Mark Phelan
Detroit Free PressPublished 8:53 PM EDT Jul 13, 2020As I listened to the Ford brain trust outline highlights of the automaker’s new Bronco SUV, I could practically hear strategists for the off-roader rival Jeep Wrangler slapping their heads: “Why didn’t we think of that?”Because they didn’t have to. The Wrangler, direct descendant of nearly 80 years of vehicles with great off-road ability, doesn’t have anything to prove.The 2021 Ford Bronco, due to go on sale next spring, does. It’s heir to a modest tradition of quirky and customizable pickups and SUVs Ford built from 1966 to ’96. Most drivers have never seen one on the road. The Wrangler, with image-building predecessors all the way back to the World War II Willys Jeep, is ubiquitous on American roads, trails and in film, TV and streaming around the world.Wranglers have a loyal, built-in audience. The Bronco needs to create passion for a family of SUVs, inspiring buyers to choose a nameplate they may never have heard of.It needs to be so head-slappingly innovative and good that owners will dedicate themselves to proving they’re smarter and better than Jeep drivers they never gave much thought to before they became Bronco-nistas.That’s why Ford’s best and brightest pulled out all the stops, from a rail to mount GoPros and iPhones to onboard space to store the Bronco’s removable doors.On paper, the results looks good. Here’s some of what the Bronco team did.The Ford Bronco is back: Ford reveals 2021 Bronco SUV, Bronco SportFisker Ocean SUV to arrive in late 2022: Electric vehicle startup makes deal to go publicCorvette Stingray redesigned: GM reveals price, features of 2021 ‘Vette sports carPower, new ideas in running gearStandard Bronco four-wheel drive, though a rear-drive model will probably follow in a few yearsTorque vectoring to reduce turning radius by cutting power to the inside wheel in tight spotsTrail control to apply power, braking, etc. so the driver only needs to steer in challenging terrain11.6 inches of ground clearance33-inch water fordingIndependent front suspension with nearly 10 inches of wheel travelMore than 10 inches of rear wheel travelElectronic disconnecting front stabilizer bar that automatically reconnects at road speedAvailable Bilstein position-sensitive shocksA frame-based chassis that’s the second generation of Ford’s global midsize pickup architectureFully boxed frameA seven-speed manual transmission that will have a “crawl” gear for ratios as high a 95:1 for the  most extreme terrainStandard 10-speed automatic transmissionOptional front and rear locking Dana differentialsAutomatic differential lock and eight driving modesStandard 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder producing 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torqueOptional 2.7L twin-turbo V6 with 310 hp and 400 pound-feet of torqueFeatures for fun on and off roadRemovable doors and hard and soft topsFour-door models have standard soft top, two-doors a hard topLightweight doors that are easy to remove and can be stowed in the vehicleSide mirrors mounted on the body, so they’re still available when the doors are offNo roof crossbeam between the B-pillars so rear passengers have a clear view when the top is removedRemovable bumper caps for narrow trailsRemovable front-passenger grab handles on the dash and center consolePower ports in the dash for easy connection to cameras and other gear on an auxiliary device railRubberized flooring with drains and removable plugsOptional marine-grade vinyl seatsA slide-out tailgate you can sit onBuilt-in bottle openerAn available app with maps of off-road trails360-degree cameras, including spotters for each wheelsOff-roading dimensions vs Jeep WranglerThe base two-door Bronco is 173.7 inches long on a 100.4-inch wheelbase. The two-door Wrangler measures 166.4 inches long on a 96.8-inch wheelbase.Excluding optional roof racks, the tallest Bronco is 73.8 inches, 0.2-inches more than Wrangler.Bronco widths run from 75.9 to 79.3 inches. The Wrangler is 73.8 inches wide.Four-door Broncos are 189.4 to 190.5 inches long on a 116.1-inch wheelbase. The four-door Wrangler’s length, including its rear-mounted spare tire, is 188.4 inches on a 118.4-inch wheelbase.Width and length are key dimensions for off-roaders. The most challenging trails often include obstacles and hairpin turns that prohibit larger vehicles. That’s one of the reasons full-size pickups are seldom used for rugged off-roading, despite their other capabilities.Why buy a Bronco Sport?The smaller Bronco Sport will go on sale late this year, months before the Bronco. Using the same platform as the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair, it has a unibody construction and less off-road capability than the truck-based Bronco. All-wheel drive is standard, though it wouldn’t be shocking to see a front-drive model at some point.The Bronco Sport shares key Bronco design elements, including round headlights and an upright windshield. It’s success is likely to depend heavily on the larger Bronco’s ability to create an aura of off-road capability.Early Ford materials highlight the Sport’s maneuverability in town and ability in deep sand and for “high-speed” off-roading as opposed to the Bronco’ emphasis on rock crawling, fording water and the like. The base engine is a 181-hp 1.5L turbocharged three-cylinder. A 2.0L turbo four-cylinder producing 245-hp will be optional.Key Bronco Sport featuresStandard all-wheel driveStandard eight-speed automatic transmissionStandard roof rackSecond-row under-seat storageBlack roof on Outer Banks modelB&O audioTwin-clutch rear drive module on Badlands model8.8 inches of ground clearance23.6-inch water fording2021 Ford Bronco at a glanceFour-door, five-passenger compact SUVStandard all-wheel drive181-hp three-cylinder of 245-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engineEight-speed automatic transmissionCrawl ratio: 18:1Length: 172.7 inchesWheelbase: 105.1 inchesHeight: 70.2-71.4 inchesWidth, including mirrors: 82.2 inchesMax. towing: 2,200 poundsOn sale: Late 2020Assembled in Wayne, Michigan2021 Ford Bronco Sport at a glanceTwo- or four-door, five-passenger compact SUVStandard all-wheel drive270-hp four-cylinder or 310-hp V6 turbocharged engine10-speed automatic transmission or seven-speed manual with first gear crawl ratioMax crawl ratio: Automatic transmission: 67.8:1; manual: 94.75:1Length: 189.4-190.5 inchesWheelbase: 116.1 inchesHeight, excluding roof racks: 71.9- 75.3 inchesWidth, mirrors folded: 75.9-79.3 inchesMax. towing: 3,500 poundsOn sale: Spring 2021Assembled in Hermosillo, MexicoFollow Detroit Free Press reporter Mark Phelan on Twitter @mark_phelan.


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