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About The Ford Bronco’s Towing Capacity

About The Ford Bronco’s Towing Capacity

From the time the reimagined Ford Bronco was reintroduced, its appearance has been consistently viewed as a strong suit — it’s an appearance that was actually foreshadowed 13 years before that announced reintroduction, when Ford rolled out a concept car for the 2004 Detroit Auto Show that turned out to be very similar to the new Bronco in its final form

Ever since that 2017 announcement, Bronco fans have consistently cited aesthetics as a big factor in the new SUV’s appeal. However, while styling no doubt exerts influence over the buying decision — history shows that if a vehicle doesn’t turn heads its longer-term success will be more of an uphill battle — where SUVs are concerned, a vehicle’s overall capability is an equally, if not greater, component in winning hearts and minds, especially if those hearts and minds belong to adventure seekers.

Towing capacity isn’t usually a top-tier concern for most SUV buyers, but it’s a factor nonetheless and, since the full-size Ford Bronco’s listed towing capacity of 3500lbs has been perceived as somewhat underwhelming, let’s see how that capacity fares in the real world, while also examining the factors that limit the new Bronco’s towing capacity.

photo of a Ford Bronco First Edition

The New Bronco’s Performance Numbers Are Perceived Positively (for the most part)

Once Ford rolled a small group of Broncos out to its Bronco Off-Roadeo site just outside of Austin, Texas the automotive press got its first crack at getting behind the wheel and putting the eagerly awaited SUV through its paces. The critical response, as well as quantitative testing results, were mostly as good as Ford could have hoped for. Even those traditionalists who had been put off by the lack of an available V8 were placated somewhat when tests revealed that Ford’s 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 could get most of the Bronco variants from 0-60 in the low 6-second range.

Accolades for the Bronco’s refined driving experience poured in consistently, as did positive reviews for the model’s assortment of easy-to-use technology. One quantitative measure that prompted a less than enthusiastic response was the Bronco’s towing capacity — a seemingly modest 3500lbs. when properly equipped with a tow package. The figure has become somewhat of a source of consternation among the Bronco faithful that has been articulated at times in forums, but does it really represent a bona fide shortcoming for the Bronco? Some perspective is in order.

Comparing Numbers

If you’re looking for vehicles that can tow far more than the new Bronco can, you really don’t have to search very far. Ford’s new and well-received electric F-150 Lightning is good for nearly three times as much towing capacity, while the F-150 Raptor’s rating handily doubles that of the new Bronco. Each of these trucks packs more power than does the very capable Bronco, so it stands to wonder if that aforementioned lack of a V8 powerplant is what has kept its towing capacity as low as it is.

It really isn’t. While available power does play into determining a vehicle’s towing capacity, plentiful horsepower isn’t a guarantee of a big towing number. For example, Jeep just released its Rubicon 392 to quite a bit of fanfare — and for good reason. The new Wrangler variant is propelled by an iconic hemi engine that provides a robust 470 horsepower. And yet the Rubicon 392’s towing capacity is also rated at the same 3500lbs listed for the Bronco. By contrast, a Toyota Landcruiser that features 90 horsepower less than the Rubicon can tow well over twice as much.

side view of new Ford Bronco 2 door

So Why Is That Towing Capacity Number So Low?

There are a variety of reasons, and their individual importance varies a bit, depending on who you consult.

Some point to the Bronco’s coilover suspension as being a limiting factor, but the new F-150 Raptor has foregone rear leaf springs in favor of coilovers and the pickup’s rating of 8200lbs, though certainly not top of class, represents more than twice the capability of the Bronco. So, what gives?

A suspension that’s optimized for off-roading requires plenty of suspension travel. Otherwise, navigating obstacles upon venturing off the asphalt would be a trying and very jarring experience. That generous travel just isn’t compatible with towing ability — ratings aren’t derived simply from how much weight can be handled before havoc ensues, as they also take into consideration the maintenance of a manageable driving experience. Substantial suspension travel equates to a less solid feeling ride when there’s a lot of weight in back.

Also, while there’s not an absolute correlation, a relatively short wheelbase like the Bronco’s doesn’t lend itself to particularly strong towing ability. Virtually no two vehicles have the exact same weight distribution from front to back, but the longer the wheelbase is on a towing vehicle, the less leverage a trailer or other towed weight will exert on the rear axle, which in turn means that force distribution will remain more equal and the front axle will stay in better contact with the road.

A vehicle’s transmission can also play a part in determining its towing capacity. Plenty has been written about Ford’s decision to equip the new Bronco with its 10r60 transmission — as opposed to the anticipated 10r80. It’s difficult to say how much higher that 3500lb. figure would otherwise be had Ford decided differently, but the 10r80 is beyond question judged to be a heartier component, even if it tends to shift in a more primitive manner.

photo of Ford Bronco with convertible top open

What Does that 3500lb. Capacity Get Me in the Real World?

It’s safe to say that most buyers who contemplate bringing home a rugged SUV may well take into consideration the balance of off-roading ability with everyday driving experience in making their final decisions, but towing capacity is rarely a front of mind concern. If it were, a well-equipped pickup would end up at the top of the list most of the time.

And yet a prospective Bronco buyer would reasonably want to tow a modestly sized ski boat or trailer from time to time. After all, toys like these are considered synonymous with the outdoor experience for many of us. How might that go for them with the Bronco?

As it turns out, they should have plenty of options as far as what to tow along behind their Broncos. The average compact ski boat generally comes in right around 3200lbs. To put that into perspective, a 2019 Malibu Wakesetter ski boat weighs in at 3400lbs., while a Mastercraft Prostar 20 tips the scales at a dry weight of 3,000. That may not leave much margin when boating equipment is factored into the equation, but it does confirm that towing a thoughtfully chosen small ski boat should be viable.

For those adventurers more interested in keeping their pursuits landbound, towing a small trailer should also be viable. A compact, teardrop-style trailer should be fine and either a Forest River R-pod or more unconventional Cricket, which comes in at a 1753lb. dry weight, won’t be a problem if the Bronco is properly equipped with a towing package. A heartier trailer, such as the Happier Camper HC1, might be a bit more of a strain because of its more substantial construction.

Let’s Turn This Questioning Around. Can a Ford Bronco be Flat Towed?

Yes, it can.

For those unfamiliar with the term, flat towing simply means that the vehicle in question is being towed with all four of its wheels remaining in contact with the ground. This might seem like a somewhat esoteric setting, but for RV owners who regularly embark on adventures, it’s an important consideration. RVs are difficult enough to navigate on the more or less linear routes to and from a destination, but they become even more so when encountering tight spaces, so it’s a fairly common practice for RV owners to tow a passenger car along in back.

Generally, if a vehicle is equipped with rear wheel drive and a manual transmission or with four-wheel drive and a manual transfer case that will allow you to put the vehicle into neutral, there’s a good chance it can be flat towed. The Bronco fits this description, while the Bronco Sport does not.

So while the new Ford Bronco won’t be winning any awards for its towing capacity — and those prospective buyers who plan on doing a lot of heavy towing should probably look elsewhere — Ford’s new SUV does seem to have the ability to handle the towing demands that most off-roading SUV buyers will be looking for.

Next article How Good is the Ford Bronco Sport's Customer Satisfaction Level?

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