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2020 Ford Bronco: Rumors are true, diesel too?


This rending by a Ford Bronco forum has become a popular image for the new 2020 Ford Bronco.

Ford fans are rejoicing thanks to the confirmation, by a UAW official, of a new 2020 Ford Bronco due to the ongoing spat between Trump and the Ford Motor Company. While it is still a few years out, the new Bronco will be a triumphant return of the iconic SUV. Here is what you can expect.

Why A New Bronco?

One of the first questions on a new Ford Bronco is why? Why would Ford bring it back after all of these years? Many factors are at play here including the growth in SUV and truck sales, the Ford Explorer moving to a uni-body construction (eliminating an in-house competitor) and a recent UAW contract which mandates Ford produce something in its Michigan Assembly plant.

The market is trending towards SUVs like this Ford Explorer.

For years, the automotive market was trending towards small, fuel efficient cars and hybrid/electric vehicles. Ford made several changes to its lineup and introduced the EcoBoost engine to attract fuel economy conscious customers. This made the business case for a rugged, body-on-frame SUV very tough. Now things have changed. Specifically, SUV and truck sales are dominating the sales charts for most manufactures due to their better fuel economy and similar pricing. Where analysts and the EPA thought consumers would buy vehicles based on the best fuel economy, this simply isn’t happening with many consumers seemingly content with mid 20’s to early 30’s for fuel economy. Plus, the versatility of trucks and SUVs is still playing a big factor in the buying decision.

Plus, with the increase in safety equipment and technology, the profit margin in cars is shrinking. Dealers can simply give better incentives and offers to consumers who buy trucks and SUVs due to their increased profit margin. This plays a big factor for consumers deciding better a car or SUV. Consumers are simply choosing SUVs in droves since you can often pay about the same or less each month for a SUV versus a car and still get 30 MPG or better highway.

Also, consumers have been clamoring for the utility to return to SUVs. While many models may boast off-road equipment, like the Jeep Cherokee or Ford Explorer, consumers still want the true off-road benefits of a ladder-on-frame design versus a unibody. Consider this, the Toyota 4Runner, relatively old and likely Ford Bronco competitor, is currently showing a 17.5% increase in sales year over year (the best in Toyota’s truck lineup) while the brand-new Ford Explorer is down 4.4% year over year through September. Sure, the 4Runner has sold only 83k units versus the Explorer’s 160k units year to date, but the trend is moving to more rugged SUVs.

Finally, SUVs and trucks are simply hot right now in the U.S. and globally. This trend doesn’t seem to be going away and the business case adds up to Ford needing to respond.

2020 Ford Bronco Styling

The internet is filled with all sorts of different styling ideas for a new Ford Bronco. Fans have been creating these images for years in hopes Ford would bring it back. The likely reality is these sketches are inherently flawed. Why?

The sketches are based on taking an F-150 and turning it into a Bronco. This is literally what Ford did back in the day and really helped lead to its demise with indirectly competition with the F-150.

Plus, let’s remember Ford introduced the large Expedition as its replacement. With the Ford Expedition still on the market and in production, why build a direct competitor?

2020 Ford Bronco - Rumors are True, Diesel Too?

Let’s remember the Ford Expedition is actually the replacement to the Bronco.

No, I don’t think so. I think the Ford Bronco fits nicely as a ladder-on-frame cousin to the Ford Explorer. Toyota does this with the 4Runner and Highlander with great success (both vehicles are up in sales). It gives consumers a clear choice between the vehicles without competing on the same sales lot with other SUVs.

What then would a Ford Bronco look like? I would think it will be a cross between a Ford Explorer and the global Ford Ranger. It will be slightly larger inside the cabin than the Ranger with the same wheelbase. This will give consumers a clear alternative to the midsize truck which will also be a clear alternative to the larger Ford F-150.

Inside, the cabin will likely borrow many design elements from the Ford Edge and will have the latest technology.

Powertrain – Diesel Ford Bronco Possible?

2020 Ford Bronco

As the Ford Bronco grew larger, the engines did as well. Now the trend is to small, turbocharged powertrains.

What could power the new 2020 Ford Bronco? It will surely be the collection of EcoBoost engines with the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost as the likely top seller and the 2.7L EcoBoost as the gas fuel economy alternative along with a base V6. Both will be offered with an 8-speed transmission (10-speed is likely overkill) and will have start-stop for even better fuel economy. Ok, ok, what about a diesel?

This is a tough one for Ford. On the one hand, consumers have shown a willingness to pay the premium for the diesel engine (typically $2-3k) since diesel engines get 25% better fuel economy out of the box. However, this will also be a low volume unit for Ford (like the 4Runner is for Toyota) and developing a powertrain is pretty expensive.

Personally, I don’t see the business case as of yet. My guess is Ford launches the Bronco and sees what the market does. They have and/or will be able to quickly develop a diesel option, yet I don’t think it will be offered on the first Bronco SUVs. Chevy did the same thing with regards to the diesel Colorado (delaying it for a year). They said this was due to setting up the engine, but I would also wager executives were closely watching the market to see how the new truck was perceived. I see Ford doing the same.

Off-Road Equipment? Raptor Like?

2020 Ford Bronco

Imagine this size with a host of off-road equipment upgrades. It would be a really versatile SUV.

Finally, if the Ford Bronco is indeed slotted as the off-road equivalent of the Ford Explorer, what kind of off-road equipment will it have and could it actually be a smaller Raptor model?

First, no to the Raptor idea. While the Ford F-150 Raptor setup would be amazing on a smaller vehicle, the volume just wouldn’t be there.

Second, it will likely be setup like the 4Runner – downhill/uphill assists, front/rear lockers, selectable terrain management, etc…

Also, Ford will give it is new adaptive steering found on the Edge and Super Duty. What does this have to do with off-road? Simple, the enhanced steering will make the Bronco more responsive to driver input and easier to off-road in. This will give it a clear superiority over the 4Runner and Jeep Wrangler. Plus, it is a much more pleasing drive on-road.

2020 Ford Bronco

Why look at the Toyota 4Runner? It gives clues as to what Ford will likely due with the 2020 Ford Bronco.

Pricing/Fuel Economy/Availability?

While the final details on the 2020 Ford Bronco are years away, I would expect it to follow closely to what Toyota is doing (they are the only manufacture to offer both of these vehicles).

Looking at the pricing sheet, Toyota’s pricing separates the models by about $4k. This will be the same for Ford. Currently, Ford has a base price of $31,660 for the Explorer. The 2020 Ford Bronco would then make sense to be priced at around $35k.

Also, the Ford Explorer is EPA rated at 17/24 MPG and, following Toyota’s example (Highlander 20/25 and 4Runner 17/22), it makes sense for the Ford Bronco to be rated at around 16/22 city/highway MPG.

Finally, availability would seem to work out to be around the fall of 2020 after the Michigan Assembly Plant moves production of the cars out by the end of 2018 and retools/retrains through the spring of 2019.

What do you think? Will it be larger and more inline with the F-150 or the Explorer? Sound off below.

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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