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.

Trending News

 
 

Buying guide

How to buy a modified car: Three tips

This is a clean modified truck, but they don't all end up this way.

Bring a Trailer

Modified cars are a mixed bag. Sometimes, they're incredibly well built and better than the original, but too many times they're only partially finished or end up being rushed as their owners get late-project anxiety. Whatever the case, buying a modified car can be a stressful process if you haven't done your homework ahead of time. The good news is that you can get a good deal on a reasonably well sorted project or modified car, but you'll need to be careful. Looking at used Lexus LXs earlier today, it became clear that there are as many modified vehicles for sale as there are clean examples.

This LX got me thinking about the breakdown between buying a rig and building one. The modifications made by this Lexus' seller are almost exactly what I would do if I were building a light overlanding rig. What could go wrong? I'm still on the fence about the Lexus, but the three topics below will help you make the right decision on buying a modified car.

2004 Lexus LX 470 Even if the mods are well done, you'll want to have the vehicle inspected before you buy.Bring a Trailer

Understand your personal taste

I mentioned the LX470 and how the owner's updates were pretty close to what I'd do with the truck. That's an exception to the rule, because 90 percent of the time I walking away from a sales listing because of modifications, rather than the other way around. If you're hoping to find a tastefully modified car that matches your exact tastes, you could be waiting a while. If you're hoping to sell a modified car, the same is true in reverse. Finding a buyer for your extremely personalized project car may not be the easiest thing you've ever done.

2004 Lexus LX 470 It's a good idea to seek out vehicles in solid shape, regardless of mods.Bring a Trailer

Be aware of condition and quality

This Lexus looks to be well maintained and in good shape. It also doesn't hurt that the LX is one of the most reliable vehicles built by one of the world's most quality-conscious automakers. Even so, it's hard to know what you're getting with this, or any other, modified vehicle. There's a little rust in this image, but the lift kit, wheels, and bumper mods all look good. However, even if the truck looked brand-new, you'd want to get a pre-purchase inspection. An independent mechanic can tell you if there are potential issues that are unrelated to mods, and you'll want to be sure that any modifications are installed properly.

2004 Lexus LX 470 Some mods are more useful than others.Bring a Trailer

Keep an eye on the price

Most people are reasonable when it comes to selling their modified cars, but there are hundreds of "I know what I got" memes on the internet for a reason. Some sellers want to recover every penny of the money they spent customizing their cars. They're convinced that the mods drastically increased the car's value and can't understand why the customized car isn't as attractive to you as it is to them. Tread lightly and be careful not to insult the owner, but it's your job to work toward a reasonable, fair price.

Trending News

 
 

New American pickup truck

The new 2021 Ford F-150 is an all-around performer

The Ford F-150 got a complete overhaul for 2021.

Chris Teague

The Ford F-150 is one of the most popular vehicles of all time, coming in second only to the Toyota Corolla in lifetime sales. That makes the F-150 a vitally important model for The Blue Oval, so it's not surprising that it takes updates to the truck very seriously. That was absolutely the case with the all-new 2021 F-150, which sees a load of new tech, evolutionary styling changes, and an impressive new PowerBoost hybrid engine option.

2021 Ford F-150 A new hybrid powertrain option is a headline feature for the new F-150.Chris Teague

Ford offers the F-150 in a staggering number of trim, bed lengths, and powertrain options. Trims include XL, XLT, Lariat, Tremor, King Ranch, Platinum, Raptor, and Limited. Powertrain configurations include:

  • 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 with 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid V6 with 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 with 400 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque
  • 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque

I spent a week testing the F-150 King Ranch with a SuperCrew cab and the new hybrid powertrain. Pricing for the base F-150 XL starts at just under $31,000, but my King Ranch test truck checked in at $77,125 after a $1,695 destination charge. That bottom line price includes almost $16,000 in options, such as a $1,995 King Ranch chrome package, a $1,495 twin-panel moonroof (worth it), a $1,005 FX4 off-road package, and more.

To find out if the new F-150 justifies its price tag, let's take a closer look at what makes it tick.

2021 Ford F-150 Though new, the 2021 F-150 sports familiar styling.Chris Teague

Powerful, efficient hybrid engine

Don't let the word "hybrid" fool you here – this is a serious powertrain. The PowerBoost twin turbocharged V6 and 35 kW electric motor produce a combined 430 horsepower and a whopping 570 pound-feet of torque, while a ten-speed automatic transmission pairs seamlessly with the engine and delivers smooth, almost imperceptible shifts. The hybrid setup feels a little clunky at low speeds, as the gas engine and electric motors trade off propulsion duties, but it's not a constant issue and does not detract from the truck's overall driving experience.

Depending on the configuration, the F-150 can extend to over 20 feet in length. It's also around eight feet wide, so there's no getting around the fact that it's not ideal as an urban commuter. Even so, the truck's quick, responsive steering makes it feel slightly smaller than it reads on paper, and it offers excellent outward visibility, which makes it less likely that you'll bump into, or run over, an unseen obstacle.

When equipped with the hybrid powertrain, the F-150 also comes standard with a generator built into the bed. A 2.4 kW Pro Power generator is standard, but the system can be upgraded to a 7.2 kW unit for just $750, which is a tremendous bargain in the world of generators. During the winter storms that ravaged Texas earlier this year, there were several reports of people using their new F-150s to power heaters, refrigerators, and other vital household systems while much of the state's power grid was down. Thankfully, my time with the truck was far less dangerous and dramatic, but the generator did get put to use charging my battery-powered chainsaw and tiller while helping a friend clear a small plot of land.

2021 Ford F-150 The new F-150 can be had with a giant 12.0-inch touchscreen.Chris Teague

User-friendly tech and an ultra-plush interior

I've always felt that Ford SYNC 3 was one of the best infotainment systems on the market, and the latest SYNC 4 software improves on that already successful formula. The base F-150 XL runs the system on an 8-inch touchscreen, but my King Ranch test truck came with an available 12-inch display. The screen itself is bright and responsive, and the software's simple, intuitive menu structure makes the whole package less distracting to use while driving. The system offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio, HD radio, wireless smartphone charging, and the King Ranch I tested came with an options package that included an upgraded "B&O Sound System Unleashed."

If you had even a slight doubt that pickup trucks are really just lifted luxury cars with towing capabilities, the new F-150 will change your mind. The King Ranch trim comes with soft, exceptionally comfortable leather upholstery, and the front seats offer 10-way adjustability that allows the driver to dial in a near-perfect seating position. At this trim level, the front buckets come with heating and ventilation, but my truck came equipped with the $4,650 601A High package, which brings a massage function with a handful of different programs. It also adds a power tailgate, power-deployable running boards, a better B&O stereo, and 20-inch wheels. The options group is far from cheap, but after a few minutes spent being massaged at a traffic light, the price tag will likely feel like much less of an issue.

Ford stepped up the safety game with the F-150 for 2021. The truck now comes standard with the Co-Pilot360 package, which includes automatic headlights and high beams, a lane-keeping system, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and a rearview camera with hitch assist. The XLT trim and above come with blind spot monitoring and a reverse sensing system, and the King Ranch trim adds adaptive steering, adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, intersection assist, and navigation.

2021 Ford F-150 The King Ranch trim features an over-the-top interior with soft leather and premium finishes throughout. Chris Teague

Pricey, but worth the money

Full-size pickup trucks are excessive in many ways, but there's no denying that they are some of the most useful vehicles on the road today. My need for a pickup truck is limited, as I don't tow and rarely haul anything that a midsize SUV can't carry. The cost of a full-size pickup truck, both to buy and operate, is hard to justify for me, but for someone who truly needs a full-size pickup, the PowerBoost-equipped F-150 is a compelling option.

At 24 mpg all around, fuel economy is solid, and the refinement of the powertrain means that there's no operational penalty for choosing the hybrid. On top of that, towing capability climbs to 12,700 pounds when the truck is equipped with an optional trailering package. All of that adds up to an F-150 that earns its price tag and looks good while doing it.

2021 Ford F-150 In case you forgot which F-150 trim you bought.Chris Teague

Trending News