A much-loved nameplate may get the new Bronco through the door, but Ford’s new truck is counting on thoughtful details to win over buyers in its competitive segment. Announced this week after years of speculation, the 2021 Bronco promises to combine a tough, no-nonsense platform with sort of attention to detail that gives a modern SUV an edge.
Goodbye roof, goodbye doors
Both the two-door and four-door Bronco give a serious nod to the original truck – and Jeep’s cash-cow Wrangler – with their removable roof and doors. How Ford has done that, though, bears some examination, since it addresses some of the lingering frustrations in rival systems.
The two-door Bronco comes with a three-section roof system as standard: there are separate left and right front panels, and then a third rear section. A four-section premium version has a removable panel over the rear seats and the cargo area. Keeping things simple should the urge to go topless overcome you on the move, the first-row panels are designed to stow away in the truck, too.
As for the four-door, that gets a cloth soft top as standard, with a tilt-up feature for quicker access to the rear cargo area. A four-section hard roof is available. With it, you get left and right front panels, plus a full-width center panel, and finally a rear section.
Then there’s the doors. Both body-styles have frameless doors that can be removed, with the four-door Bronco able to accommodate all of them onboard, complete with protective bags.
What helps single the 2021 Bronco out is how clever Ford has been about all those panels and doors. The rear quarter windows, for example, are removable with the modular hardtops, but you don’t need to remove the roof panels first. All of the panels are designed to be removed by just one person, too. There’ll be a windowed door option, which not only looks slick but helps with visibility down low around the truck.
Maybe most important, unlike over on Jeep’s Wrangler, Ford has opted to mount the side mirrors on the cowls of the Bronco. That means, even if you take off the front doors, you still get mirrors.
Inside, a modular playground
Good SUV cabin design usually comes down to how comfortable the seats are and how many places there are to stash bags, bottles, and phones. The Bronco, though, takes its off-road reputation seriously, and figures that there are going to be drivers who want more with them – and safely to hand – when they’re pushing their truck through rougher terrain.
Maybe the most interesting feature there, then, is the bring-your-own-device rack. Not a very imaginative name, true, but the dashboard-spanning rail is clever nonetheless. It allows you to mount things like a GoPro camera, a standalone navigation device, smartphone, satellite phone, or other gadgets, complete with 12V power connections to keep them running.
Ford’s options list is lengthy, too, and doesn’t stop there. You can add in extra grab handles, for example, mounted into the instrumentation panel and center console. MOLLE hooks can be fitted to the seat backs, so you can attach anything from water bottles through to compasses and Bluetooth speakers where they’ll be easy to grab.
Electrical modularity has been considered, too. You can have an extra panel of silicone-sealed switches mounted in the overhead panel, for example, which come with pre-wired leads to key accessory points. That way, if you plan to add extra lights or other custom kit to the Bronco, there’s no need to drill into the dashboard for an ugly new switch.
Clever tech where it helps
As you’d expect, a lot of the tech in the new Bronco is familiar from other modern cars. 360-degree cameras and integrated navigation aren’t exactly unusual at this point, but how Ford has tweaked them for the truck’s intended audience is cunning.
The 360-degree camera, for example, doesn’t just help you pull in and out of parking spots at Walmart. It also has off-road spotter views, which focus the video on different potential hazards – like rocky outcrops or the drop on the side of a trail – so even lone drivers get the benefit of a second pair of eyes.
Then there’s the off-road navigation. You can outfit the Bronco with up to a 12-inch SYNC 4 infotainment system, one of the biggest touchscreens we’ve seen Ford offer. That supports regular navigation, of course, but also has topographical trail maps and over 1,000 curated trail guides provided by experts such as NeoTreks’ AccuTerra Maps, Trails Offroad, and FunTreks. As you’d hope, they work whether the Bronco’s embedded 4G LTE connection is connected or offline, so being in the wilderness without a data signal won’t hold you back.
Get me dirty, hose me down
You might be getting the message that Ford really, really hopes that 2021 Bronco owners actually do take their shiny new trucks out into the mud and sand and play with them properly. To make that easier – or, more accurately, to reduce the headache of cleaning up after an off-road jaunt – there are some less-usual materials in among the expected cloth and leather for the cabin.
Sure, you get cloth seats in the base Bronco, and leather in the top-spec versions. However you can also have marine-grade vinyl on select trims, which can be wiped or washed down, and are resistant to mildew.
Those models can also have washable rubberized floors, which you can run a hose over. Built-in drain holes should make short work of what water is left. Similarly, the dashboard controls are designed to be wipeable, and use silicone sealing on the switches, and tough rubber for the areas likely to get bruised the most.
Seven trims, but plenty of customization potential
Ford doesn’t expect to begin production of the new Bronco until the start of 2021. The truck won’t start arriving in dealerships until later in the year. One of the benefits of unveiling it so soon in advance of that, though, is it gives the mod community time to start their own engines.
There’ll be no shortage of official Bronco parts, that’s for sure. Ford says to expect over 200 dealer-installable accessories, for example, on top of the four content packages and 11 colors the truck will be offered with. If you want a luxe Bronco with an inky paint-job and matching dark wheels, you can have it; if you want a rugged off-roader with steelies, tow hooks, and LED light bars, that’s possible too.
Third-party vendors are only going to increase that flexibility, and we can likely expect plenty to weigh in with their own vision of Ford’s new truck over the coming months. Right now, reservations are being taken – with a $100 refundable deposit – ahead of the order books being thrown open properly later in 2020. If there’s a downside it’s that we’re yet to find out exactly how much all these extras and add-ons will actually cost: while the new Bronco may start at $29,995 (plus $1,495 destination), it’s not hard to imagine things getting significantly more expensive as you start loading up on extras.