Baloney: Ford Bronco, Ranger Getting Solid Front Axle
It’ll never happen…by Mark McNabb, on
Word is circulating the rumor mill that both the 2019 Ford Ranger and the 2020 Ford Bronco will have solid front and rear axles, making both the only light-duty contenders outside the Jeep Wrangler to use such a suspension setup. The news comes from Automotive News, which reported famed axle maker Dana confirmed both Ford products will use its “AdvanTEK gear technology.” AN then made the assumption this means solid axles. There’s only on problem…
It’s not true.
What is true is Dana has indeed been selected as Ford’s axle provider for the Ranger and Bronco. What isn’t true is the solid, beam-style design. Dana’s AdvanTEK gear technology is indeed used in solid axles, but is also used in independent suspension systems, as well. See, AdvanTEK is a gear technology, not a particular style of axle. Dana markets the AdvanTEK brand as “delivering more miles per gallon, enhanced vehicle performance, and maximum durability for the complete spectrum of light vehicles.”
Further more, solid axles are good at two things: off-roading and being extremely strong. Conversely, solid axles are not so great at on-road driving. Ever heard of the Jeep “death wobble?” While the Bronco and Ranger would benefit tremendously off-road with a solid front axle, the on-road trade-off is far too great for Ford to okay the idea. What’s more, Ford has confirmed the U.S.-spec ranger will be based off the T6 global Ranger. That pickup uses an independent front suspension design. And since the Bronco will be based off the U.S.-spec Ranger, it too will have an independent front suspension.
Keep reading for the rest of the story.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for the Bronco to have a solid front axle. It would give it an outstanding ability to keep up with the Jeep Wrangler, offer greater aftermarket options with lift kits and suspension upgrades, and make the Bronco a rogue hard-core SUV in a sea of soft crossovers. However, Ford will surely use an independent front suspension design with a Dana-supplied front differential and axle half-shafts that route through the double A-arm and MacPherson strut suspension.
This might cut down on the Bronco and Ranger’s off-road capabilities, but it will make both drastically better on-road handlers. And after all, a vast majority of folks spend more time on paved roads than broken trails.
Now I fully believe both the Bronco and Ranger will use a solid axle in the rear position. This is far more feasible with suspension tuning and is used on a wide variety of SUVs today. Every pickup save for the Honda Ridgeline also uses a solid rear axle, as well. Ford will likely use a leaf spring suspension on the Ranger and a multi-link coil spring suspension on the Bronco. Nevertheless, I fully expect both the Ranger and Bronco will be more than capable of hitting the trail with the best of its competition. Perhaps the Jeep Wrangler will edge out the Bronco when it comes to rock crawling, but otherwise, the two should be evenly match. Well, except for when it comes time to drive on the road. In that case, the Bronco will out-perform the Wrangler in every metric. That is, unless Jeep works some voodoo magic on the upcoming Wrangler JL’s solid axle front suspension system.
Why It Matters
Solid axles are great, but they are terrible in every driving situation that doesn’t include 4WD Low or carrying 30,000 pounds of trailer to the back of your Heavy Duty pickup. (Both Ford and Ram have solid front axles under their HD pickups) Using this suspension system would be an epic waste of time and would likely deter Bronco and Ranger sales after average buyers decided solid axles drive like crap and leave dealerships without purchasing.
Jeep gets away with a solid axle under the Wrangler’s front end in a couple ways. First, the Wrangler is just so darn iconic. Folks just want to own and drive a Wrangler with the top and doors off. They want other Jeepers to “Jeep Wave” them. Second, they want to order aftermarket parts from one of the hundreds of companies that cater to the exploding Jeep market. The Jeep Wrangler is the automotive equivalent of a LEGO set, with nearly every nut and bolt having some sort of aftermarket upgrade. LED lights, bumpers, winches, lift kits, wheels – you name it.
The Bronco simply doesn’t have that market built up. Given time, Ford could undoubted build a similar scene, but it would take years. Ford needs to make money on Day One of Bronco sales. SUVs and crossovers are hot these days, and the addition of the rough-and-tumble Bronco will undoubted be a big rock making waves in the tranquil pond of dopy crossovers, but Ford can’t overlook the average consumer in hopes of attracting the enthusiast – at least not yet.
As for the Ranger pickup, why make it drive worse than its competition? The Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier all have independent front suspensions. Having older, less attractive technology is just asinine. The Ranger, after all, is a mid-size truck not designed to carry extraordinarily heavy loads like its Super Duty big brother.
In the end, both the Ranger and Bronco will indeed come with Dana axles and gears. Just don’t expect them to have solid axles up front.
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2020 Ford Bronco
Read our full review on the upcoming 2020 Ford Bronco here.
2019 Ford Ranger
Read our full review on the upcoming 2019 Ford Ranger here.
Source: Automotive News