New Bronco Suspension
The Ford Bronco is the first sport-utility vehicle developed by Ford, starting in 1966. Five generations of the Bronco were produced, lasting until the 1996 model year. The Bronco originally competed with other off-road equipped vehicles being produced, including the Jeep CJ-5 and International Harvester Scout. By 1996, however, Ford realized that there had been a decline in demand for such a large two-door sports-utility vehicle, and ended up discontinuing it. The Bronco would then be replaced by the four-door Expedition, and the larger Excursion. 25 years later, Ford realized that a market share was still available for them in the off-roading segment, and decided their best bet was to bring back the coveted Bronco. There would be several changes to the sixth-generation Bronco, including the fact that it will be in the mid-size SUV category for the first time, with its competition including the Jeep Wrangler as both a two and four-door convertible.
Now that the 2021 Ford Bronco has been released, we can get an up-close look at its components to see what we have to work with. Ford’s research and development team put a lot of thinking into the suspension of the Bronco, trying to give it the best of both worlds, on and off-road wise. There was one piece of outdated technology their r&d team did end up passing on, one that the Jeep Wrangler has held onto for all of these years — a solid front axle. Yes, Ford weighed the pros and cons, and decided an Independent Front Suspension was the path they wanted the Bronco to take, along with a solid axle in the rear. IFS is an important asset if you’re looking to turn the Bronco into a high-speed desert runner, and Ford didn’t want to just limit its capabilities where the road ends and the dirt begins, but this isn’t always the direction Ford has gone in.
IFS Vs. Solid Axle
With all of this talk about independent front suspension and solid axles, it’s important to go back and understand exactly what each is. Early four-wheel drive trucks used a solid axle up front because they are a bit stronger, and much more simple than IFS. There are downsides to it, though, including ride quality. Because both wheels up front are connected via a straight axle, anything that disrupts one side also affects the other. This may help while rock crawling, but drivability on road can be greatly affected. IFS, on the other hand, has both sides working independently, so each wheel can effectively handle a bump while the other doesn’t blink an eye. IFS was designed to provide a smoother ride, but just like a solid axle, it has its weaknesses as well. Articulation is one big downfall for IFS. The suspension is limited to the maximum angle of the CV joint, unlike a solid axle that’s articulation is only limited by the space you have around the wheel. The other downside to IFS is the addition of several more moving parts, giving the suspension more points to fail. However, breakthroughs in CV joint designs and other parts associated with IFS structure and integrity have pushed four-wheel drive IFS to high levels of durability. So while the solid axle may still be the king of the crawl, IFS shines at high speeds in rough terrain, soaking up impacts with ease that would totally ruin your driving experience with a straight axle.
A Look Back
The early generations of the Ford Bronco wouldn’t have seen eye to eye with the newest creation. From 1966 to 1979, the Bronco came with solid front axles, including a Dana 30, swapped to a Dana 44 in 1971. The second generation continued the coil-sprung Dana 44 legacy with a leaf-sprung rear Ford 9-inch axle. Beginning in 1977, before the second generation had even been put up for sale, Ford designed the third generation. From here on out, the Ford Bronco, on an all-new chassis, would now come with that same Dana 44 front axle with Ford Twin Traction Beam independent front suspension. The rear axle would continue as the same Ford 9-inch axle.
Ford took a long hiatus with the Bronco, but coming back after 25 years, they came back even stronger with new ideas and advancements in technology at their fingertips. Along with the IFS up front, Ford introduced their new setup, the H.O.S.S. System (High-Performance, Off-Road, Stability, Suspension), which is standard on the Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, and Outer Banks. The independent H.O.S.S. system incorporates twin alloy A-arms and coil-over springs for optimum off-road stability and control. The H.O.S.S. system is also available with Bilstein Position Sensitive Dampers, standard on the Badlands, Wildtrak , and First Edition models.
In the rear is a solid five-link rear axle with the same H.O.S.S. system, including coil-over springs, for optimum off-road capability and durability.
While the Ford H.O.S.S system is fairly straightforward, the Bilstein Shocks are quite a bit more technical, and will be a welcomed addition to the bronco fleet. The Bilstein Position Sensitive End Stop Control Valve (ESCV) dampers have three main features that separate them from ordinary shocks on everyday vehicles, including external reservoirs, compression ESCV, and rebound ESCV. The Bilsteins come with remote reservoirs that, for cooler running temperatures, can increase the oil volume. To give position-sensitive damping, they also include internal hydraulic end-stops. All in all, the Bilsteins will feel soft in the middle of their travel, but once they start getting close to their ends, will stiffen up to take on any sort of big hit.
No matter which model of the Bronco, the standard IFS with the H.O.S.S. system is going to be an incredible ride. And of course, with the addition of the Sasquatch Package, or the purchase of a Badlands, Wildtrak, or First Edition model, the Bilstein Position Sensitive Dampers will also come included for that extra performance off-road.
New Bronco Performance
The introduction of the all-new 2021 Ford Bronco brings along a huge new lineup of model and trim options, including two engine options and two transmission options. But first, let’s take a look at where the Bronco started, and how it got to what it has become today.
History of Powertrain
Beginning in 1965, when the first Ford Bronco was launched, and started a revolution of new off-roaders, the powertrain was a bit lacking. Because the Bronco was Ford’s first attempt at creating a sport-utility vehicle, they needed to base the engine off of something that was already in production. They ended up building off of the 105 hp Ford Falcon engine, producing a 170 ci L6. By 1966, a new engine was introduced to the lineup, a 289 ci V8 producing 200 hp. For 1969, that V8 engine option was then replaced with a larger displacement engine, a 302. By ‘73, the standard engine option became a 200 ci L6, which was offered until the 1977 model year. As for its transmission, the first generation was only offered with a three-speed, column shifted manual transmission, mostly to cut costs. 1973 saw the first iteration of a three-speed automatic.
The second generation Bronco was definitely a bit heftier than its predecessor. It entered a new realm, the full-size segment, where it would compete with big names, such as the Cherokee and Blazer. Along with its bigger body, the Bronco also received a beefier powertrain. This generation came with two different options for a V8, each significantly bigger than the previous V8 versions. Available was a 5.8 L 251M, with a horsepower output of 156 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. The other option was a 6.6 L 400, producing 158 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque.
This iteration of the Bronco went back to its roots, and reintroduced an L6 engine to the lineup. This new L6 was a 4.9 L 300, and it solely came with a manual transmission. The 400 V8 was now a thing of the past, and the 351M would now be the more powerful of the V8 options, with the 302 making a return as the base option. In 1982, the 351 Windsor would replace the 351M.
Ford carried over the same engines from the previous generation for the models starting in 1987, while also adding fuel-injection to the L6 and 351 Windsor. Most of the changes for the fourth generation involved the transmission, as the four-speed manual had been replaced. Two different five-speed manuals were then introduced, along with the three-speed C6 automatic, four-speed AOD, and heavier-duty E4OD.
The last generation of the Bronco, before Ford’s discontinuation, carried much of the same equipment from the previous generation. The L6 would eventually be dropped, making 1994 the year where the Broncos were solely powered by V8s.
The 2021 Bronco brings along, as stated before, two new engine options, and two new transmission options. There was also a ton of hope that Ford would release a manual option for their newest generation of Broncos, and that is exactly what they did.
The standard powertrain for the Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, and Badlands models is a 2.3 L inline-four EcoBoost engine, paired with a 7-speed manual transmission with an integrated crawl gear. Four-wheel drive is available with part time selectable engagement.
The Outer Banks model comes with the 2.3 L EcoBoost engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission with Trail Control, along with the four wheel drive part time selectable engagement.
Both the Wildtrak and First Edition models are paired with the 2.7 L six-cylinder EcoBoost engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. To switch the car into four-wheel drive, it comes with Automatic On Demand Engagement.
If you need a little more power than the 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque the 2.3 L EcoBoost engine produces, the 2.7 L EcoBoost is available. Producing 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, the six-cylinder should be just enough of a jump in power to handle any situation. Also available over the 7-speed manual transmission with a crawler gear is the 10-speed automatic with Trail Control, also featuring the Advanced 4x4 with Automatic On Demand Engagement.
All About the Bronco Wheels
When it comes to customization, the new 2021 Ford Bronco doesn't disappoint. Beyond engine, transmission, interior, and other options, the new 2021 Ford Bronco has a set of different wheels for each model. From 16 inch steel wheels to 17” aluminum beadlock wheels, there’s a wheel for any preference.
The standard wheels on the Base model of the new 2021 Ford Bronco are 16 inch silver-painted steel wheels, or you can opt for the 17 inch black high gloss-painted forged aluminum wheels, with a warm alloy beauty ring. They are also beadlock capable, meaning they look like functional beadlocks, but aren’t. You can, however, buy the proper accessories to turn them into functional beadlocks.
The standard wheels on the Big bend model of the new 2021 Ford Bronco are 17 inch carbonized gray-painted aluminum wheels, but like the Base model, you can opt for the 17 inch black high gloss-painted forged aluminum wheels, with a warm alloy beauty ring.
The standard wheels on the Black Diamond model of the new 2021 Ford Bronco are 17 inch black-painted steel wheels, but you can also choose from two additional wheel options. Those two options include 17 inch black high-gloss-painted aluminum wheels and the 17 inch black high gloss-painted forged aluminum wheels, with a warm alloy beauty ring.
The standard wheels on the Outer banks model of the new 2021 Ford Bronco are 18 inch bright machined black high gloss-painted aluminum alloy wheels, or you can opt for the 17 inch black high gloss-painted forged aluminum wheels, with a warm alloy beauty ring.
The standard wheels on the Badlands model of the new 2021 Ford Bronco are 17 inch carbonized gray-painted machined-face aluminum wheels. YOu can also choose from two additional wheel options, including 17 inch black high gloss-painted forged aluminum beadlock capable wheels with either a carbonized gray beauty ring, or a warm alloy beauty ring.
The standard wheels on the Wildtrak model of the new 2021 Ford Bronco are 17 inch black-painted aluminum beadlock capable wheels. The standard wheels are the only option for this model.
The standard wheels on the First Edition model of the new 2021 Ford Bronco are 17 inch black-painted aluminum beadlock capable wheels. The standard wheels are the only option for this model.
Choosing Wheels For Your Bronco
Knowing what you will be doing with your new 2021 Ford Bronco is important when it comes to picking the wheels you want to come installed on it. Ford gives a ton of options when it comes to this topic, including steel wheels, aluminum wheels, etc. When it comes to off-roading in your new 2021 Ford Bronco, the best wheel choice would be between steel and forged alloy wheels, which is why those are the two options Ford is giving you.
The first thing you may think of when you hear steel wheels is weight. Steel wheels are indeed the heavier wheels compared to aluminum, but there are definitely pros to picking steel wheels for your new 2021 Ford Bronco. Steel wheels are extremely solid, more rugged, and fairly cheap. If you’re looking to do tasks in your Ford Bronco such as rock crawling, a steel wheel would be a great starting point. However, if your plan is to do any sort of racing or speed-tuning, an aluminum wheel is the direction in which you should go.
Alloy wheels are usually a mix of aluminum and another compound that increases its strength and rigidity. Forged alloy wheels, or in the case of the new 2021 Ford Bronco, forged aluminum wheels, shine for their lower weight. They also stand out for the smooth ride they can provide, and of course, better acceleration. The way in which they are forged is by exerting extreme pressure and heat on the raw materials. The force pushes the material into the proper wheel shape. This method makes the wheel as strong as a steel wheel, but much lighter, creating excellent performance for off-road applications.
The Right Tire For Your New 2021 Ford Bronco
The new 2021 Ford Bronco takes customization to the next level. Starting out with different models, the Bronco has seven of them. Then you can pick between two engine options, and two transmission options. It goes a step further with choosing what wheels you want, and then it brings us to tire choices. Some may be well versed in tire terminology and knowledge, but there are also those who are buying a new 2021 Ford Bronco and will be getting into off-roading for the first time. So from the get go, no, it’s not as simple as closing your eyes and picking whatever tire you think will work well on your new 2021 Ford Bronco. Let’s take a dive into the options Ford is giving and what will work well for what you are going to use them for.
Base - P225/75R17 | 32” | All-Season
Big Bend - P225/75R17 | 32” | All-Terrain
Black Diamond - LT265/70R17 | 32” | All-Terrain
Outer Banks - P255/70R18 | 32” | All-Terrain
Badlands - LT285/70R17 | 33” | All-Terrain
Wildtrak - LT315/70R17 | 35” | Mud-Terrain
First Edition - LT315/70R17 | 35” | Mud-Terrain
P Vs LT
In the simplest form, p-metric tires, ‘p’ standing for passenger vehicle, are preferred for better fuel economy and a smoother ride. You may be wondering why the new 2021 Ford Bronco has a passenger vehicle tire on it. The reason Ford has the Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks models equipped with them is because the p-metric tires are designed to haul less of a load, and focus more on drivability. If you are looking to keep your new 2021 Ford Bronco on road more than off, passenger vehicle tires can be the perfect fit. P tires, in general, are going to greatly enhance your driving experience on road versus an LT tire, especially if your new 2021 Ford Bronco is going to be used as a daily driver, rarely seeing the dirt.
LT Tires, standing for Light Truck tires, which can be found on the new 2021 Ford Bronco models such as the Black Diamond, Badlands, Wildtrak, and First Edition, are there to do the heavy lifting. LT tires are designed for heavier loads because of their beefier build and ability to hold a higher pressure. They feature extra material under the tread and in the sidewalls that give the tire a stronger structure, and also protect the tire from damage. For this reason, they are the preferred tires for off-road applications, where rough terrain can easily be handled.
All-Terrain vs Mud-Terrain
The easiest way to know whether you’ll need an all-terrain tire, or a mud-terrain tire, is calculating the amount of time you spend on road vs off-road. The reason being, all-terrain tires are going to be the preferred tire if you spend the majority of your time on-road. All-Terrain tires, aside from being a bit cheaper than mud-terrains, generally outperform when it comes to combining on and off-road usefulness. They offer improved traction off-road and during inclimate weather, have a much longer lifespan than MTs, and are significantly quieter.
However, if you find yourself wanting to hit the back roads more than the pavement in your new 2021 Ford Bronco, then mud-terrains are the direction in which you want to go. Mud-terrains have unparalleled performance when it comes to harsh off-road terrain. They are designed with large tread blocks and wider channels. This helps the tire dig through mud and rocks, but also gives them the ability to eject anything that gets caught in the channels, otherwise they would just get caked in mud and spin when you give your Bronco some gas.
The engineers at Ford did extensive research deciding on what tires should go on each model of the new 2021 Ford Bronco. There is a middle ground that needs to be found for each application, because a tall tire equals greater ground clearance, but also greater weight. Ground clearance is incredibly important, especially when talking about an off-road ready rig like the new 2021 Ford Bronco. When you have more ground clearance, you are able to clear bigger obstacles. Bigger tires also equate to a larger rolling diameter. To put this into perspective, if you’re on a skateboard bombing a hill, and a little rock turns up in front of you, there is a great chance that the board is going to stop, and you are going to continue down the hill. If you were on a bike, the bigger wheels are going to float over the rock with ease. The same goes for the tires on your new 2021 Ford Bronco getting over obstacles.