The Ford Bronco was one of the first off-road capable models launched by the company in the 1960s. Intended to compete in the popular off-road market, the Bronco went against popular rivals like the Jeep CJ-5 and Toyota land Cruiser, employing a similar design and drivetrain.
The Bronco sold well, and later in 1978, the second generation was launched with a chassis derived from the F-Series pickup truck. This generation also became a lot bigger, pushing the Bronco into the full-size SUV segment. After decades in production and several generations, Ford discontinued the Bronco in 1996 due to declining sales and it was later replaced by the Ford Expedition in 1997.
After a 25 year absence, Ford finally launched the all-new Bronco in 2021. Development for the new model started earlier in 2016, and it was unveiled at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. Soon after, the Ford Bronco reservations were started in several U.S states, Ontario, and nearby Canadian territories.
This time around, Ford is releasing two distinct models under the Bronco name, a regular off-road-focused mid-size SUV, and the Ford Bronco Sport which is more compact and gets a crossover design. The regular model will compete with the Jeep Wrangler, and can be bought with a 2-door or 4-door configuration. The new Bronco lapped up around 200,000 reservations after its debut, with more than 60% of those going through with the purchase.
The new Bronco is based on the Ford Ranger, using a body-on-frame construction and similar powertrains, giving it excellent off-road capability like the first-generation model. Although the Bronco was set to be revealed in early 2020, it was pushed to July because of the Pandemic. The very first model was auctioned off for more than a million dollars, following which, in June this year, units started to reach showrooms.
In contrast, the new Bronco Sport gets the same retro styling and design with compact dimensions. It also uses a regular unibody construction based on the Ford C2 platform, classifying it as a crossover.
Just recently, a more rugged version of the Bronco prototype was spotted testing with unique camouflaging. Although it looks confusing from a distance, a closer look reveals some intricate details. A similar design was used on Raptor prototypes, suggesting the possible release of a Bronco Raptor.
Closer inspection of the camo reveals several little images including nature and animal decals. Among them is a bucking bronco, which could suggest this is actually a Ford Bronco and not an F-150 Raptor. Ford initially toyed with the ‘Warthog’ nameplate for the high-performance Bronco, but all recent reports point towards the Raptor nameplate. The lightning decal was also seen among the images, possibly suggesting a hybrid or all-electric version to be launched soon, similar to the new F-150 lightning.
The Ford Raptor’s nameplate is usually bestowed upon the high-performance pickup trucks by the company. So far, both the Ford F-150 and Ford Ranger received the Raptor name. Like the Bronco, the Raptor models are designed specifically for off-road use with standard all-wheel-drive, mid-travel suspension, and grippy all-terrain tires. They also get high-performance engines as standard along with several rugged design elements like flared wheel arches, and a unique grille. From the spy shots, we can see the silhouette of the new Bronco with all-terrain tires and higher ground clearance, all signs that point to a high-performance Raptor trim.
So far, several reports have suggested that the Bronco Raptor and Warthog are the same. It is still unclear which nameplate Ford will choose, but long story short, we can expect a high-performance Bronco launch shortly.
Like the Ford F-150 Raptor, the prototypes get a more aggressive design with massive fenders and a higher ride height. A sneak peek at the suspension also reveals heavy-duty Fox Racing dampers, given away by their unique orange casings. Most of these upgrades will likely be lifted from the F-150 Raptor. Another recent spy shot also revealed the 37-inch BF Goodrich tires on the prototype, similar again to the F-150 Raptor, designed for off-roading and high-speed dune running.
Like the Raptors on sale today, we can also expect the unique FORD grille at the front along with a higher front bumper for a better approach angle, wider track, upgraded chassis with improved rigidity, and protective skid plates. The Raptor is also expected to get beefier driveline components like the differential and transfer case to handle all the extra performance and abuse.
As of now, the standard model is available with two EcoBoost engine options. Base models get a 2.0L unit producing 300hp, while the 2.7L unit on the higher trims bumps it up to 330 hp. However, the upcoming high-performance model is expected to get the new 3.0L EcoBoost V-6 engine lifted from the Ford Explorer ST and Lincoln Navigator. Without any hybrid tech, the engine produces 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. A hybrid model is also expected which raises the output to 494 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque. The Bronco Raptor is expected to get the same 10-speed automatic transmission as the standard models.
As with most of the Raptor models, expect to pay a lot more than the standard models. Because of the several performance improvements and design elements, the Bronco Raptor is expected to start at $65,000, making it more expensive than the range-topping First Edition which retails for $58,410. As of now, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392, which is the Bronco Raptor’s closest competitor, retails for $73,500, making the Bronco a bargain in comparison.
Because of the pandemic, the Bronco launch was delayed by several months. We can expect a similar delay with the upcoming Raptor model, and it should arrive for the 2023 model year. The standard models started rolling off the production line just recently in June 2021, and the effects of the pandemic are still in effect, like microchip shortages and other production constraints, causing a delay in production and the eventual delay of the Bronco Raptor. So a realistic launch timeline will be late 2022.
With its launch, the new Bronco Raptor is expected to be the best off-road capable model by the manufacturer, staying true to its roots.