By on June 30, 2021

Ford Bronco

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.

[Image: Ford]

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34 Comments on “Opinion: There’s Something the 2021 Ford Bronco is Missing...”


  • avatar
    James2

    If you think Ford is stopping here you’ve got a few brain cells missing. You don’t know what’s under the hood of the coming Warthog. Farley has hinted at a Bronco EV. Jeez, give them some time.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It’s not really “a V8 option” unless it’s a $1,200 upgrade available on all models.

    A turbo V6 would be a decent substitute. But diesels are a bad idea for light vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      Denver
      Agreed. Pass on the diesels. They are too choked off on smog equipment and too high priced to compete with a gas engine. A V 6 would be perfect for me.

      PS- I love diesels. I want to buy a Peugeot 505 diesel manual. If I can ever find one.
      PPS- I grew up on a farm. Many hours on diesel tractors. I find it greatly interesting that pre smog DEF farm tractors are selling at premium / insane prices. Farmers see that smog /DEF engines are not good/ desirable. Their votes – with their dollars – say smogged diesels are garbage.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Smogged diesels are garbage for the operator (and mostly fraudulent anyway) and unsmogged diesels are garbage for everyone else in the general vicinity. Get diesel out of all on-road vehicles smaller than Class 3 trucks.

  • avatar

    Still waiting for a multipage article by Adam on the Ford delivery issues with the Bronco.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I suspect the hybrid powertrain announced for the Maverick will make its way to the Bronco, once they figure out how to do 4WD with it.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      No – that’s a transverse system so it won’t plug-n-play. The mildest hybrid we’re likely to see will be the Explorer’s NA V6-based powertrain. The mpg’s aren’t stellar, but it is fully capable even for towing. Personally, I think using a 2.3T-based hybrid could strike the right balance. The wildest potential system will be the Aviator’s plug-in powertrain, which would be an absolute blast in the Bronco.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      They know how to do 4wd with the Maverick’s Hybrid system, see the Escape for mechanical and the the Corsair for electric.

      However as Rocked mentioned that is a transverse application so what it gets will be based on the system that uses the RWD 10sp trans like the F-150, Explorer and Aviator. The only question is which engine will they pair it with. I’m thinking the 2.7 is most likely.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Let me p off the internet, it needs a low priced 2 wheel drive option While shopping for a AWD car the Cherokee came up, Wow! $22,000 seemed pretty cheap. It took me awhile to figure out it was 2WD. Good way to get you in the door.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Except for full-size trucks, diesels are radioactive at this point; the Bronco will never get one.

    Hybrid or BEV seem possible, but a BEV version will be expen$ive and inefficient for that brick shape.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    We have all but confirmation that there will be a Bronco EV. I really hope it has four motors, as that would unlock some ridiculous off-road capabilities, but so far the automakers’ judgment seems to be that such a setup is too complex and expensive.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    At last count Ford had what … 125,000 confirmed Bronco orders? It seems a little unfair to criticize anything Ford has or hasn’t done at this point. IF Ford hasn’t announced any alternate powertrains by the time those orders are filled, then maybe we can start armchair quarterbacking their powertrain decisions. But even if the expected hybrids never come, which seems extremely unlikely, the Warthog addition will still leave Ford with three very solid powertrains. Jeep might have more, but their lineup as a whole is inferior.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Now do Ram vs F-150.

    While the 4xe and 392 are interesting they are really just whimsy at their current volume and/or price. The Jeep diesel is a thing that might swing someone, but so is the EB V6.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    It’s OK Tim. Bronco has twice the choices of Ranger. Be thankful.
    No oil burner for Ranger, no hybrid for Ranger, no V6 for Ranger, no V8 for Ranger.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Complaining about a lack of V8 or hybrid compared to Jeep? Seriously….

    How many $80,000 392’s will they sell?

    A hybrid will come.

    Diesel…ask Jeep guys about problems with that engine…oh and smaller fuel tank to make room for DEF tank.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    It is not surprising that they only launched it with 3 power train options as there are so many other permutations that they have to deal with.

    We do know a Bronco Raptor is on the way and by all accounts it should have more HP and TQ than the current 2.7. How they do that is still to be determined but rumors are a EB 3.0 V6.

    A hybrid is also highly likely as you reported there are sightings of trucks with HV wiring undergoing testing. Which engine it is to be paired with of course is still unknown.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    Its not like the current Jeep debuted with the diesel, hybrid, or 392 either. Give it some time. The Warthog will certainly have a power boost. And if there is a diesel Ranger, its a good bet it would fit the Bronco too if there is demand.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Jeeps are shit

  • avatar
    SD 328I

    The vehicle is just launching, but you want a diesel, V8 and electric as well?

    Trying to compare its powertrain options to a Wrangler that is a very mature platform? It already trounces the Wrangler platform in just about every way, including engine power if you exclude the low production and costly 394 V8 option.

    Give it a year or two more, they will likely introduce more powertrain options. I mean the diesel option and the 394 V8 on the Wrangler are pretty recent editions on the Wrangler.

    When you consider the Wrangler has had the I4 Turbo and 3.6L as their only options until recently, its pretty ridiculous to expect Ford to have all those engine covered at launch.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Exactly. Why launch with every option? Wait for sales to dip then give those on the fence a little push with an other choice. Diesel? Forget it. Hybrid? Maybe. A V8? not likely. The fact that you can get a manual is shocking enough.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The 392 Ruby might as well be a million bucks. It ain’t happening for regular folk, and or rational. A V8 swap would be 10’s of thousands less. Mute article.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Powertrain is one of many areas where the Ranger SUV is lacking. It’s yet more proof that this was a side project from start to finish.

    It needs the 5.0L V8, it needs a higher tow rating, it desperately needs better interior materials (especially for the outrageously high price point), it needs a transmission that isn’t garbage, it needs better styling (it’s so bland) and it needs to simply be made. But all of that is asking too much.

    What it doesn’t need is a pointless hybrid or electric version. The vehicle is bad enough as it is, adding EV/hybrid options will only make it worse. An overpriced Ranger SUV with a horrid range, glitchy software, and long recharge times will not help it.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Every truck/SUV in the midsize class needs a V8, the Wrangler and Bronco especially. Styling is subjective but stuff that’s overly done gets old very quick. The Germans have this figured out. Bland at a glance but they grow on you.

      Historically transmissions have been Ford’s weakest link.

  • avatar
    frank908

    Oh, so we should also expect the real interior that they really planned and not the underwhelming parts-bin one they launched with. Good to know.
    Meanwhile, back at Jeep, they continue to introduce interiors that today’s customers expect thanks to the likes of what Hyundai Group keeps pumping out lately.

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