Will The Bronco Be Able To Fight the Competition Without A V8 Option?
While some would argue, the V8 is still considered the ultimate powerplant for any vehicle. For the better part of the automotive age, eight cylinders in America has been the performance standard and has appeared in all automotive segments, from compact models, pickup trucks and vans to upscale sedans and sports cars.
However, environmental concerns, rising fuel prices, and the "political incorrectness" of such engines have influenced manufacturers to produce downsized engines with six and four cylinders, as well as hybrid and electric vehicles. Even though we understand the challenges the car industry is facing and respect the achievements of modern automotive technology, the big V8 engine, with its lumpy idle, will always have a special place in enthusiasts' hearts. Maybe more compact modern engines can match its power and torque, but they will never match its charm and soundtrack.
The V8 engine has played an essential part in SUV culture as the preferred engine choice for all legendary off-roaders like the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, classic Range Rover, Chevrolet Blazer, and Ford Bronco. Unlike in muscle car culture, where it was the source of speed, the V8 in old-school off-roaders provided a healthy dose of torque needed to conquer the wilderness, tow trailers, and pull friends from the mud.
But fuel consumption was always a problem with heavy 4x4 with wide tires and the aerodynamics of a Rubik's cube, so eventually, this engine choice was often replaced by more efficient engines, diesels, and so on.
Fast forward to 2021, and we are now at a very complicated crossroads in terms of the direction the car industry will take. On the one hand, there are hordes of faceless and pointless pseudo SUVs without any actual off-road usability. On the other, there are just a few bona fide off-road conquerors, amongst which is the reborn Bronco.
At the same time, the industry is in the midst of the transition to electric powertrains while also trying to reinvent itself, as well as the very concept of mobility. Manufacturers try their best to convince us that V8s are no longer needed and that the same amount of power and torque can be obtained by smaller, more efficient turbocharged engines. While they might be right, buyers are still drawn to big engines, and the two latest additions to this segment prove that the V8 is (still) not dead.
We're talking about the new 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 and the just-introduced 2022 Land Rover Defender V8. Both of these SUVs have very similar design layouts, both have a legendary heritage, both come in four-door form, and both have thumping, big V8s powering all four wheels.
Jeep introduced its V8 option in the form of the Wrangler 392 when Ford announced the Bronco's return, hoping to get back into the spotlight. Although the 392 is essentially a hot-rodded Jeep, it's still an impressive machine. With a massive 6.4-liter, naturally-aspirated Hemi under the hood, the Wrangler Rubicon 392 has 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque.
These are insane figures for a Wrangler, and they translate to a 4.5 second 0 to 60 mph clocking and a 13 second quarter-mile time, both of which seem more expected of a Challenger R/T than of a Wrangler. At the same time, this model didn't lose any of its off-road capability, but it did gain a little more weight and a higher MSRP. If you want it, be ready to pay $74,000, and this is without potential dealer markups.
On the other side of the pond, we have a very posh and expensive competitor in the form of the Defender V8. It's a well-engineered off-road SUV with a retro-influenced design and a Jaguar 5.0-liter supercharged V8 with 518 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. Such firepower is responsible for a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.9 seconds and an almost 150 mph top speed. However, it doesn't come cheap --the 2022 Defender V8 in its four-door trim costs a whopping $101,000!
And you thought that Wrangler 392 was expensive?
At the same time, the most sought-after off-road SUV in this segment, the 2021 Ford Bronco, is limited to only two engine options, with the top engine choice being a 330 hp, 2.7-liter turbocharged V6.
Even though this EcoBoost unit has decent power, as well as 400 lb-ft of torque, and clocks 5.9 seconds going from 0 to 60 mph (official data), which is definitely not slow, it still lacks the appeal of a good-old V8 under the hood, as well as the performance to match its competitors.
Unfortunately, Ford seems reluctant to give the new Bronco a V8 option for several reasons, including fuel efficiency standards, manufacturer carbon footprint, engineering costs, packaging issues, and so on. At the moment, it's relying on the upcoming 2023 Bronco Warthog/Raptor or the F150 Raptor to defend the honor of Blue Oval's high-speed off-roaders.
However, the real question is, will the high-performance Broncos of tomorrow will be able to compete with the Wrangler 392 and the Defender without a proper V8 engine under the hood? Ford was very proud when they introduced the twin-turbo V6 Raptor, but for 2022, this model will be getting a 5.2-liter supercharged V8 with 760 hp straight from the Shelby GT500.
What does this mean? It means that buyers of high-performance trucks believe more in classic V8 configuration than in the high-tech downsized engines that might match V8 power and performance, but not its feel or image. So, if Ford realized that the Raptor needs a V8, will they come to realize that the Bronco needs one, too?
At the moment, it seems that Ford is offering no straight answer to this question. Just recently, in a teaser video, Ford subtly revealed that a Shelby Bronco is in the works. Even though this is incredibly interesting and exciting and we can't wait to learn more about this product, we're also a bit concerned that it could be powered by an electric motor, as opposed to the fire breathing V8 everyone expects.
The success of the Mustang Mach-E and the introduction of the Mach-E 1400 Concept show that Ford is serious about forwarding the progress of its electric vehicles and that it has the technology to make swift EVs that could outrun ICE competitors with ease.
Still, while we don't question the sheer performance numbers of electric technology, we're doubtful that an electric Shelby Bronco would have the same charm and appeal as a good-old V8-powered version.
Until we find out a little bit more about Ford's plans, let's take a look at what the current options are. If you definitely want a new Bronco, but with a V8 carrying world class power, you'll need to call the guys from Hennessey Performance and order a specially-prepared Bronco, powered by a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 with 750 hp.
While packaging such a big engine was a bit of a problem, Hennessey managed to get it done without any significant issues, save for installing a custom hood, since the supercharged V8 is slightly taller than the stock unit. This engine will be equipped with an intercooler, a high flow induction system, a unique exhaust, and a custom ECU. The only available transmission option will be Ford's 10-speed gearbox.
Of course, this vehicle will be costly and will have a minimal production run (rumor is that only 20 units will be built). However, if you're in the market for a powerful Bronco offering enough performance to match the Wrangler 392 and the Defender V8, then Hennessey's other high-performance Bronco is your best choice.
Called the Hennessey Performance VelociRaptor 400 Bronco, it features a stock drive train, with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine that's been tuned to deliver 405 hp and a sub 5 second 0 to 60 mph time. This Bronco is based on the four-door Badlands model and costs around $80,000, including the base vehicle's price.
Apart from engine tuning, the VelociRaptor 400 Bronco will include numerous other custom touches and details. Like all Hennessey Performance vehicles, this model is also exclusive, and the 2021 production cap is set at 200 units, all of which will carry the Ford manufacturer's warranty.