New Bronco Suspension
The Ford Bronco was 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 introduce a new 2021 Ford 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 new 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 There was one piece of outdated technology their r&d team did end up passing on, one that the Jeep Wrangler has held onto for all of these years — a solid front axle.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 new 2021 Ford 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.