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It was at last year’s Detroit Auto Show when Ford Motor Company spoke the words that frankly, we’re surprised that it took them so long to say. That announcement was in regard to the iconic Ford Bronco, and it’s impending resurrection for the 2020 model year. Needless to say, they had our attention, and have kept it ever since.
As alluded to (mere seconds ago) the announcement begs the question, “FORD! What took you so long?” Having been retired after the ’96 model year, the 30-year old Bronco had always displayed a distinctively organic relationship with Ford’s growing lineup, and does so to this day. Serving as the automotive “firing shot”, the multi-purpose vehicles of yesteryear paved the way for SUVs and Crossovers of today, and the Bronco did it’s fair share of that work before being sent off to pasture.
Yeah. You’re welcome, Ford Expedition.
So, where does this leave us in terms of expectations for the 2020 Bronco? Expect a body-on-frame build with solid front and rear axles, to start. Described by Ford as a “no-compromise midsize 4×4 utility for thrill seekers who want to venture way beyond the city”, Ford seems to be painting a narrative that downplays the family sensibility of today’s SUV. This is smart. First of all, Ford already has a well-defined lineup of crossovers and SUV that play the family card nicely. Second of all, this marketing directive keys in on the historical link between Americana and the Ford Tough mindset of the F-Series, also building on the momentum provided by the sporty and celebrated badassery of, say, the F-150 Raptor. But we’ll get back to that…
Ford’s Product Development Chief Raj Nair has confirmed that the new Bronco will share the same frame as the NEW Ford Ranger (which, frankly, has been equally long-overdue for a comeback, in our opinion). This is Ford getting back to its roots and doing what it does best. Being a “me-too” is not, and never has been Ford’s sweet spot, so we’re glad to see a back-to-basics approach. That said, it’s not unrealistic to assume that we’ll also see distinct efforts made in the interest of weight reduction. Sure, everyone’s doing it, but Ford has been the domestic automaker leading the charge. It shows a clear intent to look both forward and backward, celebrating Ford’s rich heritage while re-defining its contributions for new generations of drivers and their evolving expectations re: fuel economy and sustainability.
In terms of design, it’s still anyone’s guess. Sure, we’ve seen the concept vehicle with a tarp thrown over it, launching dozens of Reddit posts offering hypothetical renderings, but we really don’t know. Even spy photos have only given us a speculative look at a proposed body style and seemingly-unfinished rear-end. The combination of tapered roof, boxy styling and rear-mounted spare tire give off a classic and rugged SUV vibe, discarding the dare-we-say neutered ‘sport wagon’ aesthetic that (frankly) seems to have poisoned our proverbial water supply. If so, this is another piece of great news. We can only hope that Ford will embrace this kind of design philosophy, taking the (quote/unquote) “no compromise midsize 4×4 utility for thrill seekers” down the same road as the Raptor. A combination of bold front fascia and aggressive headlamp design, combined with a beefed-up Bronco nameplate on a stylized grille would be an instant visual win. Throw in a chunky bumper, and front skid-plate as standard equipment and Ford will have made good on the mental image summoned by their initial pitch in Detroit.
But that’s just our wish list.
That said, looks only get you so far when you (finger quotes) “venture way beyond the city”. So, what do we know about the 2020 Bronco under the hood? Once again, not much. Is it unreasonable if we draw another correlation between the Bronco and the Raptor, positing that it might feature a comparable EcoBoost engine capable of 325 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque? For our money, it sounds pretty logical. Other variants, such as a diesel could follow. But for right now, the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost is where we’re placing our bets.
And speaking of money, the price tag on the Bronco is expected to fall in somewhere around the mid-30’s to start. This is a GREAT place for it, accessibly priced to capitalize on the initial excitement and ideal for competing strategically within the criminally oversaturated (yet under-inspired) SUV segment.
And, once again, THAT sums up our excitement perfectly: Ford is offering something both familiar and fresh within a segment that has grown somewhat bland in its redundancy. Aside from Jeep who will never relinquish a trail-rated sensibility, nearly every automaker has been “chasing the dragon” of providing “something for everyone” in their SUV designs (using, as I call it, “a kitchen sink mentality”). And while Ford is no exception to that damning accusation, we think they’re the only automaker who could have pulled this move off with such aplomb. Sure, the 2020 Ford Bronco will be embraced by countless families, but it will also inject a welcome dose of old school badassery into their daily routine.
We’re just as excited as anyone to see where the Bronco goes from here, and our expectations are pretty high. Kudos to you, Ford Motor Company. Job well done.