The 2021 Bronco is Ford’s most highly-anticipated rendition of its iconic off-road nameplate. Bronco is available in two-door and four-door body styles and as a crossover – the Bronco Sport – based on Ford’s C2 platform for the Escape and Focus. No matter which model you choose, each one will come with the Bronco HOSS suspension or High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension, a cacophony of nifty upgrades to cement the Bronco’s reputation as the ultimate Built Wild SUV.
“We listened to what off-road enthusiasts wanted in terms of capability and control – and heard a lot about what could be improved in the current off-road SUV offerings – namely harsh ride, sloppy steering, and discomfort above crawling speeds,” said Mark Grueber, Bronco consumer marketing manager. “Our answer was to design a lighter, more agile suspension system tuned to deliver more confident off-road capabilities without having to trade comfort and control.”
Like Surefooted Horses
Ford claims the Bronco delivers high-speed off-road capability and confidence akin to wild horses running in the desert. The surefooted nature of Bronco SUVs over rugged and inhospitable terrain has a lot to do with Ford’s Baja-inspired HOSS suspension. Based on the Ranger’s T6 underpinnings, Bronco has an independent front suspension with forged twin aluminum alloy A-arms with long-travel coil springs, HOSS-tuned shock absorbers, and a stabilizer bar adopted from the F-150 Raptor.
Bronco’s front suspension architecture reduces the unsprung weight by up to 20 percent or 42 lbs. over a solid front axle design. Furthermore, those long-travel coil springs and HOSS dampers improve tire-to-surface contact while significantly improving ride comfort. Equipped with three-mode electric rack-and-pinion steering, Bronco’s tiller is accurate as it is progressive whether on or off-road. Meanwhile, the rear suspension is a five-link solid axle with coil-over springs and a stabilizer bar delete option to increase wheel articulation.
Position-Sensitive Bilstein Dampers
All 2021 Broncos with the Sasquatch Package and Badlands trim get an updated HOSS system for better rock-crawling abilities. The package includes HOSS-tuned long-travel Bilstein position-sensitive dampers with end-stop control valves, a downsized front stabilizer bar, and a front stabilizer bar disconnect system with a semi-active hydraulic design to maximize wheel movements over uneven terrain.
“This design combination of low mass, high-compliance chassis tuning improves high-speed off-road confidence and lets drivers ‘get on place’ across a series of whoops as you see with trophy trucks,” said James Groves, Bronco engineering manager. “And when it comes to rocks, we get significant levels of articulation to crawl through extreme terrain.”
Bronco Sport HOSS
The 2021 Bronco Sport has a more civil vibe than its Ranger-based brethren, but it doesn’t mean it’s less capable when the pavement ends. Every Bronco Sport has bespoke MacPherson front struts with HOSS-tuned coil springs, twin-tube hydraulic gas-pressurized dampers, and a stabilizer bar. At the back, Bronco Sport has independent double-lateral link semi-trailing arms with coil springs and monotube hydraulic gas-pressure shock absorbers, all connected to an isolated steel subframe with steel knuckles.
“The spring rates and shock tuning were chosen to ensure a level of off-road performance worthy of the Bronco name,” explained Nathan Musleh, Bronco Sport vehicle dynamics manager. “You can feel the difference the HOSS tuning makes by reducing unwanted pitch and allowing the driver to focus on what’s ahead.”
Bronco Sport has three-mode electric power steering, while hydraulic rebound stops, upgraded 46-millimeter rear monotube shock absorbers, and longer springs are standard for Bronco Sport Badlands and First Edition trims. Ford claims Bronco Sport’s 8.8 inches of ground clearance (when equipped with Falken Wildpeak 29-inch all-terrain tires) is best-in-class, further proof that Bronco’s Built Wild capabilities remain true to form even in the unibody-based Bronco Sport.
Goodbye Solid Front Axles?
The Jeep Wrangler is the only production SUV in America with solid front axles. It so happens Bronco is rolling head-on to Jeep Wrangler territory, but which is gaining superiority in both ruggedness and on-road refinement? The Bronco’s HOSS-tuned independent front suspension will undoubtedly surpass Wrangler in terms of everyday comfort, but will Jeep’s tried and proven solid-axle architecture reign supreme in the wilderness?
If the Bronco is any indication, we could be witnessing the demise of the live front axle, and this got us wondering: What do hardcore off-roaders really think? Let us know on Twitter.
Alvin Reyes is an Automoblog feature columnist and an expert in sports and performance cars. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.