By Jon Maib
I recently got a chance to climb in an out of the new Ford Bronco at a local off-road park. This won't be an in-depth look at its off-road prowess, but more a look at what I believe Ford has been shooting for.

For the last several years, the Jeep Wrangler has been the top dog in the off-road world, one of the only brands really focused on off-road while keeping with their heritage and giving off-road rated badges to their lineup of vehicles. This is not the first time the Jeep has been in this position of market power, let's take a look back in time to the year 1965.

In '65, Jeep had cornered the market on the off-road vehicle. Most of it's sales, up until the early 60's, were GI's who were buying old military surplus as well as some of the newer vehicles that Willys – Overland and Kaiser was producing at the time. Jeep was the go-to vehicle for off-road fun and everyone seemed to be watching from the sidelines. However, Ford began to look at the Jeeps of the day and thought they could do better. Engineers began looking at the Jeep and what it was capable of and began using those ideas to build the first ever Ford Bronco. In August of 1965, Ford introduced the first generation Bronco. It followed in step with the Jeep of the day with standard 4 wheel drive, a short wheelbase, and featured better on-road handling than the Jeep. They also concentrated on driver comfort as well as its off-road prowess. The first generation bronco was available in 3 body styles, a wagon, a convertible and a pickup truck.

Does this sound familiar? Here we are, 2021, Jeep has the market, Ford has re-looked at the Jeep market and said, we can do better (again). Here we sit looking at 3 new Bronco body styles (like in '65), the 2 door, the 4 door and the renegade, whoops, I mean the Bronco Sport.
I was able to take a look at the four door and my first thought was that it is definitely wrangler-ish. The 4 door has taken many notes from the JKU/JLU and created a similar type vehicle. I noticed that Ford concentrated on driver comfort once again. There is plenty of leg room inside the Bronco and the driver and passenger areas did not feel cramped. They also concentrated on road handling by going IFS (Independent Front Suspension) instead of a solid front axle. This ensures that the Bronco will never suffer from the dreaded 'death wobble' that Jeeps suffer from. I can't speak to the ride yet as I've not had the opportunity, but based on what I've seen, it looks like it's going to be a great ride.

The Bronco, much like the Jeep, has the ability to take its top and doors off. Looking at the soft top, the Bronco suffers the same issue as the Jeep with where and how to store the top when down, but Ford really tried to control that with the many facets of moving points for the top. The doors seemed really large to me at first, but after looking at them, I realized that there was not a window frame to the door, allowing you to just roll down the window leaving you with a door that is half the size and weight of a Jeep door. This allows you to place them in the provided door bags and toss in the back of the vehicle. At first look, it does not appear that these doors are as quick and easy to take off as a Jeep door, but I'm sure practice will make perfect.

I really like that the styling of the new Bronco as it gives subtle nods to the 1st Gen Broncos. That must have been a difficult feat for Ford as the Government has very specific requirements for Aerodynamics/fuel milage these days. The Front grille is in true Bronco fashion as are the fenders and hood. The interior is simplified and all driver controls are easily and quickly accessible, most within the drivers eye line.

Overall, I think Ford really did their homework to ensure that the new Bronco has a spot in the off-road community and is poised to knock Jeep off their pedestal. Do I see the Bronco as a Jeep killer? Nope, we've seen this rodeo before, but the competition is good and will force Jeep to rethink their place (as we have already seen with the release of the Rubicon Xtreme Recon package), giving us better products in the future! The Bronco / Jeep debate has been ongoing for over 50 years now, so I expect to see the same sort of out come as before, great competition! While the 2 door Bronco was not on display, I'd say that the 2 door pays closer homage to the Gen 1 Broncos where the 4 door is just going after the JLU market. I'd love to see Toyota get back in the game and we'll really see history repeat itself and have a lot of fun watching! Now that the Bronco has finally begun shipping, hopefully I will be able to review the off-road prowess of the Bronco soon, so stay tuned.