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New 2021 Ford Bronco Off-Road Capability vs Jeep Wrangler

5 things the 2021 Ford Bronco needs to be a Jeep Wrangler killer

The new 2021 Ford Bronco is one of the most highly anticipated 4x4s to be unveiled by any manufacturer in recent memory. Speculations abound about what the finished product will be. Will the 2021 Ford Bronco will live up to the intense hype or will the curtain drop at its unveil with a pathetic descending pitch, "wah-waaaah." Only time will tell if like the Jeep Wrangler, Ford's newly designed Bronco holds true to the vehicle's heritage as a purposeful utility vehicle with real off-road capability or if like Chevy Malibu, Jeep Cherokee, Chevy Blazer, and so many others, the 2021 For Bronco proves to be nothing more than a watered-down shadow of a much-beloved original. Jeep has been very careful with Wrangler in this regard, and the JL Wrangler is the perfect example of a vehicle manufacturer hanging on to a model's intrinsic attributes with an iron fist despite added deficiencies and difficulties with aero, mileage, manufacturing, and assembly. But Jeep knew that to omit things like a fold-down windshield, solid front and rear axles, and removable doors would be the death knell of Wrangler's credibility the same as if Harley Davidson and Indian were to scrap their motorcycles' belching, vibrating V-Twin engines for a Honda Goldwing flat-six derivative. And for those cult-like Wrangler followers, a bit of added wind noise or a slightly leaky windshield gasket or a little bouncier ride become part of the charm of owning a Wrangler much the same way a Harley rider relishes the staccato "blat, blat, blat" of its rollicking V-twin engine and upright, uptight handling. So, with all that in mind and knowing just how much the Bronco badge means to the enthusiast off-road population, here's what we would do if we were Ford executives to ensure the 2021 Ford Bronco lives up to the hype and earns its place not simply as a resurrection of a badge, but as a continuation of a legend.

Bronco History

The first-generation of 1966-1977 Ford Broncos had solid front and rear axles suspended from the frame with a somewhat revolutionary for the time coil-sprung front suspension located by a simple C-bushing radius arm design. The top and doors were fully removable and the windshield could be folded down for low-clearance situations. The 1978-1979 Ford Bronco saw the body balloon to F-150 dimensions to counter the success of Chevy's fullsize Blazer, but the solid front and rear axle configuration remained. The inline-six of the early Bronco was dropped in favor of a 351M or 400M V-8 engine but a manual transmission option remained and although the cab sported a non-removable section above the front passengers, the roof above the rear passenger and cargo area was removable. Finally, in 1980 the front suspension was revamped to Ford's go-fasty TTB (twin traction beam) setup with front coils, but the rear axle remained suspended from leaf springs and the rear roof section remained removable. And like the early Broncos of 1966-1977, the option of an inline-six engine was back on the ticker. In any of these versions, the Bronco remained relatively easy to modify for off-road use and proved a durable, utilitarian workhorse for on-and off-road use so that's the bar that has been set for the new 2021 Ford Bronco to reach.

Removable Top and Water Resistant Interior

Going by the online renderings plastered across the internet, we're not alone in thinking the 2021 Ford Bronco should have a removable roof option. We'd make it a three-piece roof like that of the Wrangler, so either section above the front seat passenger's heads could be removed independently or just the rear section over the rear passenger and cargo areas, or all three together. Toss in a full factory soft-top option as well and hey, let's make the doors mount to exterior-mounted hinges that are easy to remove by one person and that go back on with no need for alignment or adjustment while we're at it. And since a removable hard roof means the chances you're going to get caught in inclement weather are better than average, give the 2021 Ford Bronco drain plugs in the floorboards, water-resistant switches and instruments, and an honest, low-frills rubber mat or factory spray-on liner option in lieu of carpet. And for the seats, how about a low-cost, off-road friendly vinyl covering with water-resistant foam that won't sop up moisture like a sponge or propagate mold growth? Yeah, we thought you'd like that.

Off Road Axles and Differentials

The countless spy photos showing IFS front underpinnings lead us to believe differently, but if we were manning the 2021 Ford Bronco engineering slide rules, we'd spec out a pair of solid axles much like the Advantek Dana 44s found under the JL Rubicon Wranglers. For the off-road package, what could be better than electric front and rear selectable lockers cut for 32-splilne axleshafts and gearing options of 3.73, 4.10, or 4.88 from the factory? Not much, that's what.

Engine and Drivetrain

Ford's 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 would be a natural fit under the hood of the 2021 Ford Bronco and could easily deliver a reliable 400 horsepower or more with decent economy. And a 2.3L twin-turbo EcoBoost would give the commuters a warm and fuzzy feeling while tooting to work in their 2021 Ford Broncos. But we're off-road oriented here and we're dreaming of what would help the 2021 Ford Bronco stand out from the crowd in a sea of tarted up Wrangler Rubicons, so in addition to a 3.0L Power Stroke diesel we'd wager there'd be a few takers who would tick the option box for a high-end Shelby Bronco with Ford's insane 760hp Shelby GT500 5.2L V-8. It'd definitely be a case of, "just because you can, it definitely means you should." Backing any of these engines would be Ford's great 10-speed auto transmission, but for the 2.3L and 3.5L EcoBoost we'd allow a six-speed manual just because sometimes you wanna row your own gears off-road. And speaking of off-road, we'd take advantage of the four-door 2021 Ford Bronco's extra wheelbase by offering the special off-road packages a dual transfer case system that stacks a 2.64:1 Low range box in front of a modified 4:1 T-case for your choice of 1:1, 2.64:1, 4:1, or 10.56:1 T-case low-range ratios. That'll show those Rubicon owners with their fancy 4:1 boxes!

Suspension

The huge allure of the JL Wrangler by way of the enthusiast aftermarket is how easy it is to lift and/or modify the suspension for larger tires and serious off-road use. Or simply to tailor the suspension to better suite your needs and desires. No matter what, that's something you're just not going to easily be able to pull off with any IFS or IRS suspension design. For our dream 2021 Ford Bronco, we'd stick with a conventional four-link front suspension with mid-length arms and a track bar in conjunction with simple, yet effective coilovers. That way affordable leveling or lift pucks could be utilized without the need for new coilovers and dramatically altering the geometry, yet taller aftermarket parts could be used for more serious off-roading. Out back evap, fuel tank, and exhaust would prevent a triangulated four-link, so instead we'd go with a wishbone on the upper and mid-length lower control arms with a high-clearance option for the off-road package to prevent binding and allow insane flex from the rear. Again, simple coilovers with their upper mounts close to the bottom of the inner wheelwells would maximize travel. We'd shoot for equal bump and compression so aftermarket shocks could focus more on droop for go-fast travel or rockcrawling stability without the need to lift a 2021 Ford Bronco insanely high for 35-inch tires.

Off Road Bumpers, Rockers, and Armor

The 2021 Ford Bronco will no doubt emulate some of the boxy, flat body panels of early '66-'77 Broncos. To help protect against body damage and to aid aftermarket accessorizing and personalization, we'd design the front and rear bumpers so they were independent of the body panels, allowing them to be removed and replaced with aftermarket versions of the owner's preference. No integrated fascias here. The factory 2021 Ford Bronco off-road package would come equipped with a winch-capable, high-clearance steel front bumper and a steel rear bumper with integrated tow hooks and D-ring mounts. Likewise, our 2021 Ford Bronco off-road package would enjoy full-length steel rocker protection with tubular steps that not only allow access to the roof, but that would help push the body panels away from rock and trail obstacles. To protect the aluminum body, the 2021 Ford Bronco would be equipped with thick 6061 aluminum rear quarter panel overlays that perfectly matched the shape of the rear body tub and surrounded and protected the rear taillights from off-road obstacles.

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