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The 2021 Bronco 10-Speed Transmission Controversy

The 2021 Bronco 10-Speed Transmission Controversy

Immediately after Ford announced the return of the Bronco nameplate and hinted what at the new models' specs would be, we learned that the big Bronco would come with an automatic transmission and that it would be the same one used in all other Ford models.

That well-known 10-speed automatic gearbox is one of the best components of its kind in the entire industry, and Ford has developed it along with its crosstown arch-rival, General Motors.

However, even though we now know almost everything there is to know about the technical aspects of the upcoming model, there is still some controversy regarding this gearbox that needs to be cleared up. 

For those who didn't already know, one of Ford's most popular gearbox options is its modern 10-speed automatic, which was designed for longitudinal applications and has been used in numerous Ford and Lincoln models. At the same time, General Motors is using its own version, redesigned for its own model lineup.

The 10-speeds used in Ford applications come in two primary flavors –  the 10R60 and the 10R80. The difference between the two isn't just in terms of software but also several internal parts, which makes two transmissions feel and perform decidedly different. The 10R80 is the more commonly-encountered of the two and is used in almost all of Ford's SUV and truck models -- including the Mustang -- but while the 10R60 is currently used only in the Explorer, it will also be the featured transmission in the upcoming Bronco. 

Apparently, a leaked Ford spare parts memo shows that there will be no 10R80s used in the 2021 Bronco -- only 10R60s, which has some fans pretty concerned. The reason for this concern is that, while the 10R60 is the transmission of choice for smaller and less challenging vehicles like the Explorer, the 10R80 can withstand more abuse and is designed for heavy-duty applications, like towing and carrying payloads.

That's why the 10R80 is used in F-150 trucks, as well as the Ranger, Navigator, Expedition, and the Mustang. The use of the 10R60 gearbox in the 2021 Bronco does explain its somewhat modest 3,500-pound towing capacity.

So, why specifically are Bronco fans concerned that Ford made a lousy choice by putting the 10R60 in the upcoming model? Admittedly, this transmission has been known for significantly smoother shifts than the 10R80, as well as faster gear changes, and better adaptability to specific driving dynamics. This is why it has been used in the Explorer, where this gearbox fits in perfectly with the vehicle's character.

However, in the case of the Bronco, it could be a potentially problematic decision, since this off-road SUV will need a transmission that will be able to cope with massive 35 and 37-inch tires, off-road driving, and additional weight. Bronco fans are concerned that the 10R60 will just not be up to the task and that its inclusion could lead to transmission failures -- specifically during off-road use -- which would be extremely bad news for Ford.

Also, some industry insiders think that this decision was deliberately made to ensure that the 2021 Bronco would have better on-road manners than the Jeep Wrangler, since Ford knows that most of the time Broncos will be driven on the street, where customers will appreciate smoother shifts.

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