2020 ford ranger

Those buying a Bronco should drive the Ranger

The pre-orders for the new Ford Bronco surpassed the manufacturer’s expectations. It seems as though everyone wants a Jeep but a little more refined and maybe not a Jeep, as everyone seems to already have a Jeep these days. I am one of those people who have pre-ordered a Bronco. My four-door Big Bend should be here before summer 2021 and if all goes well I won’t have to throw a temper tantrum on how dealers rip off buyers.

It’s been said that the new Bronco is based on the Ford Ranger. I recently got a chance to drive a loaded Ranger and couldn’t help but wonder – is this what the Bronco will drive like?

And really, how similar could the Ranger and the Bronco really be?


This is the frame of the Ford Bronco. Immediately two huge differences between the Bronco and the Ranger are visible. First, the Ranger is not available with the 2.7-liter V6 engine. Second, the Bronco has rear coil spring suspension whereas the Ranger has leaf springs.

The placement of EVAP and fuel tank is obviously different on the pickup, too. The front suspension will vary greatly in geometry in order to be able to accommodate the 35-inch tires. Furthermore, the wheelbase of the Ranger is 126.8-inches and the Bronco is either 100.4 or 116.1-inches. The frame thickness itself can be different, too. For instance, the F-150 has three different frame thicknesses based on length, options, and payload. With all that we can even say that the whole frame will be unique to each vehicle.

bronco engine


Having identified so many differences between the two vehicles, what similarities could possibly bring them together? For one, the base engine in the Bronco is identical to the Ranger. While Ford did not make it official yet, the weight of the four-door Bronco seems to range between 4500 and 5300 pounds. That’s a wide range but the Sasquatch Package, engine, and top choices probably add a lot to it. The four-door Ranger 4×4 weighs just over 4,400 pounds.

When cruising unloaded, the turbocharged four-banger is absolutely sufficient for the Ranger duty. Throttle response is excellent and highway passing is a breeze. Ford’s 10-speed transmission is programmed very conservatively in the F-150 – I recall once being in sixth gear at 30-something MPH in the F-150. In the Ranger, whose engine isn’t as flexible as the F-150’s twin-turbo V6, that transmission stays longer in lower gears. This in turn results in a more responsive engine.

Overall, the 2.3-liter four-cylinder that Ford has used in a variety of vehicles and configurations, is a rather solid engine. It works great in the Ranger and feels less stressed than Toyota Tacoma’s V6 and the Jeep Gladiator’s gasoline V6. It would be fair to say that given the Bronco’s additional weight, bigger tires, and taller gearing, it won’t be as responsive there. Perhaps this is why Ford felt compelled to offer the option of a V6.

Other Makers of Pickup/SUV siblings

The SUV sibling to the Tacoma is the 4Runner. The Wrangler has the Gladiator as its pickup relative. In both cases, each SUV shares a lot with its pickup relative. Having driven all four of those vehicles, perhaps I can draw some parallels between them and the Ranger/Bronco.

The driver’s sitting position in the 4Runner is just weird. One sits rather low in the seat with legs stretched forward. It feels more compact car than a truck. The Tacoma is the same way. I have not met a person yet who would say good things about it. Another issue with both vehicles is a slight but weird body dive when coming to a stop. I cannot explain why this happens but it was annoying enough for me to replace the front shocks with quality Bilstein units in my own 4Runner.

The biggest difference between the Gladiator and the Wrangler is the longer wheelbase of the Gladiator. That translates into a nicer and smoother ride for the pickup. But because both vehicles have solid front axles, which significantly improve their off-road abilities, their on-road ride and handling is rather poor. Because the cabins of both of these vehicles are identical, they suffer from similar issues. The first is that the cabin feels rather narrow. The seats will make a larger person feel tight and there isn’t enough storage room for little things.

The cab of the Ranger is more similar to the Toyota twins. It feels wider and more comfortable. Both the Ranger and the Toyotas have similar independent front suspensions. They absorb road imperfections much better than the Jeep due and are easier to control in emergency maneuvers.

Of the three, the Ranger is by far the smoothest but at the same time, it suffers from more body roll. The Ranger feels like it could benefit from thicker sway bars. But thicker sways bars would reduce axle articulation in off-road environments. It’s a give-and-take. This is why the Rubicon versions of Jeeps have disconnecting front sway bars. The Badlands and First Edition models of the Bronco will have them as well.

Predictions of Bronco

Having driven all the vehicles mentioned above, I can make some predictions about the Bronco’s base engine, handling, and interior.

  • The interior will feel airier than the Wrangler. It’s an odd thing to say for a vehicle with a removable roof and doors may feel cramped but try it for yourself. The Bronco will feel more like a typical SUV than a large-sized side-by-side. The seats will be wider and there will be more storage space.
  • The Bronco will ride and handle better than the Wrangler. It’s simply the issue of its front axle. But those wishing to venture far off-road should really opt for the Sasquatch Package of the Bronco in the Badlands and First Edition trims. This will have all the off-road goodies and be extremely comparative with the Wrangler Rubicon in that segment.
  • The four-banger will be good enough of an engine for most people. It won’t win any drag races but it won’t be the slowest thing on the road, either. I predict that it will be on par with Toyota’s and Jeep’s gasoline V6 engine choices.


Given its initial reception, the Bronco will be a serious threat to Jeep’s Wrangler. Its design seems to address many intrinsic issues that the Wrangler has without sacrificing capability and looks. It seems to be priced right, too. The base engine will be sufficient enough for most people and the V6 isn’t a pricey option. If the smoothness and comfort I liked in the Ranger carry over to the Bronco, Jeep should really worry about the Bronco’s bite into Wrangler’s sales.

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13 responses to “Those buying a Bronco should drive the Ranger”

  1. 0A5599 Avatar

    “My four-door Big Bend should be here before summer 2012 and if all goes well I won’t have to throw a temper tantrum on how dealers rip off buyers.”

    Summer 2012?

  2. 0A5599 Avatar

    “My four-door Big Bend should be here before summer 2012 and if all goes well I won’t have to throw a temper tantrum on how dealers rip off buyers.”

    Summer 2012?

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        Good thinking.

        Someone who lived on my father-in-law’s block had a blue and white one. About 10 years ago, it had a for sale sign on it for several months before it finally sold. I don’t know how much the guy was asking, but it was when you could get a fairly decent regular Bronco for less than $2500. Now that old Broncos sell for several multiples of their original MSRP, I regret not knocking on that door during the opportunity.

        1. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

          Centurion made all sorts of stuff,last year a guy near me had a Centurion F-150 crew cab for sale (95 or 96 IIRC) which was interesting since it was a square body truck. They also did some Chevy half ton crew cabs in the 90s before the factories did.

  3. Zentropy Avatar

    Good points, all of them. I disagree about the Sasquatch package, though. I’m not a serious off-roader by any description, but I’ve never driven anywhere that I couldn’t handle in a regular Wrangler– I’ve never needed Rubicon-trim equipment. So all I really feel I need in a Bronco is the 17″ AT tires and a locking diff. If I get myself in trouble in that setup, I was driving beyond my abilities anyway.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Agreed, when the configurator post happened I skipped the Sasquatch option because it compromises everything so much for a bit extra rockhopping ability I doubt I’d ever use.

    2. William Byrd Avatar

      Agreed. Having owned three (as of this week) which were all mostly stock, it’s ridiculous what they will plow through. It’s more about tires than anything, since all Wranglers have decent ground clearance. So unless you are doing hardcore boulder hopping, you don’t really need a lift.

    3. Batshitbox Avatar

      There’s the FX2 package for the Ranger now, that gets you a locking diff and 17 or 18 inch rims. Then there’s the FX4 if you want 4WD.

  4. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    I’ve spent a year each in a Ranger and a new Explorer with the 2.3. It felt much smoother and far more refined in the Explorer. If the Bronco splits the difference, it will be a great fit.

  5. William Byrd Avatar

    My biggest issue between truck and SUV is interior space. I couldn’t imagine stopping off for groceries with more than one kid in the car. In a truck, you would have to put all that crap in the bed. Which means a cap, cover, etc. to make it really useful. And even then, you’d need some sort of cargo divider so your stuff doesn’t end up everywhere.

    Whereas in any SUV, you have some space behind the 2nd or 3rd row to store stuff like that. So totally understand regarding the off-road-worthiness of Ranger vs. Bronco, I couldn’t see myself owning a Ranger.

  6. Scubie Avatar

    You’ve compared the Bronco to the Ranger… How about the Ford Everest – probably more of a fair Comparison. Yes, it’s a SUV, but it has an independent sprung rear end, a shorter wheelbase, and smoother and more comfortable ride than the Ranger. Not sure if you get it in the US. We’re big on diesel here in NZ. I drive a 3.2L 5-pot diesel in a 2018 Ford Everest. I drove a Ranger, loved it until it came time to put a large TV in the back under a canopy – PITA… So I bought an Everest instead. Have not regretted it.

    1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

      Yeah, the Everest isn’t sold here. So the Ranger is the closest thing we can compare it to.