Fans of the original Ford Bronco have been waiting for years for the model to return. This week Ford finally unveiled the new design they've been working on, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park.
To me, the design of the 2021 Bronco perfectly pays homage to the original Bronco while updating it with a fresh, modern look. This is a design that lives up to the hype of the press release: "They're built with the toughness of an F-Series truck and performance spirit of Mustang – and come wrapped in one of the most stunning and functional off-road designs that's true to the original Bronco design DNA," says Ford COO Jim Farley.
Poring over the details, what I most admire is the designers' clear vision, rigor, and restraint; there is not a line out of place, no over-the-top extraneous design elements, no needlessly-busy areas where too many designers disagreed.
Ford's designers did more with less, keeping things clean and minimal. They nailed the overall form, then kept the details tight and contemporary. This design speaks of confidence. All too often in modern car design, we see when designers have gotten the overall form wrong, and seemed to add Compensation Committees that try to distract you with group-designed chaotic details and unchecked CAD fantasies.
But here, the design team started with a strong foundation, and each detail seems completely organic--"inevitable," to borrow a term Jony Ive once used about certain Apple products.
Overall aesthetics aside, the Bronco has been designed with nice functional touches:
Both Bronco two- and four-door models make the open-air experience quick, easy and fun. Two-door models come with a standard three-section roof system – left and right front sections and a rear section – molded-in color and an available premium painted modular top with four sections that adds a removable panel over the rear seats and cargo area. First-row panels stow away onboard on two-door models.
Four-door models have four removable roof sections – left and right front panels, a full-width center panel and a rear section. Roof panels on all models can be removed by one person by unlocking the latches from the interior.
Every Bronco comes with class-exclusive frameless doors that make them easier to remove than what competitors offer. On four-door Bronco models, all four doors can be stored onboard with protective door bags. Exclusive cowl-mounted mirrors maintain sideview visibility when the doors are removed. Trail sights on the front fenders also serve as tie-downs, reminiscent of the first-generation Bronco, have a 150-pound capacity for securing longer items like canoes.
All modular hardtops have rear quarter windows that are removable in three easy steps – snap, push and lift away in a fraction of the time it takes for competitors – without removing the roof panels. By locating the sportbar behind the second row, both Bronco two- and four-door models offer the largest overall open-top view in its class to take in the sunshine or to gaze at the stars at night.
And that's just the outside, folks. The modernist interior really blew me away:
The instrument panel is inspired by the first-generation model, with gauges and controls clearly visible and intuitive. Colors and materials are inspired by natural palettes and outdoor gear. With off-road functionality paramount, materials are tough and rugged.
My favorite part is that they actually designed it to get dirty:
To make post-adventure cleanups simple, fast and painless, select Bronco models come with washable rubberized floors with integrated drains and marine-grade vinyl seating surfaces that resist mildew. Instrument panel surfaces are wipeable, with seamless silicone rubber on the dash-mounted hero switches, while rubber touchpoints protect against dirt and water.
Lastly, in the rear they've got this handy pull-out surface, to make unpacking or setting up gear easier:
Overall I'm blown away by what the design team has done. I can't wait to see the Bronco up close; alas, we'll have to wait until next Spring, when it's expected to first arrive at dealerships.