It was a long two years plus of excitement, speculation, and spy photos, but Ford has finally officially unveiled the 2021 Bronco family. These three 4x4s have certainly captured the automotive world's attention, as they bring back a revered nameplate that's clearly been missed since its last appearance, in the 1996 model year. Now that we all know a lot more about the upcoming trio of Broncos, we're even more eager, as these beasts will claim quite a few best-in-class features (i.e., base horsepower, torque, articulation, water fording, and more).

The availability of two rugged truck-based Broncos - a two-door and a four-door with removable roof and doors - and the somewhat more easygoing unibody Bronco Sport shows that under this legendary nameplate, there's truly something for every driver. During the July 13th live online introduction, Ford opened reservations, with the larger Bronco quickly selling out the 3,500 spots to claim one of its limited First Edition models. These go-anywhere vehicles will become the first domestic model to come standard with a 4x4 drivetrain and are set to give the Jeep Wrangler some serious competition when they finally hit dealerships this winter.

Mechanical Specs

The two body-on-frame Broncos (the two-door and the four-door) are based on the Ford Ranger pickup and feature desirable retro styling complete with a rear-mounted spare tire. The base engine will be a 270 horsepower 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that makes a class-leading 310 pounds-feet of torque. The big news is that its powertrain partner is a standard 7-speed manual transmission. Read that again if you need to: that's a seven-speed stick - a first in this segment - with that unusual seventh speed used for off-road crawling. A ten-speed automatic transmission will be available for those who prefer it. Higher trims will get a twin-turbo 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 generating best-in-class horsepower of 310, plus 400 lb.-ft. of torque. Four-wheel drive is standard, with advanced 4WD with automatic on-demand available.

The smaller sibling, the Bronco Sport, is based on the Ford Escape and gets the same engine options. The turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost (181 hp and 190 lb.-ft. of torque), comes on the Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks. The Badlands and First Edition get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder Twin Scroll EcoBoost making a segment-leading 245 hp and 275 lb.-ft. of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and 4x4 drivetrain come standard; the trims with the larger engine get the advanced 4x4 system. Although it won't be the same off-pavement powerhouse as the truck-platform Bronco four-door and two-door, it will still be quite rugged and trail-ready to take on the Jeep Cherokee (and the Toyota RAV4 Adventure, for that matter).

Taking on the Wrangler - and Then Some

Ford has had Jeep on its toes since Ford first leaked news in 2018 of a solid plan to bring back the Bronco nameplate. Ford's R&D was exhaustive, with years of intensive work on the dusty, rocky proving grounds, as they formed the tenets of the new Built Wild branding that these Broncos fall under (keep your eye out for the Blue Oval to introduce more Built Wild vehicles in future model years). Their work included seeing to it that the Bronco trio does things better than the Jeep vehicles they compete directly with. For example, the removable doors on the two Ranger-based Broncos have a much more user-friendly system for removal, storage, and reinstallation - and the four-door version even has designated space in the cargo area to store the doors (with the two-door Bronco and the Wrangler, you'll need to decide before leaving home whether you want the doors on or off). The attachment hardware for the doors is also simplified on the Broncos, whereas the Wrangler has small pieces that are too easily misplaced. The Bronco pair has a few roof options, with the two-door getting a standard hard top and the four-door getting a standard soft top. Both versions are eligible for their own model-specific upgraded hard top.

Trim Levels

The trim levels for the different Bronco siblings use mostly the same nomenclature, with the expected variations in their specs. The truck-based 4x4s come in Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak, and First Edition, while the unibody 4x4 drops the Wildtrak from its list. As always, the trim levels have unique lists of standard features, which get more deluxe as the cost rises. What the target market for this vehicle family will be most interested in is the off-road capabilities. You'll find that while all Broncos are made for the trails, some trims are outfitted for more intense trail use, with skid plates, steel bumpers, rock rails, off-road suspension, transfer cases, and other features tuned for the mud and rocks. Ford's clever term is G.O.A.T. - Goes Over Any Terrain - and each trim has its own set of five to seven G.O.A.T. modes (Eco, Sport, Slippery, Sand, Baja, Mud, and Rock Crawl) for specific driving.

Ford also offers an array of optional packages that buyers can choose to further customize their Bronco. For example, the Sasquatch Package adds, among other things, 35-inch mud-specific tires. The automaker also promises there will be dozens of accessories available when the vehicles finally arrive at dealerships in late 2020 or early 2021.

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