Future Prospects for a More Powerful Bronco? Let's Have a Look
Ever since the final design and engineering touches were planned for the 2021 Ford Bronco, its manufacturer has steadfastly insisted that a V8 powerplant would not be in the mix, with several Ford execs citing stringent emissions standards as the reason for this decision.
Jeff Seaman, Ford’s Global Program Manager, brought up the capabilities of Ford’s Ecoboost engines as the primary rationale as to why lowering a V8 into the Bronco’s engine compartment wasn’t all that compelling an objective, especially in light of the somersaults Ford would have to perform because of those aforementioned emissions issues. "If the customer experience was significantly enhanced with a Coyote engine, it would have been under serious consideration. In all honesty, that EcoBoost motor is damn good, and when you get out of it you don't say, 'I wish it had a bigger engine’."
At face value, he’s likely correct. The Bronco’s current top tier engine option, a 2.7 liter, 6 cylinder twin turbo EcoBoost, is good for at least 315 horsepower and an impressive 400lb-ft of torque, specs that undoubtedly equip the 2021 Bronco with the power needed to put a smile on the faces of plenty of new owners when it finally rolls off the assembly line, which will be happening shortly. Among the Bronco’s stout capabilities is an anticipated 0-60 time in the vicinity of 6 seconds, which would put it squarely on a par with many performance sedans in this regard.
A Disruptor Enters the Equation
But, as we know the automotive landscape is ever-changing. The Jeep Wrangler model line, beyond question the Bronco’s chief competition in its Rugged SUV niche, will soon include a variant, the Rubicon 392, that will be propelled by a 6.4 liter HEMI V8 that is packing a whopping 470 horses, along with 470lb-ft of torque and will be capable of rocketing the Bronco’s nemesis to a 0-60 time of just 4.5 seconds. In part, Jeep mitigated some emissions issue roadblocks of their own by also quickly developing and releasing a Jeep hybrid, the Wrangler 4xe. It’s an impressive performer in its own right, combining a turbocharged 4 cylinder already good for 270 horsepower and 295lb-ft of torque with a transmission-mounted electric motor that takes those numbers up to 375 and 470, respectively.
True, the 4xe fetches a price tag in excess of $50k, but with the technological and accelerative bragging rights that come with it, there’s no doubt an enthusiastic market for it.
There are a couple of takeaways here. For starters, with Jeep now ably demonstrating that impressive power figures can be attained through cutting edge engineering, Ford may well be right in their rationalization for not offering a V8 in their eagerly awaited SUV— there isn’t, strictly speaking, an immediate need to resort to lowering a V8 into the new Bronco’s engine compartment and having to deal with the regulatory implications that come with it. The deep rumble of a V8 is pretty compelling, but in reality the majority of buyers are more likely to be concerned with overall power output, as opposed to the engine displacement that creates that output.
Secondly, since Jeep’s latest forays into enhanced power options have resulted in a new Wrangler variant that, when properly optioned, has the ability to offer a noticeable power advantage over the Bronco, it seems unlikely that Ford would be willing to sit still and live with this development.
Lastly, since we know that a Bronco hybrid will likely be arriving soon, and that Jeep has already parlayed the release of their SUV Wrangler hybrid into an avenue for their powerful V8 option that seems so currently out of reach for Ford, could that open the door for Ford to raise its own power standards for the Bronco — either through the inclusion of a sought-after third generation Coyote V8 option or through leveraging technology that’s already been lavished on a couple of its other models?
Short Term Prospects to Narrow the Power Gap
In the short term, the release of that aforementioned Bronco hybrid would make up only a little ground on the power gap that Jeep has now opened, but that gap could be narrowed dramatically with a little tweaking. It’s expected the engine that would propel a Bronco hybrid will be based on the twin turbo, 3.0 liter that already propels a variant of Ford’s ultra-popular Explorer. Mated with Ford’s 10-speed modular transmission and paired with an electric motor, this powerplant puts out 318 horsepower in that particular application, but it could certainly be augmented from there.
When lowered into a Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring, it already has — it churns out an outstanding 494 horsepower and 630lb-ft. of torque. Assuming that it could be properly fitted to the Bronco’s engine compartment, that would definitively settle the power challenge that Jeep has put forth — for the time being, anyway.Not much farther down the road, the eagerly anticipated Bronco Warthog will be another weapon in Ford’s power arsenal. Initially the Warthog would likely be powered by the 3.0 liter EcoBoost V6 available on the Explorer ST that’s rated at 400 horsepower — that’s a lot of power, but not quite enough to go head to head with the Jeep’s HEMI. However, if everything goes as Ford appears to be planning — by no means a certainty, as Bronco production has already shown — a Bronco Warthog hybrid will likely also be patrolling the asphalt, powered by the same drivetrain as found on that ultra-potent Lincoln Aviator Grant Touring.
Meanwhile, in the pickup niche, a similar power battle has resulted in some astronomical numbers, albeit with larger displacement engines setting the pace. With the output of Dodge’s Ram V8 1500 TRX now at an almost unbelievable 700 horsepower, there’s plenty of speculation that Ford will soon be enlisting the abilities of the supercharged 5.2 liter V8 that powers its Mustang Shelby GT500 to propel a new breed of F-150s. As a frame of reference, that aforementioned V8 is rated at a whopping 760 horsepower in its current application.
The power wars in the Pickup segment have no doubt become more heated than those in the Rugged SUV niche and Ford would have no reason to include a similarly capable V8 on the Bronco’s menu — regardless of the emissions implications — as it would be obvious overkill. But the Ford F-150 can already be optioned with a high output 450 horsepower, twin-turbocharged 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6, so it would hardly be a stretch to picture this engine finding its way to the Bronco to level the playing field.