-door is actually so stubby that it made our list of smallest SUVs currently on sale. Offering multiple configurations for the Bronco will be key; providing a more affordable two-door with the advantage off-road while still building the four-door and keeping the Bronco accessible for buyers who need the extra room.
Performance on- and off-road
As we touched upon in a recent off-roader comparison test, it’s as important for a car like this to be a comfortable driver on the way to the trails as it is to perform once you get there. The Wrangler JL’s vastly improved road manners are a big part of why it came out on top in that comparison. Even the entry-level Bronco needs to be extremely capable off-road if it wants to have enough credibility to back up its rugged design and long history, but if it drives like a wooden-wheeled block on pavement, it won’t be able to compete with the Wrangler. The Bronco family should also include a beefed-up knobby-tired model like the Wrangler Rubicon, preferably with the locking differentials, disconnectable anti-roll bar, and low-range gears that make that vehicle so unstoppable when the road gets bumpy.
Get the engines right
The turbocharged mild hybrid four-cylinder option in the new Wrangler is a sweetheart, which could bode well for the more advanced plug-in hybrid variant due in 2020. Ford has confirmed the Bronco will get a hybrid powertrain of its own, but that can’t be the only engine option. All signs point to Ford’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 as a top-spec engine, but the folks at the blue oval should learn from the Wrangler’s mistake and offer the Bronco with a V-8. Jeep customers will pay a company like Bruiser Conversions more than $30,000 (plus the cost of the car) to stuff a V-8 under the hood. Ford offering a robust eight-cylinder from the factory is unlikely, but it would be a huge power move over the Jeep and a V-8 would definitely score points with old-school Bronco fans.
Honor thy parents
Part of what makes the modern Wrangler so iconic is that it retains the boxy shape and seven-slot grille of the Willys Jeep military vehicle it’s descended from. The Wrangler isn’t aimed at practical buyers—they would have bought the aforementioned RAV4 or CR-V—so Ford should throw conventional aerodynamic design out the window and debut the new Bronco as a big, boxy brute, just like the first-generation model. And because the Bronco is aimed at enthusiasts, take some inspiration from the Wrangler’s Willys-inspired hidden Easter eggs and give them/us something to geek out over.
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