Opinion: There's Something the 2021 Ford Bronco is Missing

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

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]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • EBFlex EBFlex on Jun 30, 2021

    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.

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Jul 01, 2021

      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.

  • Frank908 Frank908 on Jul 01, 2021

    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.

  • Jerry Haan I have these same lights, and the light output, color, and coverage is amazing!Be aware, these lights interfere with AM and FM radio reception with the stereoreceiver I have in my garage. When the lights are on, I all the AM stations havelots of static, and there are only a couple of FM stations that are clear. When Iturn the lights off, all the radio stations work fine. I have tried magnetic cores on the power cords of the lights, that did not makeany change. The next thing I am going to try is mounting an antenna in my atticto get them away from the lights. I contacted the company for support, they never responded.
  • Lou_BC Are Hot Wheels cars made in China?
  • DS No for 2 reasons. 1-Every new car pipelines data back to the manufacturer; I don't like it with domestic, Japanese and Euro companies and won't put up with it going to Chinese companies that are part financed by their government. 2-People have already mentioned Vinfast, but there's also the case of Hyundai. Their cars were absolutely miserable for years before they learned enough about the US market
  • Theflyersfan Well, if you're on a Samsung phone, (noticing all of the shipping boxes are half Vietnamese), you're using a Vietnam-built phone. Apple? Most of ours in the warehouse say China, but they are trying to spread out to other countries because putting all eggs in the Chinese basket right now is not wise. I'm asking Apple users here (the point of above) - if you're OK using an expensive iPhone, where is your Made in China line in the sand? Can't stress this enough - not being confrontational. I am curious, that's all. Is it because Apple is California-based that manufacturing location doesn't matter, vs a company in a Beijing skyscraper? We have all weekend to hopefully have a civil discussion about how much is too much when it comes to supporting companies being HQ-ed in adversarial countries. I, for one, can't pull the trigger on a Chinese car. All kinds of reasons - political, human rights, war mongering and land grabbing - my morality is ruling my decisions with them.
  • Jbltg Ford AND VAG. What could possibly go wrong?
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