Saddle up hombres, there’s a new Bronco in town.
When Dearborn hinted at the return of the Bronco, the American nation rejoiced. The internet lit up. But for the inconvenience of trivial global public health issues causing incontrovertible delays, many a soul would now be off-roading in a vehicle that in Ford parlance is “Built Wild“.
The twenty five years since Bronco’s initial demise has witnessed many worldly changes, but new season Bronco, in spirit at least, remains broadly, an essential entity, notwithstanding improvements in the electronic, mechanical and tyre spheres. Ur-Bronco was offered as a two-door only, a matter which played a significant role in the vehicle’s subsequent beatification. While those of a certain age have been thoroughly steeped in old-school Bronco lore, a measurable difference can be discerned in perceptions emoted by a throng of hopeful new fans and would-be customers.
Now built with a dash of F-Series toughness blended with Mustang’s performance spirit (these being Dearborn’s erudite observations), a basic two-door AWD Bronco begins at around $30,000, akin to cousin F150. While America’s favourite truck is built more for the work/ home environment – notwithstanding its capability in tacking the rough – Bronco’s emphasis is on fun. Profits will undoubtedly follow.
Saddling up with tag lines as laboured as a packhorse, the base unit arrives as Essential Bronco. Increments of around $3,000 bring us Big Bend, for Mainstream Off-Roading, swiftly on its heels being Adventure Off-Roading for the Black Diamond edition. Meanwhile, for those demanding Off-Roading Style, Outer Banks is the only sensible choice. Popularly regarded as the two big sellers however, Badlands caters for Extreme Off-Roading, topping out with Wildtrak for those in a hurry (Off-Roading at speed) to camp/ canoe/ avoid the authorities/ attempt the Baja 1000 race – where incidentally much testing was undertaken.
Wildtrak versions begin at $47,000 – the $3,590 Lux package (code 354A) does however contain a Bang & Olufsen upgraded stereogram. And any Bronco can be ordered in the pale grey shade that is Area 51 – humour and irony within one square package, man!
Engines are petrol Ecoboost with a standard 2.3 litre or for $1,900 more, a 2.7 Standard transmission is a seven-speed auto, another $1,900 adds three more cogs. Rear axles can be had in four different flavours of ratio, some of which can lock their differentials. At this headier end of the Bronco specification sheet, the only available package is the hefty $6,600 Sasquatch™ which adds enhanced and raised suspension with mud/ terrain tyres leaping to an astonishing 35” (on 17” wheels), adding road (or should that be cliff face?) presence to your now depleted wallet/ hiked monthly outgoings. Don’t take my word for this, the people have spoken. This being the 21st century, wants and desires are a world away from those Sixties predecessors.
And the fellow charged with being chief whisperer? British Chief Designer, Paul Wraith – asserting that this is not a retro vehicle but one referencing the old edition. The design team sought inspiration using what Wraith termed, design thinking, where instead of producing dozens of sketches, the customer was involved from the outset. Wraith put to his fifteen strong team fundamental questions such as, “why bring Bronco back? What are we solving with this vehicle? Where is Roger going today? Is he about to head out fishing? Or is he hot and dusty, rock crawling in Moab when it’s a hundred out?”
Wraith also received assistance with guidance from a higher plane – a certain Moray Callum, Vice President of Ford Design. A longstanding Bronco fan, his black 1976 version with both grille and roof in white was whisked into the studio for a thorough 3D scan. Wraith’s team believed such a starting point was key, combining old school data with new methodologies, along with Ford’s system of meticulous planning. Milled foam chunks formed the basis of the new Bronco – a life-sized vehicle to address those human-centric ideas. Callum lent his guiding hand whilst allowing (almost) free rein to accomplish the task, Wraith alluding to it “not being a race.”
Wraith admits that before the final presentation, many Post-It Notes and line drawings became what he termed ‘a new studio narrative’, leading to one executive exasperatedly requesting “to see to things the normal way.” But once the results began to flow, management’s frowns turned to grins. “This is a passion business. There’s no point working all the hours for no result. You have to pull together to get the job done.” Investing time into the well-being of his team, Wraith added, “some creative tension is healthy, for balance. And then there’s the horse.”
With (most) of Bronco’s design planned out and ready for (delayed) production, matters equine generated much steam – all related to the hoof. One of Wraith’s designers created a modern Bronco motif, exciting the team with its on-trend look. A scale model, “around the size of a horse,” was created and fastened to the studio wall. At the opposing studio end resided a Mustang, but “Bronco is about 20% bigger…”, Wraith giggled.
The problem was that the drawing depicted the animal with pointed hooves, balancing as a ballerina would, not in full contact with the ground. Faces turned red, the language blue. Feet were well and truly stamping as (ahem), a bucking bronco. But with a revised horse, its front legs firmly attached to terra firma, pressure valves were cleared, egos mollified.
According to its maker, Bronco’s modular design means that no two will be the same. Using simple tools, doors can be removed within four minutes; the electrical connections requiring but a thumb and index finger to undo or re-fix. Simple latches and quarter turn screws allow for the swift removal of windows, wings and roof, should this be required. Vehicle integrity and security is not compromised. Ford naturally offers myriad options.
Because of this modularity, owners, Ford say, can keep their Bronco longer, updating it with DIY upgrades, accessories and downloadable technologies: “Bronco can handle the dangerous things our customers do.” The only limiting factors it would seem involve the depth of your bank balance and how complicated you want your example to be. Ford already have in excess of 150,000 orders.
Just don’t for heaven’s sake mention Jinba Ittai.
 After of course consulting their owners manual, and following off-road trail and recreational area by-laws – as clearly stated at the foot of adverts and promotional materials.
 Four door Broncos start around $33,500.
 Area 51 is the official name of the blue/grey colour.
Data sources: sixtysixmag.com, performanceford.com. Paul Wraith interview with formtrends.com