The new 2021 Ford Bronco is one of the most hotly anticipated new SUVs in years, and not just because it’s finally a revived beloved nameplate that isn’t a dull, watered-down crossover. The Bronco is an enthusiast’s dream inside and out, with best-in-class departure and breakover angles, gigantic tires available from the factory on every trim level, built-in trail navigation apps and an interior built to open up to the elements and get absolutely coated in mud.
Oh, and trust us: you’re going to want that seven-speed manual transmission. As you reflect on that, here’s a roundup of everything that will make it powerful when it leaves the pavement.
All Broncos come with two available four-wheel-drive systems with low-gear ratios: the base version and an upgraded Advanced 4×4 one.
The Bronco’s standard system has an electronic transfer case that shifts on the fly. Advanced 4×4 upgrades that to an electromechanical transfer case with an auto mode to shift between 2-high and 4-high modes on-demand. That power goes to a solid Dana 44 AdvanTEK rear axle and a Dana AdvanTEK independent differential unit upfront.
Both can be optioned with Spicer Performa-Trak electronic locking differentials that keep both wheels spinning, enabling the truck to keep pulling itself forward as each side loses and regains traction.
The Advanced 4×4 system and seven-speed manual transmission is the combo you want for maximum crawling ability. That gives you the Bronco’s maximum crawl ratio of 94.75:1, which Ford touts as the best in the Bronco’s class. The 10-speed automatic with the Advanced 4×4 system still touts a 67.8:1 crawl ratio, although the fact that you’re letting the truck shift for you already makes wheeling a tad easier, so we’ll consider this leveling the playing field (or payback for prior stalls).
The Bronco’s Terrain Management System with G.O.A.T. Modes offers up to seven selectable drive modes (beyond the default “Normal”) help the Bronco navigate different conditions and kinds of terrain: Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, plus Mud/Ruts, Baja and Rock Crawl for better off-road performance. G.O.A.T. usually stands for “Greatest Of All Time,” which is a bold claim for something we haven’t driven yet. Here, it’s for “Goes Over Any Type [of terrain],” but we know what they meant. We’d like to check these claims as soon as possible. (Ahem.)
Ford included some extra high-tech features to make off-roading even easier, including cruise-control for low-speed crawling called Trail Control, Trail Turn Assist that uses torque vectoring to tighten turn radiuses, and Trail One-Pedal Drive to control acceleration and braking for slow rock crawling situations.
The Bronco makes it easy to hit the trails with over 200 factory-backed accessories available at launch, which enables dealers to customize it at purchase for buyers’ specific uses. Yet even if you don’t add on a lot of extras, the Bronco is more than ready to bash around off the pavement.
Ford touts a list of best-in-class figures for the Bronco, including up to 33.5 inches of water fording ability, a maximum 29-degree breakover angle, and maximum 37.2-degree departure angles It also packs 11.6 inches of ground clearance, compared to the current JL-generation Jeep Wrangler’s 10.8 inches.
Steel shields protect the Bronco’s most critical hardware, with upgrades available on higher-performance trims. Front and rear exposed tow hooks are available stock as well in case you or a buddy need them.
There are plenty of doubters about the lack of a solid axle upfront, but the Bronco’s front independent suspension/rear solid axle combo has some tricks up its sleeve-err, fender flares? Sure. Ford claims that the Bronco’s independent front suspension was chosen for better control and comfort, particularly for high-speed off-road conditions. Ford also credits its independent front suspension for giving the Bronco 17 percent more suspension travel than its competitors in both the front and rear. That’s helped by a set of long-travel, position-sensitive Bilstein dampers designed for off-road use as well as reduced harshness.