Hit the Trail

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

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

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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 Ford Bronco 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

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 4x4 enthusiast will love

The two- and-four door Broncos come standard with 4x4 with part-time selectable engagement, two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly, and a 2.72:2 low ratio. Buyers can upgrade to advanced 4x4 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

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

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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Custom SUVs

Ford Bronco to rule SEMA this year

The Bronco RTR features a fun livery and several off-road upgrades.

Ford

The annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show is an opportunity for the aftermarket and manufacturers to come together on wildly customized vehicles and to show off the latest parts and tech in the space. Now that the Ford Bronco has finally made its way to the public, it's not surprising to see several wild SEMA takes on the hottest SUV to hit the market in some time.

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods The tracks are said to improve the Bronco's abilities in deep snow and ice.Ford

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods

The new Bronco is capable and rugged on its own, but Tucci Hot Rods felt it needed more. The shop gave it that boost with a set of tracks in place of wheels, which are said to be great for deep snow and ice. This Bronco features a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed manual transmission to go with its Mattracks 88-Series quad tracks.

2021 Bronco RTR Fun-Runner by RTR Vehicles

Vaghn Gittin Jr's RTR Vehicles imagined a Bronco package that could be installed at the dealer. The result is the Fun-Runner, which features several Ford Performance and Ford Licensed Accessories parts. It's based on a 2021 two-door Bronco Badlands, and comes with an eye-catching wrap, an Ultimate Dana 44 front axle, Ultimate Dana 60 semi-float rear axle, RCV Performance CV axles, and a performance intake for its four-cylinder engine.

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions SEMA presents an excellent opportunity for shops to show off their skill and imagination.Ford

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions

BDS is a subsidiary of Fox Shocks and has worked with Ford for quite some time. The results of that long-running relationship are on display with the BDS Bronco, which features Fox 2.5 PES coilovers, BDS rear adjustable control arms and track bar, swaybar disconnect, and 37-inch BFGoodrich KM3 tires. The Bronco's bumpers have been replaced with CrawlTek Revolution units that feature a recessed winch mount, recovery hooks and more.

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Supercharged V8 pickup

Watch the Ram TRX Lap the Nürburgring

The TRX looked awkward but completed the lap.

BTGDale via YouTube

The Ram TRX is a cartoonish truck with specs that would make most people shy away. Its size, sound, and imposing appearance live up to the hype laid out on the spec sheet, and its Hellcat-derived powertrain demands attention. The truck is one heck of an off-roader, too, but a recent YouTube video proves it can dance on a racetrack, too, though not as gracefully as the low-slung cars it passes.



The YouTubers took the TRX to the imposing Nüburgring in Germany to test its mettle on track. Unsurprisingly, the big Ram rolls over kerbs and is able to blast past several cars on the track. The biggest problem for the truck is its brakes, which end up cooked halfway through the lap. In between a few blasts of NSFW language, we can hear the driver note that his brake pedal is "about halfway to the floor," though he did retain some functionality after letting things cool off. The 6,400-pound truck would likely cook all but the most hardcore motorsport brakes.

The truck appears unmodified and looks to have just over 1,000 miles on the clock for the lap. Of course, the TRX looks about as at home on a track as a Mini Cooper would rock crawling, but the truck's 4.5-second 0-60 mph and 702 horsepower from its supercharged 6.2-liter V8 are more impressive than many sports cars.

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