We reviewed the 2021 Ford Bronco earlier this week, and while my feelings toward Ford’s new rival for the Jeep Wrangler were more or less on the positive side of the ledger, I do feel that something is missing.
That thing is a broader range of powertrains.
As you no doubt know by now, the Bronco offers two engines. Both are turbocharged gas engines.
There is no electrification, not even a mild-hybrid setup. There’s no diesel option. Not even a hi-po V8 for performance (God, the Coyote V8 in a Bronco, maybe with a beefed-up manual…one can dream).
Given that Jeep introduced the diesel in 2020 and the hybrid 4XE and 392 Rubicon for this year, it seems like Ford knew what Jeep had planned as it worked on the Bronco. So I asked – why gas turbos only for now?
Did Ford not know what Jeep had planned? Did Ford have plans for a wider range of engines but they just weren’t ready? Does Ford have plans for more engines and it was always the plan to stagger the introductions?
After all, Ford head honcho Jim Farley has said to be on the lookout for an “electric SUV.” Whether that’s a Bronco or not, or whether it’s full EV or merely electrified, we don’t know.
A Bronco hybrid was apparently spotted by spy shooters this week.
Ford’s response to me was the typical PR speak I expected: “We believe the all-new Bronco two- and four-door models and our only EcoBoost powertrain lineup is best suited to support our adventurers’ off-roading needs, especially with best-in-class four- and six-cylinder power and torque.”
Parse that answer carefully and you’ll note that it’s a way to dodge the question about future product, as well as avoiding any insight into Ford’s thought process. Understandable, as companies don’t want to give away secrets.
The “best suited” part does read, if taken at face value, as if Ford feels the two current engines are the best possible for Bronco. But it leaves a tiny bit of wiggle room – Ford can later say that based on customer/media feedback, it believes the lineup should be expanded. Or some other nonsense that nullifies this statement.
I admit there’s some enthusiast dreaming at play, here – as noted above, a Bronco with a Coyote V8 would be pure fun. And having driven a Wrangler Rubicon 392 shortly before I drove the Bronco, I’d love to know I could summon V8 power at the twitch of my right foot whenever I need to make a pass.
There are also broader market realities to consider. We’re told electrification is the future, and it is (though the timeline is a matter of fierce debate, as Matt as pointed out repeatedly on these pages), and a hybrid would be a step towards that. Not to mention that the Bronco’s fuel economy isn’t great, and a hybrid wouldn’t hurt.
A diesel would also help with MPGs and provide torque for towing.
Finally, we come to the competitive aspects. I already touched on it above, but if Ford wants to truly attack the Wrangler, offering fewer powertrains makes it tougher from the start. The Bronco is better on-road, sure, and offers a few neat tricks for off-roading that the Jeep doesn’t, but some buyers will cross Bronco off the list because of their need/want for diesel or a V8 or electrification. And even if a hybrid is coming soon, some folks won’t wait.
To be fair, Ford may have a strategy that it can’t share with the public. Meaning I can sit here and fulminate all I want, and Ford can just stay mum and show its hand later. That’s how this often goes – manufacturer X releases product Y, it seems to be missing something key (a powertrain, performance trim, whatever), those of us in the automotive press cry about it (figuratively), and one model-year later, the automaker unveils updated product that addresses the criticism.
Still, I find it odd that Ford didn’t launch with at least a hybrid powertrain – and, if it knows what’s coming, didn’t at least preview or tease us. That’s often the standard procedure – get ahead of the message by saying “X is coming” without revealing specs or a launch date.
Ah, well. It’s water under the bridge at this point. The Bronco is launching with two gas engines and that’s that. If you require or want an oil-burner, a hybrid, or eight cylinders, you’re still looking at Jeep.*
At least for now.
*I know Land Rover is dropping a V8 into the Defender, but the Defender’s pricing makes it hard to cross-shop any Defender except the base model against the Bronco.