With the new Ford GT and SVT Raptor, it may seem like Ford’s benches are clearing. But if you’d rather spend your time blasting through trails than eating up highway, the best days are still to come. A renegotiated contract between Ford and the United Auto Workers moved Focus and C-Max production out of their current plants — and brought the Ranger and Bronco back in. The midsize Ranger pickup has been out of the company’s American lineup since 2012, and the Bronco has been sorely missed since it was discontinued in 1996, a victim of SUV demand shifting away from off-road capability to suburban cul-de-sacs.
In ’96, the final-edition Bronco was based on the F-150 platform. But in the early ’80s, Ford had introduced a standalone model, the Bronco II, which shared its platform with the Ranger. In 1990, that evolved into the Explorer, which arguably became the first soccer-mom friendly mass-market SUV. After more than a quarter century apart, we now know the Ranger and Bronco will share the same DNA again, and we can expect it to be as rugged as it was in its glory days.