10 things true off-roaders will love about the 2021 Ford Bronco

Chris Teague

Chris Teague

The Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport are designed for true off-roading.

Editor’s Note: Sue Mead is a photojournalist and features writer for numerous automative publications and, beyond that, she’s co-driven two of the world’s toughest off-road races, the Baja 1000 and the Paris-Dakar Raid (Dakar Rally). She also has attended four Camel Trophy adventures for Land Rover North America; gone way off the beaten path in countries far and wide including Mali, Mongolia, Belize, and Bolivia; and authored three books about 4x4s. When it comes to off-roading, there are few that know it better.

Off-roading is having a big moment right now. It’s big bucks for automakers who sell vehicles that have 4WD prowess and overlanding potential. It’s big fun for vehicle owners that were born with an adventure gene that want to use their vehicle to climb mountains, ford streams, and explore the hinterlands.

2021
The Ford Bronco has debuted with two sizes, a two-door and a four-door.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The 2021 Ford Bronco comes in three models built for off-roading. As a seasoned off-road professional, there’s a number of equipment and technology features that stand out to me as being particularly good for those of us who like getting off the beaten path.

It comes with a manual

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Not all Broncos have manuals, but the ones designed for the most hard-core off-roaders do.

A seven-speed (6+1 crawler gear) Getrag manual transmission on the 2.3-liter engine in the Bronco is made for enthusiasts and racers that want to do their own shifting. A 10-speed automatic is available for the 2.3- and 2.7-liter power plants.

The Bronco Sport is not available with a manual. It comes standard with a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmissions. When buyers upgrade to the 2.0-liter EcoBoost power plant they get an eight-speed SelectShift automatic with an oil cooler, manual shifting mode, and paddle shifters.

Removable doors, roof, and body panels

2021 Ford Bronco 2-door perched sunset

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Two-door Bronco models can seat four while four-door versions can accommodate five. Four-door Broncos have removable doors, roof sections, and body panels; the doors can be stowed in the rear in storage bags, if you so choose. Digging into the product info Ford sent over, it looks like additional partial door options are on their way.

The Bronco Sport’s doors don’t come off.

Numbers a 4×4 enthusiast will love

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The two- and-four door Broncos come standard with 4×4 with part-time selectable engagement, two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly, and a 2.72:2 low ratio. Buyers can upgrade to advanced 4×4 with automatic on-demand 4H engagement, a two-speed electromechanical transfer case, and a 3.06:1 low ratio.

Laudable ground clearance, ingenious design choices

2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Wading Fording Water

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The new Broncos family of SUVs don’t just look off-road capable, they truly are. They deliver laudable ground clearance that ranges from 8.4 inches to 11.6 inches and select models can ride on up to 35-inch off-road tires before any aftermarket modifications.

Borrowing the styling and “form follows function” legacy of the heritage Bronco, the two- and four-door Bronco versions have impressive angles of approach (35.5/43.2 degrees); breakover (21.1/29.0 degrees) and departure (29.8/37.2 degrees); along with a maximum water fording depth of 33.5 inches.

Beveled fender tops that can be used as sight lines for driving are an ingenious addition to the model.

Numbers rock crawlers will love

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The two- and four-door Broncos are the most capable. Four different crawl ratios are available depending on transmission and transfer case:

  • Automatic transmission with electronic shift-on-the-fly – 57.19:1
  • Manual transmission with electronic shift-on-the-fly – 79.92:1
  • Automatic with electromechanical transfer case – 67.8:1
  • Manual with electromechanical transfer case – 94.75:1
(Maximum ratios with high-capability option packages)

Differentials make a difference

2021 Ford Bronco GIF

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

In the rear of the two- and four-door Bronco is a Dana 44 AdvenTEK solid rear axle with available Spicer Performa-TraK electronic locking differentials. Up front, a Dana AdvanTEK independent front differential unit lives, but can be upgraded to a Spicer Performa-TraK electronic locking differential.

G.O.A.T. modes

2021 Ford Bronco interior GOAT Modes

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The original generations of the Bronco were marketed as G.O.A.T.s, vehicles that could go over all terrain. Ford has used this vintage nomenclature to refer to the seven drive modes the Bronco and Bronco Sport can come equipped with that modulate speed and torque delivery for more control, and mannered, safer motoring. These include: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Sand, Mud/Ruts, and Rock Crawl. Availability of the modes varies by vehicle.

Additionally, Trail Control (cruise control for low-speed trail driving), Trail Turn Assist (tightens off-road turning radiuses with torque vectoring), and Trail One-Pedal Drive (manages acceleration/braking control and adds control and comfort for slow-mode rock crawling) are available.

The suspension is made to be ultra-smooth

2021 Ford Bronco GIF

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Bronco and Bronco Sport’s suspension is engineered to smooth the ride and lift and support the chassis over truly rugged terrain.

The two- and four-door versions of the Bronco come standard with twin alloy A-arms and coil-over springs in the front. At the rear, there are solid five-link rear axle with active bushings and coil-over springs. Bilstein position-sensitive shock absorbers with end-stop control valves are available for both axles.

The result is best-in-class suspension travel.

Bronco Sport comes standard with an independent MacPherson strut-type with coil springs, stabilizer bar, twin-tube hydraulic gas-pressured shocks at the front. The rear has an independent double lateral link semi-trailing arms with coil springs, stabilizer bar and monotone hydraulic gas-pressured shocks; as well as an isolated steel subframe with cast knuckle.

Buyers wanting to upgrade can get unique coil springs for the front and rear.

Disconnecting on the run

2021 Ford Bronco

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

A semi-active hydraulic stabilizer bar disconnect design maximizes articulation and increases ramp angle index for off-camber terrain. What is unique is that it allows the bar to disconnect during articulation; it can reconnect under all conditions to improve steering and stability at higher speeds.

Off-roading apps and navigation are taken to a new level

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The FordPass Performance app with off-road navigation allows owners to plan, navigate, and share their personal off-road adventures. An advanced topographic trail maps’ system boasts more than 1,000 curated trail maps that are powered by class-exclusive trail content from NeoTreks’ AccuTerra Maps, Trails Offroad trail guides, and FunTreks trail guides.

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