It's Official! The Ford Bronco Is Coming Back in 2020
It's one of the most iconic and cherished American-made 4x4s there is. It's the Ford Bronco. Originally debuted in 1966, the rugged SUV went on to evolve into a vehicle that still ignites passion in enthusiasts across the nation. Just a few days ago, Ford announced that it will be bringing back the iconic Bronco in 2020.
Unlike the last Bronco to roll off the assembly line in 1996, the new one is said to be a midsize SUV. Given that the new Ford Ranger is scheduled for 2019, we're guessing there's going to be some crossover underpinning shared between the two. The fact that it’s going to be a midsize SUV also may make it an attractive alternative to the Jeep Wrangler. Dialing back the size is also a nod to the Bronco’s heritage as the first gen models (’66-’77) were significantly more compact when compared to the final fullsize iteration.
From a company that brought us the Ford Raptor, we’re hoping that the 2020 Bronco will live up to its namesake. For now, let's take a quick trip down memory lane and pick out some of the more iconic features that made the Bronco the legendary vehicle it is today.
1st Gen (’66-’77)
It’s the pony that started it all and what many still view as the most desirable Bronco to own. With its removable top, iconic styling and no-frills interior, the Early Bronco was Ford’s proof that it could build an affordable and rugged SUV. Post ’71 models got the stronger Dana 44 front axle and Ford 9-inch rear, making them more desirable for those looking to hit the trail. Available with a V8 and manual or automatic transmission, it was any 'wheeler's dream.
Ford has been good about paying homage to its more iconic models, and we think this generation could have the biggest impact if the company decides to go more retro in the styling department. We’d love to see a solid front axle, but can’t see that being a reality. Instead, we might have a removable top and more squared-off edges throughout the body.
2nd Gen (’78-’79)
In 1978, the Bronco got bigger — much bigger. With a push to a longer 106-inch wheelbase and more shared sheetmetal with the F-series trucks, the Bronco became more modular and comfortable for the masses. This would also mark the last time of the solid front axle.
One of the most iconic racing Broncos of the time was Big Oly. It was a 1970 model that set records in the desert and won the then Mexican, now Baja 1000. This desert racing heritage could lead Ford down the same path as the Raptor. This would mean off-road-tuned electronics, a long-travel suspension and even a selectable rear locker.
3rd Gen (’80-’86)
Hair wasn’t the only thing big in the '80s. The fullsize Bronco got a full revamp in 1980, and with that came a Twin Traction Beam Dana 44 front axle. Desert racers still cherish this front end design today, but it has proven to be less durable over time than a conventional solid front axle.
Despite being larger, many of the core Bronco features remained. This included a leaf-sprung rear suspension, removable top, V8 engine and manual transmission option. Of the aforementioned, the removable top is the most realistic, likely to get the nod.
4th Gen (’87-’91)
To coincide with the ever-evolving F-150 platform, Ford spruced up the Bronco in 1987. It was a bit sleeker with more power and transmission options. The wheelbase was now 104.7 inches, and it shared numerous part numbers with the F-150.
The big takeaway here is shared components. From a business front, it makes the most sense to have multiple vehicles sharing the same parts. We stand by the fact that the 2019 Ford Ranger will be a big indicator of what we will see in the 2020 Bronco.
5th Gen (’92-‘96)
The final generation of the Bronco, made famous by one OJ Simpson car chase, was the most powerful and well-appointed as they came. An Eddie Bauer edition, ABS and 210 hp V8 were all part of the equation for the last run Bronco.
Trim packages are easy ways for Ford to garner more money. We suspect there will be quite a few options as not everyone will want a rugged or upscale version of the Bronco. We also expect this vehicle to demand a premium. Our guess is a mid-30s base model, with the more attractive models starting closer to 40. Technology is another front that will be huge. With driverless car technology booming, we could see many handy off-road assist features, similar to Toyota’s Crawl Mode in the Tacoma.
2019 Ford Bronco
Since so much of the 2020 Bronco swirls around the Ranger coming back, it's fair to say that the Ranger is fairly important in this equation. Globally, the Ranger has continued to be produce. Killed in 2011 for the U.S. market, when the Ranger comes back in 2019, we will likely have a double cab version of it in the states, finally.
Again, we've seen what Ford can do with the F-150 Raptor, and we hope that type of performance potential will translate well to the Ranger. With the Chevy Colorado ZR2 and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, the midsize truck market for the off-road enthusiast for 2017 is looking great. Now we just have to wait a couple years and see what Ford will bring to the table.
(All photos courtesy of Ford)