The 2021 Ford Bronco appears poised to take the off-roading segment by storm, but there's more to being a Jeep Wrangler competitor than simply being a capable 4x4. A good chunk of the Wrangler's charm — the majority for some buyers, even — is rooted in its open-top format.
Ford's market research backed that up. A Bronco without the ability to remove the roof and doors — a hallmark of the original 1966 model — wouldn't be much of a Bronco at all. And so Ford decided to approach the 2021 Bronco's exterior with one key notion in mind: modularity.
The Bronco Two-Door, which is expected to sell in far fewer numbers, is available only with a hardtop, but buyers can go with one of two options. The standard roof has three removable sections: two over the front occupants that can be safely stored in the trunk and a larger rear clamshell-like section that'll have to stay behind. This is essentially identical to how the current Jeep Wrangler 2-Door's roof is set up.
However, there's an upgrade that offers more versatility. The premium painted option gains a fourth section: a removable panel that spans the rear seats and cargo area, effectively breaking the rear section into smaller parts, making both removal and storage more convenient.
The Bronco Four-Door comes standard with a cloth soft top, but you don't have to choose between it and the optional four-section hardtop — owners can keep both. It should also be noted that there is no cross brace between the B pillars as in the Wrangler (it's behind the back seat instead), allowing for an uninterrupted view of the heavens with the roof panels removed. The rear quarter window panels are also removed in quick, easy steps, Ford says.
Four-Door models will get three removable top sections that can be removed individually. This is similar to the Jeep Wrangler 4-Door's configuration, but with one key difference: Ford says every Bronco roof panel can be removed by just one person. According to head designer Paul Wraith, "With one hour and a wrench, you can strip this truck down," referring to the body panels that can easily be removed. As you can see from our Jeep Gladiator Rubicon video included at the end of this piece, we're keen to put that theory to the test.
The doors can be removed as in the Wrangler, and while Jeep has evolved its hardtop design to be more convenient, Ford is primed to leapfrog Jeep's latest efforts. For starters, the Bronco will have frameless windows, which will be both smaller and less awkward than the Wrangler's. This may seem like a minor detail, but the reduced weight and smaller size make it possible to stow them in the Four-Door's cargo area complete with storage bags.
For says the Two-Door model's front roof panels can be stored inside the truck, which is fantastic for day trips. While this may seem like only a minor convenience on the surface, it takes a lot of the what-ifs out of planning an excursion, and any peace-of-mind feature is going to be welcome in those circumstances.
A key component in the concept of modularity is that things can not only be taken apart in pieces, but reconfigured in different ways. Even items such as the fender flares come off in seconds, while the bumper end caps can be removed for greater wheel clearance.
This is where Ford's accessory department and aftermarket partnerships come in. There will be different door designs available as accessories, for example, and those are just some of the hundreds of customization opportunities that will be possible with the 2021 Bronco. There's also the matter of mirrors. On the Wrangler, when you take off the doors you're also getting rid of the side mirrors; Bronco has them mounted directly to the body.