Two of the biggest reveals at the Detroit Auto Show happened on an empty stage. In the span of just two minutes, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas, and Raj Nair, executive vice president of global development, confirmed that the Ford Bronco SUV and Ford Ranger pickup, after years of hoaxes, hints, and lots of circumstantial evidence, are finally, officially, happening. The Ranger will arrive in 2019, and the Bronco will follow shortly thereafter in 2020.
For those of you out there who haven’t been caught up in the internet-fueled mania behind the Ranger and Bronco, here’s a primer: The Bronco was a rugged, go-anywhere compact 4×4 that launched in 1966. For the next 30 years, it had a devout cult following until it was ignominiously discontinued in 1996. Since then, thanks to its timeless looks (regardless of generation), and sterling reputation off-road, plus a couple well-received concepts, the Bronco’s following has swelled in recent years. Four Wheeler’s 2014 April Fool’s Day article on a new Bronco went viral, kicking off the trend of auto journalists — including, admittedly, us — doggedly reporting on every scrap of innuendo, non-denial, or sliver of evidence coming out of Dearborn since.
As for the Ranger, it was a tough-as-nails compact pickup introduced in 1983, and produced on the same platform until it was discontinued in 2012. Simple, reliable, and surprisingly capable, millions of Rangers still live on as work trucks around the world. And as pickups continue to get larger and more luxurious, there’s been a growing chorus of consumers who want a back-to-basics pickup, and not much else. But while we still don’t know much about the Bronco, we do have a pretty good idea of what the next-generation Ranger will look like.
After it disappeared from American roads, the Ranger was reborn as the T6 Ranger, a truck that’s currently sold in 180 global markets, including Mexico. At 211 inches long, it’s actually a little longer than the smallest F-150, though it’s marketed as a compact. There are a number of gasoline and diesel engines offered, and it’s available in two- and four-wheel drive, with both five- and six-speed manuals and an automatic transmission offered. These are important details, because come 2019, America’s Ranger won’t look much different from the rest of the world’s.
Hinrichs says the U.S.-spec Ranger will get unique sheetmetal from the A pillars forward. And while a diesel is likely to be offered (it will be taking on the Duratec Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, after all), we’re expecting more gasoline-powered options than diesels. Who knows, with the F-150 and Mustang slated to get hybrid versions, maybe that’s even on the table. At this point, we’re still far enough out to have fun with conjecture.
As for the Bronco, all we know for certain is that it will arrive for 2020, and will be built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant alongside the Ranger. In the rest of the world, the current Ranger shares its platform and much of its bodywork with the Everest, a body-on-frame, five-door, seven-seat SUV that slots almost perfectly between the Ford Edge and Explorer. With SUV sales booming, Ford could play it safe, do the logical thing, and just introduce the Everest with maybe an F-150-like fascia grafted onto it. But if it wants to appeal to enthusiasts — despite the clamor, that’s always a big risk for automakers to take — it could use the Ranger frame to build the Jeep Wrangler-fighter that everyone on the internet seems to want.
After all this uncertainty, enthusiasts can rest well knowing that despite any details, we know that the Ranger and Bronco are coming, and they’ll be here soon. What’s more, it seems like Ford wants to do right by the iconic nameplates. “We’ve heard our customers loud and clear. They want a new generation of vehicles that are incredibly capable yet fun to drive,” Hinrichs said. “Ranger is for truck buyers who want an affordable, functional, rugged and maneuverable pickup that’s Built Ford Tough. Bronco will be a no-compromise midsize 4×4 utility for thrill seekers who want to venture way beyond the city.” If The Blue Oval can deliver on those fronts alone, the future looks bright for the Ranger and Bronco.