The 2021 Ford Bronco is a revival done right!

The Ford Bronco just returned after 25 years and SUV enthusiasts are going crazy over it. The boxy hauler is heavily based on the original Bronco of the 1960s, it features a pair of powerful engines, and off-road tech that enables it to tackle the mighty Jeep Wrangler.

Ford apparently spent a few good years drawing a plan to dethrone the Wrangler and the 2021 Bronco is a project that many automakers could learn from. Here’s six things that will probably make the Bronco a highly successful SUV.

Don’t Change Too Much

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While it may seem like many buyers want flamboyant designs and for new-generation models to be radically different, it’s actually quite the opposite. Sure, there are exceptions, most notably in the supercar world or when an old model is heavily outdated, but people actually prefer simpler updates. Especially when it comes to historic nameplates that have a decades of heritage behind them. From this point of view the Bronco is the finest example out there. Although it arrived some 55 years after Ford first introduced the Bronco, the modern SUV looks a lot like its ancestor.

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The first-generation Bronco is the most iconic model of the batch, a true competitor for the then-popular Jeep CJ. It was a compact truck that was light and capable, easy to maintain, and its simple design aged very well. The Bronco changed dramatically and grew much larger after the first-gen model was discontinued in 1977. Ford decided to return to its legendary roots and it’s one of best decisions it made in a long time.

Not only it will draw Bronco enthusiasts into dealerships, but it also returned the SUV to its rightful place, where it can compete with Jeep's most popular offering, the Wrangler.

And under that vintage-inspired shell lies all the modern technology an SUV needs to tackle the great outdoors. It’s the perfect bundle!

Keep the Manual Transmission Alive

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The manual transmission is slowly dying, especially in the United States. Granted, most U.S. drivers don’t want to drive stick and automakers argue that modern automatics help improve performance and fuel economy. Both are fair points, although the performance bit is mostly valid when it comes to high-performance cars built for the track. But the manual transmission doesn’t have to die. Automakers can still offer both, but more importantly, they should do what Ford did here: it built a special manual gearbox for the Bronco.

The SUV comes with a seven-speed manual, but Ford says it's actually a six-speed with a crawler gear. The said crawler gear is actually the short first gear, but you can use to tackle rough terrain and climb big rocks when paired with the low gear of the two-speed transfer case and the shortest rear axle.

In this setup, the first gear is good for up to seven mph in low range and up to 21 mph in high range. The manual isn’t the only option though, which makes sense in today’s market. Ford is also offering a 10-speed automatic gearbox.

Simplicity is Key

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Modern cars are becoming increasingly more complex under the skin, incorporating all sorts of driving assist systems and technology that’s supposed to make a car easier to drive. This causes two issues.

First, many vehicles have lost their appeal as driver's cars, becoming appliances on wheels. Second, too much technology is bad news when it comes to reliability.

Technology breaks down often in many cars and they spend a lot of time at the dealership for fixing. This is why most premium brands fall behind non-premium automakers in all reliability rankings. This is why high volume cars and SUVs, as well as all-new vehicles, need to remain simple.

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This doesn’t mean that state-of-the-art technology is a no-no, it just means that cars should not be loaded with features and systems they don’t really need. This is exactly that Ford did with the Bronco, adding only technology that’s useful in an off-road vehicle. What’s more, the Bronco’s modular layout makes it easy to remove the roof and doors, as well as the fenders. Easily removable roofs and doors will help you create the desired layout in no time, while the easily removable fenders enables quicker disassembly for repairs.

2 Door SUVs Can Still Draw Attention if Done Right

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Two-door SUVs used to be a thing back in the day. The original Bronco used to be a two-door only and it survived like that for more than 30 years. However, this body style is no longer popular and automakers dropped them one by one. The Jeep Cherokee, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Blazer and Tahoe, they all used to be available as two-door models. There was also the Mitsubishi Pajero and the Toyota RAV4 and 4Runner. Nowadays, the Jeep Wrangler is the only two-door SUV available in the U.S. besides the brand-new Bronco. We could say that the two-door SUV is mostly dead, so does it make any sense to still offer one in 2020?

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Totally! And the Bronco is solid proof that two-door haulers can still be a thing is done right. Granted, this "done right" thing depends on many factors. The Bronco is a potent off-roader that many enthusiasts will prefer in the shorter two-door layout, but it also benefits from its solid heritage as a two-door SUV. They will never be as popular as their four-door counterparts, but brands like Toyota, Nissan, and Chevy should consider offering two-door versions of their historic SUVs. Do it right and people will buy them.

Keep Prices Reasonable

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The Bronco is one of the most iconic nameplates in the United States and its revival caused so much excitement that Ford's reservation web page for the SUV was flooded with requests to the point that it stopped working for a while.

The First Edition model became sold out in a matter of hours. With that much popularity on its hands, Ford could have easily charged a lot more for the Bronco and gotten away with it based on nostalgia alone. But it didn’t. The Bronco comes with a reasonable starting price of $29,995, which makes it less than $2,000 more expensive than the entry-level Jeep Wrangler. Sure, the higher trims will go for way more than $30,000 and some models might even surpass the $40K mark, but there’s a Bronco for everyone. Every SUV should come in an affordable configuration to satisfy demand from customers that require a bare-bones model they can modify and abuse on rocky trails.

Ford Bronco Sport Pricing
MSRP
Bronco Sport Base $26,660
Bronco Sport Big Bend $28,160
Bronco Sport Outer Banks $32,160
Bronco Sport Badlands $32,660
Bronco Sport First Edition $38,500

Revive Iconic Nameplates

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History is very important when it comes to cars. And we see that when a carmaker discontinues a historic nameplate. As soon as an iconic nameplate with a cult following goes under, enthusiasts complain about how it was a bad decision and how a new-generation model should follow.

Sure, fan requests don't always translate into sales, but we've seen plenty of nameplates return with great success, including the Toyota Supra, Ford Ranger, Fiat 500 and Volkswagen Beetle.

Some nameplates have remained in production for decades and their long history contributes to their popularity. The Porsche 911 is a good example here.

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A Bronco revival has been in the rumor mill for more than a decade now, and its return has been one of the most anticipated. That’s a sign that historic nameplates need to be kept alive or revived with strong links to its most successful predecessor. The modern Bronco harkens back to the original compact SUV, not the later full-size model, and that’s exactly why enthusiasts are going crazy over it. When it comes to nameplate revivals done right, the 2021 Ford Bronco is the finest example out there.


Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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