A Jeep Wrangler Rubicon hops joyously from rock to rock, enjoying the fresh air through its vacant doors and roof. Lurking in the wings, though, is the 2021 Ford Bronco ready to strike, and based on these new off-road spy photos of a two-door prototype, it looks like The Blue Oval is going to strike hard.
I don’t mean to say that the new Bronco is going to defeat the Wrangler in terms of pure rock-crawling capability—I think that’s borderline impossible with a production independent suspension setup, like what we’ve been seeing under the Bronco in various spy shots—but I do think it’s going to steal some of the Wrangler’s sales, and possibly offer comparable overall off-road chops.
We’ve got our hands on some new spy photos showing the two-door variant of the upcoming Bronco ripping up some snowy terrain, and based on the fact that the front tires appear to be off the ground in the top photo, as well as the general suspension layout, Ford’s recent teaser video showing the Bronco prototype ripping it down dirt trails, and the fact that Ford has been showing off a Bronco rally car, it’s clear that the upcoming Bronco is going to be geared more towards high-speed dune-bashing than rock crawling.
And I think that’s great. The Jeep Wrangler has really started reaching an asymptote of rock-crawling capability. Even if another automaker built something with heavier-duty axles, thicker skid plates, and more flex, it still probably wouldn’t be that much better at crawling, and even if it were, it’d be a bit pointless given that the Wrangler’s capabilities are far beyond what anyone needs (and far beyond most folks’ skill levels). The fact that Ford appears to be coming at the Wrangler from another angle—from the dunes—is smart, because this is an area where FoMoCo could theoretically put some real distance between itself and the solid-axle Jeep that has dominated the off-road SUV space for decades.
I mean, just look at the air under the front tires in the top photo. The photo above apparently shows the Bronco landing on its fronts, with at least one rear tire off the ground.
The rubber appears to be the 35-inch Goodyear mud-terrains that we saw in spy photos just a few weeks back. They’re meaty and huge—way bigger than anything Jeep offers—and I like them a lot.
In a few of the pictures, we can see a bit of the Bronco’s underside. There appears to be a large skid plate under the front cradle likely protecting the steering, suspension, and powertrain bits. The front suspension is fully independent, and that looks like a five-link solid axle in the back with some low-hanging lower control arms. Those control arms are located pretty far outboard, so that’s good, though I’m curious to know where the shock mounts are. It’s nice to see that they don’t appear to be low and inboard like on the Chevy Colorado ZR2.
Also shown is the fuel tank on the passenger’s side. It seems to be covered by a stamped steel skidplate, and sit rather low just like the lower control arm mount on the frame:
There’s also a large rectangular opening in the front of the vehicle just above the skid plate; I don’t know if that’s there to accommodate a remote-mounted charge air cooler for a turbocharged engine, or if it’s there to house sensors for driver’s assist feature development. It looks like there’s some sort of glass in that opening, as shown in the photo below—adaptive cruise control, perhaps?
The real story, though, is the two-door-ish-ness. I mean, just look at how boxy and upright this thing looks with just a pair of side closures—it’s fantastic!:
The black covering on the top and rear section makes it clear that this Bronco will definitely be convertible (we’ve seen enough patents to know that by now). Between that, the huge tires, the small overhangs, the good ground clearance, and the compact wheelbase and cool proportions of this two-door model, I have to admit that I’m pretty pumped for this thing to finally show its sheet metal. It looks like it’ll be a real beast off-road.
Here are some more images of the next-generation Ford Bronco so you can fantasize about the possibilities. I myself am dreaming of V8s and manual transmissions—a tall ask, I know—but you do you: