The 2020 Ford Bronco Could Have a Retractable Cloth Roof and Removable Doors - A True Jeep Wrangler Competitor
Ford patent filings suggest Bronco will go after Jeep Wranglerby Andrei Nedelea, on
Life for the Jeep Wrangler might become more difficult and complicated as there are other manufacturers out there plotting its demise by launching competitive alternatives to it. Land Rover is on the final stretch with its all-new Defender, as is Ford with its upcoming Bronco, a model that, according to some recent patent filings, is apparently going to have many of the same party pieces as the Wrangler. It may not have the folding windshield, but a removable top and removable doors are certainly on the list of goodies for the Bronco.
The 2020 Ford Bronco Will Have a Removable Top and Doors
The first patent filing is for removable doors, a feature that not many off-road oriented vehicles have, but it’s a feature that you only really associate with the Wrangler these days. But, since Ford filed for this patent, it must intend to use this technical solution on an upcoming vehicle, and we presume it’s the new Bronco.
The patent drawings themselves show how the doors can be removed from the hinges, which we must mention don’t appear to be exposed, like on the Jeep.
Although these drawings are far from intricate and may be intentionally hiding this detail. It also shows where extra bracing goes in the gap left by the door. There are two horizontal bars that close the gap and are there to maintain body rigidity sans doors and protect occupants in the event of a side impact.
Yes, that’s right, it appears the 2020 Ford Bronco will have some beams in place of the door, so it could either be that you take the door off completely, or you actually just detach it from these beams. The patent isn’t especially clear on this matter. We also presume all four doors will be removable on the four-door version of the Bronco, even though the patent drawings only show the two-door. This type of layout is similar to the beam doors available from Mopar for the Wrangler.
In the Jeep Wrangler rival, the doors can be easily removed by using one of the Allen keys provided in the small tool kit that comes with the vehicle. All you have to do is fold in the side mirror, if you’re trying to take off one of the front doors, then fully open the side window and then you can finally undo the two bolts that hold the door in place. Once these are out, you may have to unplug the harness that feeds power to the power locks and electric windows, then all you have to do is lift the door out and away.
Ford will have to mirror Jeep’s approach to a degree - not necessarily copy the exact same system, but at leasts make it easy for future Bronco owners to be able to remove the doors themselves. The fact that the Wrangler has exposed hinges makes it considerably easier to access the bolts that hold them in place, as well as putting any door back in its place. What Ford could do is find a way to keep the weight of these doors down, because in the Jeep they’re quite heavy and some people may need assistance with carrying them - door removal on the Wrangler can be a two person operation if you’re not strong or handy enough.
We don’t really know what the story with the horizontal beams running through the Bronco door gap is. They could be non-removable and what you will do is unbolt the doors from those and move them out of the way, although it sounds like a more complicated operation - you’d have to essentially split the door into two (exterior and interior) sides and remove them separately, revealing the bracing within. Or the bracing could be added afterward as a separate piece for each door opening. The patent drawings can only tell us so much, and this as far as I’m going with the prediction, in order to keep things accurate based on what we know for certain so far.
But that’s not the only patent recently filed by Ford that perfectly fits for the Bronco project.
The other is a detachable canvas top that seems to be made of two layers: one is a mesh type material, and the other is just a regular cloth. Both are removable, as per the patent drawings, and they may very well be available on all Bronco models because it appears that they can remain in place even with the hardtop panels on top.
The cloth top also appears to only cover the roof part; the sides are open, so once you remove the hardtop, the vehicle most likely won’t be weathertight. This could be similar to the removable top on the old-school Bronco. On the front (or four-door models) you’ll still probably be able to roll up the windows, but air will still come into the vehicle around them.
Ford has undeniably looked over the fence into Jeep’s yard since the Wrangler is the vehicle to beat in the segment, so we expect the Bronco to have similar roof options to it - not the same, but comparable. The Wrangler can be had with a full removable hardtop or a soft top that can be pulled back for a convertible-like experience. The doors still extend all the way to the roof on most models, so it’s not really a full convertible experience, but you can get lower doors and a different soft top roof that includes plastic side windows and rear window on the two-door only.
With that being said, it looks like Ford isn’t copying Jeep’s approach, but more so cooking up its own technical solutions in order to achieve the same results. The thing is Jeep has been perfecting an easily removable yet watertight and lightweight, soft top roof for years, whereas Ford is only now getting in on the action. The full soft top Wrangler doesn’t use clips, velcro or any kind of latch, as Jeep has devised a system of channels that you just need to slot the roof into and it just slides into place - it’s about as good as manual soft tops get and there really isn’t another system on the market like it.
It looks like Ford won’t go for a soft top roof that folds in the back of the greenhouse but then kind of sticks out, like it does in the latest Wrangler. The Blue Oval will probably give the Bronco one of those soft tops that rolls up electrically, like you get in, say, a Fiat 500C. You will be able to remove it completely in the Ford too, just like you can in the Jeep, but it will have to be completely rolled up before being taken out. Ford might be going for a bit more convenience with the roof itself, although it is by no means clear how the sides of the vehicle are going to be sealed - is it going to use full height doors that go all the way up to the roof, or just have low doors and have canvas extend down from the roof with plastic side windows? We really don’t know yet.
Both the removable doors and multi-layer removable roof would help the Bronco assert itself as a Wrangler rival, as well as keep its other upcoming rival, the Land Rover Defender, at bay. It too is expected to have a removable roof, although this will only be the case for the short-wheelbase, two-door model; the doors themselves are probably not going to be made easy to remove judging by what comments the company has made about the Defender so far.
We’re pretty sure that both Ford and Land Rover will offer their new off-roaders in a variety of flavors, from more utilitarian-minded versions for those who just want to go off-road and don’t really want or need amenities to the other end of the spectrum for those who just want the look of these vehicles but prefer a more plush, luxurious cabin. The manufacturers will cater to this type of buyer too; we already know, for instance, that the long-wheelbase Defender will be sold as a more luxurious model, so Ford may follow suit.
The upcoming Bronco will be provided with extra validation by the addition of what we currently call “the Baby Bronco,” a softer, smaller high-rider that Ford specifically left room for in the range when it made the all-new Escape / Kuga - a vehicle mainly designed to be driven on the road.
This move will put the small and big Bronco models into perspective for those buyers who will take their SUVs off-road and leave the Escape (and upcoming Puma small crossover) for those that will generally drive on tarmac.
The big Ford Bronco is expected to debut by the end of 2020 at a major motor show, most likely an American one. There’s also a good chance the so-called baby Bronco will be revealed in the same year or no later than 2021, according to some unofficial reports.
Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Ford Bronco.
Read our full review on the 2019 Jeep Wrangler.