Ford first promised the Bronco would return at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, along with the Ranger. While the automaker's midsize pickup is already on sale at dealers, its rough-and-tumble utility vehicle sibling has yet to make its debut.
Even though Ford has remained tight-lipped on the Bronco thus far, the company has confirmed a few things, and there are plenty of rumors to keep us waiting with bated breath until its actual reveal in spring of 2020. Here's everything we know so far.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the new Bronco is what will live under the hood. Ford has a wide variety of engines on offer, but considering the Ranger sports a 2.3-liter, turbocharged inline-four, that's a good place to start, especially considering a possible leak might have confirmed it. Ford also said during a shareholder call that it will launch a hybrid Bronco variant in the future, as well.
Given that the Bronco will share a platform with the Ranger, it's likely that a number of the Ranger's underlying bits will transfer over to the Bronco. Parts like the 10-speed automatic transmission, two-speed transfer case and electric power steering could all make an appearance, but Ford hasn't discussed much yet.
Since the Bronco is a global vehicle, there's a good chance that other markets will receive something other than a gas engine. Overseas Ranger variants, including the Ranger Raptor, sport a four-cylinder diesel engine, but given the US distaste for diesels, each market will likely receive powertrains tailored to its needs and wants.
There's one very interesting rumor that Ford has not yet confirmed. According to some serious digging on Jalopnik's part, it's believed that the Bronco might be offered with a seven-speed manual transmission. That would certainly give it a unique touch, and it would match the fact that Jeep offers a manual transmission in the Wrangler, but Ford hasn't spoken to that rumor at this point.
Ford's iconic Bronco throughout history (pictures) 12 Photos
Features and tech
The most notable rumor about the Bronco's potential features focuses on the body panels. Multiple patent filings have hinted at removable doors, which would make sense, given its closest competitor offers the same kind of functionality. A report claims that Ford's dealers were at one point shown a Bronco with removable doors and a removable top, further strengthening the argument that Bronco drivers will be able to experience plenty of sun and sky behind the wheel.
It's also possible that the Bronco may mirror the Wrangler and offer solid axles front and rear. A presentation from axle supplier Dana said it's working on the Bronco's axles, but the company builds both solid axles and independent suspensions, so a beam-axle Bronco isn't necessarily a given, but that would give it a major boost in the ruggedness department.
When it comes to the Bronco's tech, we haven't even heard many rumors to that end. But, given that it's a new Ford vehicle, it's not silly to assume that the Bronco will carry Ford's upcoming Sync 4 infotainment system, which includes support for both wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
A report from October cited an engineer's profile that claimed the individual has worked with Ford on the new Bronco, and may have supplied clues to some of the other technology we'll see. For example, it mentioned an off-road navigation system and something called "Convoy Communications." The off-road navigation is already in use for the Ranger Raptor sold overseas, so it's a safe bet we'll see it on the Bronco. As for the communications feature, it's not clear what that may be. It could provide a way to chat with other Bronco owners, perhaps over the FordPass app somehow.
Since the SUV will share a platform with the Ranger, the Bronco should also have similar driver assistance systems on offer. For context, the Ranger currently offers a suite of active and passive tech that includes automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.
Design and variants
Ford has positively locked down any conversation on the Bronco's looks or possible variants. While we have certainly heard through the grapevine that dealers have taken a peek at the new SUV, nothing managed to leak — until this March.
On March 9, photos of the four-door and two-door Bronco surfaced on social media, and with them, the front and side profiles are totally visible. Ford wouldn't confirm or deny the photos validity, but we do have reason to believe they're legitimate. Overall, Ford didn't skimp on the retro vibes with round headlights and "Bronco" spelled out across the grille. The two-door Bronco looks even better in its side profile with a short, stubby profile.
The latest photos confirm previous pictures Ford published from one dealer meeting are not of the Bronco, but the "Baby Bronco," likely called the Bronco Sport. Even better, these leaked images match a teaser Ford published earlier and show the automaker is clearly taking its vintage designs into account when creating these new vehicles, even if the smaller Bronco might be a unibody crossover relying on components from other Ford vehicles.
Ford's own teasers and internet leaks have given us an idea of what to expect, but the new Bronco R race truck for the Baja 1000 has given us our best, confirmed idea yet of what the production Bronco will look like. It's a two-door with boxy proportions and looks rad as hell in racing form, with retro-yet-modern design touches. Details like the grille, greenhouse, and fender flares seem to be taken directly from the production Bronco.
Ford Bronco comes to life in off-road-ready R form 21 Photos
There's a chance the Bronco will spawn its own pickup variant, too. A report from July claimed that Ford will build its own bulky pickup to match FCA's efforts, much like Jeep did with the Gladiator. If you're worried about brand cannibalization, given that the Ranger already exists, there's some precedent here — FCA is reportedly working on a proper midsize pickup under Ram that will stand as a significantly cheaper way to slide into a small truck. The Gladiator is … expensive.
Even though some of its development is taking place in Australia, Ford's sales boss in the region told the Aussie site Carsales that the Bronco won't be offered in right-hand-drive markets.
Potential release date and price
Release dates are usually the last thing an automaker announces for a given car, so it's likely we still have quite some time to wait before Ford tells us when the Bronco will go on sale. At the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, Ford said that the Ranger would debut in 2019, which it did, followed by the Bronco in 2020.
Ford has now announced that the new Bronco will debut in spring of 2020, but gave no further details. That points to the Bronco likely being a 2021 model that should go into production by the end of 2020. As for when exactly it will debut, we think it's most likely that Ford will wait until June to give the rescheduled Detroit Auto Show one heck of an inaugural splash — early June is still spring, after all.
A February report said we'll see the Bronco bow this March. The news supposedly broke at a national Ford dealership meeting, where the Blue Oval said it'll reveal the Bronco in March. However, none of this is confirmed just yet. A debut at the New York Auto Show in April could happen, too, but ongoing coronavirus concerns could end up scrapping the event.
One thing we do know, though, is that the Bronco will be built right here in the US of A, at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan.
As for price, potential competitors like the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner start between $30,000 and $35,000, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect the Bronco to land somewhere in that range, but Ford has not confirmed that.
Originally published Sept. 24, 2019 and updated frequently.