The new 2020 Ford Bronco is almost here — well, at least in concept form. It’s been a long road to get to this point. In 2017, I was sitting in the audience at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit during the North American International Auto Show when Ford put “Bronco” and “Ranger” on the screen. We looked wide-eyed at one-another, wondering if the concepts were about to pounce onto the stage. Then … they announced that the Bronco was coming back in 2020. It was an announcement that a concept would show up in the next year or so, with the production vehicle to follow. From that we’ve seen so far, the 2020 Ford Bronco may be a legitimate Jeep Wrangler fighter.
But first, a little history lesson for those whose Bronco background starts and ends with OJ Simpson. Bronco production spanned 30 years at Ford, introduced in 1966 as a 2-door SUV competition for the Jeep CJ-5. It’s not too far off to consider the Bronco as one of the pioneers of the current crop of SUVs dominating supermarket shopping centers — though it was, of course, much less civilized than the average modern crossover, and it didn’t share its platform with any car model, as is commonplace now. The original 2-box shape is still a classic — and if you take a glance through Bronco listings on Autotrader Classic, you’ll find a ton of great 1960s and 1970s options for sale in the $30,000 range. Some are easily finding buyers at the $50,000 mark, as well.
Somewhere around 1969, the Chevy Blazer made its debut — and that changed things considerably in the segment. Blazer sales were double that of the Bronco by 1973, so Ford decided they needed a change. Much like most modern-day automaker decisions, the answer was platform sharing — and the second-generation Bronco debuted in 1978 based off of the F-100 truck platform. This meant that the Bronco had to evolve as fast as the F-Series trucks, and the second-generation only lasted until 1979. The 1980 model year saw the debut of the third generation Bronco, which was quickly starting to look like an F-series pickup with a cap on the back. The fourth and fifth generations were much of the same.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, OJ’s famous Bronco (actually belonging to friend Al Cowlings) was a 1992 model. That was the fifth and final Bronco generation ever made, unless you count the Ranger-based 1984–1990 Bronco II. More on that in a bit.
Back to present day — I promised you some intel on the 2020 Bronco. That preliminary history lesson was important, because it portends what we should be expecting on the soon-to-be-unveiled concept. Think more original 2-box, squared-fender Bronco, rather than the F-150-based Bronco. And that’s a good thing: It’ll be similar to the Jeep Wrangler, which I own as my daily driver, and which has been absolutely dominating the sport, activity, off-road market. I absolutely love my JK — and as you saw in Doug’s video on the new model, the JL is even better. So Ford has their work cut out for them.
Thankfully, their parts bin is deep — and underneath what will likely be a modern take on a retro design, you’re going to see the typical load out of EcoBoost engines. I’d expect the base model to come with the same 2.3-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine found in the Mustang — enough to motivate the Bronco, which will likely share its platform with the new Ranger, up rocky trails and across desert roads with some gusto. Yes, I suspect it’ll likely share a platform with the Ranger, as the F-150 already has an SUV stablemate, the Expedition. That makes it a bit more like the original Bronco II, I suppose. Regardless, we hope to see both 2- and 4-door options, just like the Wrangler. And don’t be surprised to see the larger twin turbo EcoBoost optionally installed into the Bronco’s engine bay, as well as hybrid and possibly even diesel options.
As I said, the parts bin is deep, and that includes off-road bits — which is a good thing, because if the Bronco is going to seriously compete with the Wrangler, it needs to go off-road well. Thankfully, Ford is already partnered with companies like Fox Racing to build the Raptor, and appears to have already locked in Dana to provide all-important axles for the Bronco and the Ranger. There is still some conjecture as to whether the Bronco will have a solid front axle like the JL Jeep, but you can bet that the rear will be solid. If the Bronco is built more for fast desert driving rather than rock climbing, expect an independent front suspension like the Raptor. In fact, we suspect Ford will even offer an off-road-ready Raptor version of the Bronco, capitalizing on the success of their prized pickup truck.
Ford currently sells seven SUVs and crossovers, starting with the $20,000 EcoSport and ranging up to the $50,000+ revamped Expedition. Expect the Bronco to start somewhere in the middle. While a stripped-down model with AWD only could theoretically start with a “2,” expect most Broncos sitting on Ford lots to be in the $30,000-$40,000 range. Add a 4WD system with various off-road modes, a larger EcoBoost and other options and you could easily top $50,000 — or maybe more for a Raptor version. That’s big money — but maybe more importantly, that’s also a very well-equipped JL Wrangler Rubicon, which starts at around $41,000.
Time will tell, but personally I’m pretty excited to see what Ford comes up with. Oh — and bonus points if Ford can match Jeep’s topless driving capability. If Ford can manage that, I might just look at trading my JK for a new Bronco! Find a Ford Bronco for sale