Meet the born-again Ford Bronco that will soothe your ’90s nostalgia

Ford Bronco leak

After years of leaks, rumors, and speculation, Ford confirmed it’s finally bringing the Bronco SUV back to North American showrooms. The timing is certainly right: Gas prices are relatively low, motorists are buying SUVs faster than car companies can build them, and the footage of O.J. Simpson on the run is gathering dust along with the Sega Saturn in the pantheon of 1990s history.

While the hotly anticipated Bronco won’t make its public debut until 2019, a set of leaked images might have given us an early look at it. Some sources claim the photos show Ford’s so-called baby Bronco, which will be aimed at the Jeep Renegade.

What will it look like?

Photos shown to a group of Ford dealers during an annual meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, suggest the born-again Bronco — assuming that’s indeed what we’re looking at — shares little more than a name and a few styling cues with its predecessors. It has been completely reinvented for the 21st century. Uncovered by website AutoGuide, the images show a four-door SUV with a soft-but-rugged design accented by round LED headlights and a two-tone paint job. Nothing is official yet — Ford certainly hasn’t commented on the leak — but we could be looking at a close-to-production concept that will preview the off-roader.

From what we see, Ford will aim the Bronco directly at the Toyota 4Runner and, to a lesser extent, at the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. It won’t be offered with two doors, but it will nonetheless give motorists the option of going semi-topless. While this feature isn’t visible in the leaked images, inside sources told website The Truth About Cars the Bronco will feature a clever system named Air Roof, which is made up of six individual panels that can be removed manually and stored in the car. The back end of the truck won’t come off, according to insiders, so it won’t be a full convertible like the Wrangler.

Ford is increasingly relying on aluminum to help its heaviest models shed weight, and the Bronco could benefit from the lightweight material. It might not be all-aluminum for cost reasons, but using aluminum body panels would boost both fuel economy and performance while helping the Blue Oval reap the financial benefits of economies of scale. The F-150 and the Expedition are already aluminum-intensive.

What’s under the sheet metal?

The Bronco will feature rugged body-on-frame construction. It will ride on an evolution of the frame that underpins the 2019 Ranger, but it won’t be related to the Explorer-sized Everest SUV sold in countries such as Australia and Thailand. The photos put those rumors to rest once and for all. Merely slapping a Bronco badge on an existing model wouldn’t have been good enough to honor the heritage-laced nameplate.

“People have an idea of what a Bronco should be, and certainly we have an idea of what a Bronco should be, so we’re looking forward to bringing that to our customers,” explained Raj Nair, Ford’s former chief technical officer, in an interview with Autoline.

Specifications sheet

Even though it entered popular culture as a getaway vehicle, the Bronco started life as a true, no-nonsense 4×4 with better-than-average off-road prowess. The next-generation model will continue that trend by offering a generous amount of ground clearance, four-wheel drive, and possibly even solid axles manufactured by Dana.

Technical specifications remain unconfirmed at this point. If we had to guess, we’d say the Bronco’s base powertrain will be a turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission. A model-specific version of the 2018 F-150‘s 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 could be offered as a more efficient alternative, but a turbo four looks unlikely due to the model’s size and weight. However, insiders familiar with Ford’s product plan suggest there are tentative plans for a gasoline-electric hybrid version.

What will its rivals be?

The ’60s and ’70s were the best time to shop around for an open-top off-roader. American buyers had at least seven options to choose from, including models built by Jeep, Chevrolet, GMC, Dodge, Plymouth, International-Harvester, and, of course, Ford.

In 2018, the only topless 4×4 with body-on-frame construction is the timeless Jeep Wrangler. And while the Bronco looks closely aligned with the 4Runner, it will inevitably rekindle a decades-old rivalry by competing in the same segment as the four-door Wrangler Unlimited.

The Bronco, the 4Runner, and the Wrangler might not have the market to themselves for very long, however. Unverified reports claim GMC will return to the segment by the turn of the decade, but nothing is official at this point. Parent company General Motors has considered a new Wrangler-punching model for several years but, as far as we know, the model has never made it past the drawing board.

When will I be able to buy one?

Bronco production is tentatively scheduled to start in Ford’s Michigan assembly plant in 2020. That means it will make its debut in 2019, possibly at the Detroit Auto Show, and the first examples will arrive in showrooms in time for the 2021 model year. Pricing will likely start in the vicinity of $30,000.

Updated on November 13, 2018: Added leaked images.

Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.

2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

The 2019 Ford Ranger marks Ford's long-awaited return to the midsize truck segment, which has seen a resurgence lately. But will being late to the party make Ford's job more difficult?

Gateway’s born-again Ford Bronco boasts classic style, 2018 muscle car power

Illinois-based Gateway Bronco has received a license from Ford to make brand-new examples of the first-generation Bronco. Every build starts with a Ford VIN and a donor vehicle, but Gateway upgrades every part of the car.

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.

Aston Martin’s 1,000-hp Valkyrie will boast the Mona Lisa of the engine world

Aston Martin has released new details about its F1-inspired Valkyrie hypercar. Co-developed with Red Bull Racing, the Valkyrie will be one of the most aerodynamic production cars ever made.