Yesterday’s big news out of the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit was all about Ford trucks. Namely, the automaker officially announced the return of the Ford Ranger pickup in 2019, followed by the Bronco in 2020.
And that’s about all Ford said. There were no details given. Neither a Bronco nor a Ranger were rolled out on stage. As Executive Vice President Joe Hinrichs spoke onstage, video footage of a European-market Ranger rolled behind him; when he broke the Bronco news, only the Bronco logo appeared on the screen. But we got a very brief chance to speak with Hinrichs at the Ford display later that day. And he confirmed a few choice new details on the hotly-anticipated return of the Bronco.
First off, this won’t be the full-size 4×4 we all remember from the OJ chase. Hinrichs confirmed that the 2020 Bronco will be built on the 2019 Ranger’s frame. To recap, the Ranger that will return to the US market in 2019 will be largely based on the midsize pickup by the same name that’s currently sold in Europe. So if you’re looking for an idea of the Bronco’s dimensions, the European Ranger would be a good place to start. All versions of that truck ride on a 126.8-inch wheelbase with a 73.2-inch-wide body. The longest Ranger, the four-door Super Cab, has an overall length of 211.1 inches. That’s longer than the 184-inch length of the current four-door Jeep Wrangler—perhaps the Bronco’s most natural competition—though the two vehicles are nearly identical in width.
Hinrichs would not offer any details on the Bronco’s body style, nor would he comment on whether the upcoming 4×4 would be available as a two-door, four-door, or both. Yes, we’ve all been hoping for a chunky, upright two-door 4×4, like the Troller T4—a Brazilian-market off-roader built by a company recently acquired by Ford. But a Reddit poster claiming to be a designer at Ford’s Product Development Center in Dearborn has spilled some other details on the upcoming Ranger, and while we can’t 100-percent take a Redditor at their word, the information sounds plenty believable.
According to the anonymous (but verified by the moderators of the Ranger reddit) insider, the only Rangers that will come to the US market will be the four-door Super Cab and Double Cab versions. It’ll be structurally identical to the current European-market Ranger, albeit with updated front and rear exterior styling, altered interiors, and different drivetrain options. This information coincides with what we learned from Hinrichs at the auto show.
The Redditor also goes on to claim that the US-market Bronco will be nearly identical to the Ford Everest, a body-on-frame Australian-market 4×4 built on the Ranger platform.
Yes, that means the 2020 Bronco will only be available as a four-door SUV. Or so the Redditor claims.
The current-generation Ford Everest, sold in Australia.
The Redditor claims that, like the Ranger, the Bronco will receive minor front and rear styling changes to differentiate it from the Everest. Different interiors and drivetrains will be added for the US market.
And while Ford wouldn’t confirm these rumors about the Everest becoming the Bronco, the evidence stacks up. In our conversation at Detroit, Hinrichs emphasized that both the Ranger and Bronco will be capable off-roaders, comfortable on pavement but tough enough to go ‘wheeling. The European-market Ranger and Australian Everest both fit this description well, with their body-on-frame construction, solid rear axles, low-range shift-on-the-fly 4×4 systems and available upgraded off-road suspensions. It’s also safe to assume that Ford thinks of the Bronco as a competitor to the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, another body-on-frame 4×4 that’s grown up from its bare-bones beginnings to become a suitable family vehicle.
Essentially, it sounds like Ford is using the US return of the Ranger and Bronco as an experiment. If so, it’s a smart move. The current-gen Ranger has been around since 2011; when it goes into US production in late 2018, it will be near the end of the product’s life cycle. That minimizes Ford’s risk in the unlikely event that the Ranger, and the Bronco that will be derived from it, somehow fail to generate sales. If they’re successful, expect a second-generation of the midsize pickup and SUV to follow shortly thereafter.
So while we were all hoping for the retro-inspired two-door Bronco that fans have been gleefully sketching for years, such a product would be too niche for Ford to risk building. A sensibly-sized four-door 4×4 may not have that vintage cache, but it’ll be appealing to a far wider group of buyers. And with Ranger bones and the Jeep Wrangler as a target, it’ll no doubt have the off-road prowess demanded by the Bronco name.