|7-speed manual or 10-speed automatic||Transmission||3-speed manual|
|Sync 4 with 12-in touchscreen||Infotainment||Optional radio|
The 2021 Ford Bronco is the resurrection of an icon and Ford’s most capable off-road vehicle to date. Entirely redesigned from the ground up to be the ultimate off-road machine, the 2021 Ford Bronco offers a wide variety of performance features on top of its already exceptional mechanical attributes. From its factory 35-inch all-terrain tires to its hydraulic sway bar disconnect, the new Bronco is ready to hit the toughest trails the moment it drives off the dealership lot. But how does this new SUV compare to its legendary predecessor? It is time to compare the 2021 Ford Bronco vs 1966 Ford Bronco to see just how far Ford has come over the past 55 years.
As might be expected, the 2021 Ford Bronco brings substantially more power and sophistication to the table when compared to the 1966 Ford Bronco. For instance, with a turbocharged V6 producing 310 horsepower and the choice between either a seven-speed manual or a ten-speed automatic transmission, the drivetrain of the new vehicle is light years more advanced than the 150 horsepower V8 and three-speed manual transmission found in the original Bronco. But while the 2021 SUV has a distinct edge in technology, the 1966 version puts up a surprisingly good fight when it comes to more basic features such as ground clearance and general utility.
Both the original 1966 Ford Bronco and the new 2021 Ford Bronco come in more than one body style. The first version of this SUV was sold as an open-top Roadster, as a half-cab Sports Utility, and as a fully enclosed Wagon. However, all three versions share the same basic two-door body, and all of their tops and doors can be removed or replaced. In comparison, the latest Bronco can be had in a fully enclosed style with a removable top/doors but is available in either a smaller Two-Door or a larger Four-Door configuration. And while the multiple styles of the 1966 Bronco do have a certain appeal to them, it is difficult to deny that the addition of an extended-length option with twice as many doors makes the new 2021 Bronco the more versatile of these two vehicles.
However, even the smaller 2021 Ford Bronco Two-Door is noticeably larger than its 1966 predecessor. The original version of this iconic vehicle measures 152.1 inches bumper to bumper, 68.8 inches side to side, and has a 92-inch wheelbase, while the latest Bronco Two-Door is 174 inches overall, 76 inches in width, and has a 100-inch wheelbase. In terms of cargo space, the new Bronco Two-Door SUV can fit up to 52.3 cubic feet of gear, and the larger Bronco Four-Door can handle over 77 cubic feet of equipment, while the original Bronco can only carry 32 cubic feet of cargo. Yet while the extra size of the newer version certainly adds to its comfort and utility, the older Bronco is more agile and can squeeze through tighter terrain.
When it comes to measurements that determine a vehicle’s off-road performance, the 1966 Ford Bronco again puts up an incredibly good fight. Equipped with its massive 35-inch tires, the latest version of this vehicle has 11.6 inches of ground clearance, a 43-degree approach angle, a 29-degree break-over angle, and a 37-degree departure angle. The largest option available on the 1966 Bronco was much smaller 27-inch tires, but with these equipped, it still has 8.4 inches of ground clearance, a 44-degree approach angle, a 32-degree break-over angle, and a 33-degree departure angle. So while the 2021 Ford Bronco clearly wins the critical ground clearance comparison, the 1966 Ford Bronco is capable of traversing slightly rougher ground. Not bad for a 55-year-old design.
While the 1966 Ford Bronco certainly earned its legendary status, when it comes to engine and drivetrain options, the 2021 Ford Bronco is clearly the superior vehicle. No matter how good the original engineers were, they were still restricted by the technologies of the day and cannot compete against over half a century of mechanical advances. The first Bronco came with two engine options, a 170 cubic inch (2.8L) inline-six and a 289 cubic inch (4.7L) V8. But despite the large displacements of these two engines, the power that they produced is underwhelming by modern standards. The six-cylinder had just 105 horsepower and 158 lb-ft of torque, while the eight-cylinder produced 200 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque.
In contrast, the new Bronco takes full advantage of Ford’s excellent EcoBoost turbocharged direct-injection engines, two technologies that were simply unheard of in consumer vehicles when the original Bronco was being designed. So while the engines in the 2021 vehicle have less displacement and fewer cylinders, they are vastly more powerful. The base engine in the new Bronco is a 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder with 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, while the upgraded option is a 2.7L turbocharged six-cylinder with 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. This gives the 2021 Ford Bronco a tremendous advantage in power over the 1966 Ford Bronco that more than outweighs its larger size.
Further, the new Bronco pairs its superior engines with an equally advanced pair of transmissions that only further amplify its drivetrain advantages. These transmissions are either a seven-speed manual that includes a unique high ratio crawl gear for technical off-roading, or a modern ten-speed shiftable automatic with multiple transmission modes for different terrains. In comparison, the original 1966 Ford Bronco came with a single transmission option––a three-speed manual that Ford proudly advertised was synchronized in all three gears. But while that three-speed may have been advanced for its day, it is hopelessly outclassed by the options in the 2021 Ford Bronco.
Comparing the feature sets of the 1966 Ford Bronco vs the 2021 Ford Bronco really emphasizes just how far technology has advanced over the past decades. To a modern driver, the special features of the original vehicle are the sort of things that are now taken for granted on even the cheapest of cars, while to a driver from 1966, the technologies in the 2021 model would appear to be something out of science fiction. Indeed, the touchscreens, voice commands, and automated driver assistance technologies in the new Bronco are in many ways more advanced than the features of a certain 23rd-century starship that was also first introduced to the public in 1966.
Inside and out, the original Ford Bronco is an incredibly simple vehicle that is a true relic from a simpler age before mandated safety technology and fancy infotainment systems. It has no ABS, airbags, headrests, or three-point seatbelts, and even the rearview and driver-side mirrors are only optional equipment. You could even choose to have a chromed metal handlebar bolted to the dash if you particularly disliked your passenger. The standard model was also entirely lacking any form of on the go entertainment, although a radio could be installed if desired. Other popular factory accessories that we now take for granted included a heater, a tachometer, and a compass.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the 2021 Ford Bronco with its incredible array of performance, safety, and convenience technologies. With up to eight different GOAT vehicle modes for a variety of terrains, one-pedal driving for low-speed maneuvering, and an intelligent hydraulic swaybar disconnect, the new Bronco is its own highly capable co-pilot on any off-road adventure. And of course, Ford’s standard Co-Pilot 360 suite of advanced driver assistance technologies is equally valuable in preventing accidents and reducing driver fatigue on the road. When faced with these virtually magical technologies that modern drivers rely on without a second thought, the original Bronco is hopelessly outclassed.
When it comes to entertainment, the 2021 Bronco stands out with its massive 12-inch central touch screen and its advanced Sync 4 infotainment software. To put these features into context, when the original Bronco was being built, the many families had a single black and white television that was smaller than the new Bronco’s infotainment screen. Further, infotainment features such as voice commands and smartphone integration would have been entirely alien to the drivers of 1966. Even the 2021 Bronco’s dual-zone automatic climate control system would have been a true marvel in a day when fewer than half of new cars were sold with air conditioning. While the old and new Broncos may be similar in their roles, when it comes to features and comfort there is simply no comparison.