Is Ford’s Bronco too wild for Jeep’s Wrangler to tame?
Here’s what the Ford Bronco is all about, including plenty of images and a comparison to its arch-nemesis.
It’s fitting that the two benchmark off-roaders on a showroom floor are called Wrangler and Bronco. Of course, not every Wrangler can tame a wild Bronco, and sometimes a bucking Bronco succumbs to a Wrangler.
Shown in several mini-films this morning, it is abundantly clear that Ford plans to steal as many sales away from the Wrangler as possible, while also finding new buyers too. It’s the first time the nameplate has garnered Ford product since 1996.
There are three models in the Bronco family: two-door and four-door Bronco, and the Bronco Sport. The latter is a softer though still competent SUV version (that we don’t talk about in this article) of the short and long-wheelbase Bronco four-wheel drives (that’s what you see here).
Pre-orders opened already today in the US and the first edition has sold out. Outside of North America, China is the only other market to get the model. Yes, we Aussies miss out.
Speaking with Ford Australia today, a spokesperson told Practical Motoring that a business case has been examined but for the moment, the Blue Oval will rule out Australia from consideration.
That’s a pity given how good it looks and what it delivers. You can just see it now cruising across the Simpson Desert, climbing a Tasmanian wilderness trail or camping on Fraser Island.
There’s no diesel engine though, which makes sense given its US and Chinese exclusivity, but there’s still plenty of poke on offer. The smaller engine is a 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-pot, delivering 201kW and 420Nm. A 2.7-litre V6 develops 231kW and 542Nm. There’s a manual transmission, but it’s a 6+1 seven-speed, with six standard gears and a crawl drive. The auto is a ten-speed.
Four-wheel drive is standard across the range, and with the manual transmission’s 4.7:1 final gear ratio engaged and in low range, the crawl ratio is an incredible 94.75:1. That’s better than the Jeep Wrangler Rucion’s 70.3:1, though the Wrangler uses an automatic and the Bronco, when mated to an auto, delivers 67.8:1.
Available are front and rear differential locks with Dana axles.
Standard fitment in some packages is 35-inch tyres on 17-inch beadlock alloys. This gives the Bronco 295mm ground clearance with 43.2-degrees approach, 37.2-degree departure and 29-degree break-over angles. Wading depth in water is 850mm – so it’s a seriously capable machine.
One point Jeep fans will be asking now is what about the front suspensions? Unlike the Wrangler, the Bronco does not have a live axle setup. The trade-off for Ford’s Bronco is that newer independent front suspension will give better absorption control and steering precision, at the loss of ultimate articulation and simple durability.
Ford says it considered a solid axle but tended toward having better bump, road, and steering control. Available on the Bronco is an electronic disconnecting front stabilizer bar that improves wheel travel. Ford also says the Bilstein positive-sensitive damper in the IFS front actually has 17 per cent more travel than the Wrangler.
Finally, there’s the G.O.A.T mode, which can be thought of as a Billy Goat mode or deciphered God Of All Things settings. It includes a Baja mode like the Raptor along with standard Terrain Management controls such as rock crawl, sand and mud modes.
There are four trim levels available – Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak, and First Edition. Even the Base, which is quite literally the base entry-level, looks good on its steel wheels and includes four-wheel-drive mode with 6 G.O.A.T modes. Going up the range you get all of the tougher spec equipment you should expect, along with an extra G.O.A.T mode (Baja) and nicer interior trims. Off-road gear like diffs locks and accessories are optional on all models, too.
We’d love at this point to include expected timing and announcements for Australia, but we’ve been assured there won’t be any by our trusted sources at Ford.
Luckily, we can buy the Jeep Wrangler (particularly the Rubicon for off-roading) here in Australia and it continues with its own heritage off-roader look. And, it comes as the Gladiator ute – something the Bronco doesn’t have.