Article: What Can the 2021 Ford Bronco Learn from the Toyota FJ Cruiser?

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2021 Ford Bronco: What It Can Learn from the Toyota FJ Cruiser

Bronco vs FJ Cruiser.jpg

Tips on how to succeed from one retro SUV to another.
By: May 28, 2019

Will retro ever go out of style? We think not—and based on the teaser image we’ve seen, the 2021 Ford Bronco will have a boxy body that pays tribute to its classic forebears. It won’t be the first off-road SUV to take this design approach: Toyota’s FJ Cruiser wore sheetmetal inspired by FJ40-series Land Cruisers from the ’60s. And, like its muse, the FJ Cruiser had trail-ready hardware to back up its rugged looks. As Ford prepares the new Bronco, here are some lessons from the FJ Cruiser we hope the engineering and design teams have drawn on as they set out to rebuild an icon.

Build It Ford Tough—For Real
Many of today’s tough-looking crossovers would get bogged down on any trail more technical than a gravel road. The FJ Cruiser wasn’t among those, with two available four-wheel-drive systems, a beefy suspension, and off-road traction control. For the Bronco to be taken seriously, it will need the chops to take on Moab, the Rubicon, and beyond. Otherwise, it will face the same criticism as other SUV revivals that strayed from their off-roading roots—we’re looking at you, Chevy Blazer and Honda Passport.

Bring on the Mods
For many enthusiasts, stock simply isn’t enough. Lift kits, knobby tires, and burly bumpers are just a few popular upgrades, and they can help when attempting the hardest trails. The FJ Cruiser was built to accommodate all that and more. We often deride interiors with obvious blank-out plates for switches, but in the FJ Cruiser they were welcome: a dashboard switch panel was full of blanks, intended to be swapped with auxiliary controls for light bars, winches, air compressors, and other trail tools. It’s likely Ford has anticipated an aftermarket that wants to take the Bronco further—just look at all the modded FJ Cruisers out there.

Make It Look Evocative . . .

2019-New-and-Future-Cars.jpg


Let’s be real, though: For all the FJ Cruisers built into trail machines, there were at least as many that remained stock and never left the pavement. That’s a result of the model’s evocative looks, which are as much a statement of fashion as function. Purchasing a vehicle like this is often an emotional decision; it projects an outdoorsy inclination. Some buyers pore over approach angles and differential ratios, and choose an SUV accordingly. Others consider paint jobs and how it’ll look rolling through downtown. For those buyers, the Bronco’s styling needs to communicate as well on the boulevard as it does in the backwoods.

. . . and Offer Options To Personalize Its Style
Even in period, J-Series Toyotas were chic. Their two-tone paint jobs and unmistakable grilles added personality to their purpose-oriented designs. Toyota maintained this with the FJ Cruiser, offering it in a bunch of cool colors with contrasting roofs, and special-edition trims like the Trail Teams and TRD. Ford arguably did this even better with its original Bronco. Case in point: the ultra-rad Freewheelin’ edition from the late ’70s, or any of the pastel paint choices from the SUV’s five generations. Commuters and off-roaders alike would appreciate ways to add fun style to their car, and we hope Ford has some vintage-inspired packages in the plans, too.

Give It a Stick
There’s a sect of off-roaders who maintain that manual transmissions are the only way to drive. On a trail, a little clutch pop might be all it takes to climb over some roots or out of deep mud. Toyota gave the FJ Cruiser an optional six-speed manual, and we think Ford would be wise if it did the same with the Bronco. It would add to the driving fun and throwback vibe. A seven-speed manual has been rumored, but even if that doesn’t pan out, at least the 10-speed automatic as seen in the Ranger and F-150 Raptor is a decent enough transmission.

Spare Trying to Hide the Spare

2014-Toyota-FJ-Cruiser.jpg


Many crossovers hide a space-saver spare tire inside the cabin, or worse yet, ditch it for an inflator kit. That’s not an option for true off-roaders like the FJ Cruiser, which proudly wore a full-size spare on the rear cargo door. After all, the driver never knows when they might get a flat driving over a sharp rock on the trail, or a nail pulling into the mall. The Bronco shared this functional style element with the FJ Cruiser and other SUVs over the years. That spare tire often wore a cover branded with the iconic bucking bronco, as successful of a vehicle badge as any. It’s a must for Ford to include a rear-mounted spare on the new Bronco, and based on the lone teaser image Ford has shared, it looks like it’s doing just that.

More Doors’ll Do Fine
The Bronco has always been a two-door. Classic Toyota FJ40s, too, often had only two side doors to access the cabin. When Toyota designed the FJ Cruiser, it wanted to maintain that two-door look, but knew it wouldn’t fly in terms of practicality. The small suicide half-doors they subsequently gave it made second-row access easier, but they were clunky to open or close. Even though it’s a break from tradition, word is Ford took the FJ’s partway solution to heart and plans both two- and four-door Bronco variants.



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Will retro ever go out of style? We think not—and based on the teaser image we’ve seen, the 2021 Ford Bronco will have a boxy body that pays tribute to its classic forebears. It won’t be the first off-road SUV to take this design approach: Toyota’s FJ Cruiser wore sheetmetal inspired by FJ40-series Land Cruisers from the ’60s.
I agree with most of what was said, but I have to just chime in on this portion...

Retro definitely is out of style. The FJ was designed during a short period of time when overall vehicle design had grown stale, and automakers had to do SOMETHING to stand out. This something was to revert to one of the most beloved era's of automotive design; the 60s. However, cars in the 60s weren't designed with things like safety, aerodynamics, or fuel efficiency in mind like modern cars are. Therefore, most of the retro-designed modern cars turned out looking bloated, bubbly, and bland in comparison, which is a style that provided a cool bit of nostalgia when it first came along but died very quickly. I believe we currently live (or lived, about 3 or so years ago) in a golden age of automotive design, as there aren't too many cars out there that I would really consider "ugly". A lot of them use retro cues, but not to the point that they look like a bootleg'd version of a once-great car (see; Mustang), and are VERY sexy in their own, unique way. I think Ford would be able to stay true to the Bronco heritage yet make it look more modern if they based their design more off of F150 design cues with little retro bronco bits thrown in and keeping the same overall proportions and purpose of a bronco.

FWIW, if you don't believe me that retro is out of style, check out the FJ's sales numbers since its debut in 2006, despite rising popularity in SUVs in general;
2018 1
2017 4
2016 9
2015 229
2014 14,718
2013 13,131
2012 13,655
2011 13,541
2010 14,959
2009 11,941
2008 28,668
2007 55,170
2006 56,225
 

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I have already stated this, but I think it is going to be basically Ford's take on a JL Jeep Wrangler, but with Bronco styling instead of jeep styling. The new JL especially is the perfect combination of rugged and modern, while also harkening back to the roots of what makes a jeep a jeep. I feel like if Ford took the rugged/modern part but used their own bronco styling it would look absolutely amazing. IMO I don't think it is going to look like anything else in Ford's lineup. It's too dissimilar for that to make sense. It definitely isn't taking any styling cues from the ranger which is way too soft, and as far as the Raptor goes I just mostly see the F-150 as fairly unique in Ford's lineup as well. There's very little shared between the FX4 F-150 and FX4 Ranger for example. The interior yes, but exterior wise most of Ford's important vehicles are quite unique. For an example, look at the difference between the expedition and the F-150 which share a platform; very VERY little styling similarities. All these renders that imagine it as looking like a raptor are way off the mark IMO, especially based on how the baby bronco looks. If you want to know where Ford is going to go with it compare a first gen mustang to a modern mustang, or even the new Ford GT compared to the old one. I know that may seem a bit extreme to compare the Bronco to the GT, but I remember reading somewhere that the Bronco has been kept just as much of a secret as the GT was. That sort of "reimagining" while still having a lot of the spirit of the original is how I picture the bronco.

I even have a bit of a conspiracy: At this point it's impossible that they haven't put it through it's paces off-road; but what if they hid the bronco underpinnings under a wrangler? Nobody would ever know with how modified a lot of wranglers are, and from what we know the dimensions are going to be quite similar. I have no basis for this just an idea that I was thinking about.
 
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I even have a bit of a conspiracy: At this point it's impossible that they haven't put it through it's paces off-road; but what if they hid the bronco underpinnings under a wrangler? Nobody would ever know with how modified a lot of wranglers are, and from what we know the dimensions are going to be quite similar. I have no basis for this just an idea that I was thinking about.
That's actually a REALLY cool theory. I imagine the Bronco is going to be a good bit wider than the Wranger (which is relatively narrow) and slightly longer than a 2 door, but you could easily maintain the same track width with the smaller Jeep body and maintain a "heavily modded jeep" look
 

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That's actually a REALLY cool theory. I imagine the Bronco is going to be a good bit wider than the Wranger (which is relatively narrow) and slightly longer than a 2 door, but you could easily maintain the same track width with the smaller Jeep body and maintain a "heavily modded jeep" look
The JL wrangler is actually a bit wider than the ranger. The are pretty darn close.
 

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FWIW, if you don't believe me that retro is out of style, check out the FJ's sales numbers since its debut in 2006, despite rising popularity in SUVs in general;
2018 1
2017 4
2016 9
2015 229
2014 14,718
2013 13,131
2012 13,655
2011 13,541
2010 14,959
2009 11,941
2008 28,668
2007 55,170
2006 56,225
2015-2018 They only sold 243 units? Guess I could do a Google instead I'll just ask you. Were they some sort of Limited Exclusive Offerings?
 

Bronco II

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I have a couple of friends who have FJ's they tell me and I can attest to it that there almost as hard to see out of than a camaro way to many blind spots.
 

78CreamBrownie

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This is a weird article. I don't consider the FJ Cruiser a success. According to those numbers it sold 222,251 units in 12 years. On average it sold 27781 units per year(from 2006 to 2014). Half of the total units were sold in the first 2 years. When you design a plan to bring a new vehicle to the market, you don't expect to have sold half your lifetime total in year two.

The article states, do everything the FJ Cruiser did to be successful. yet it wasn't. The article is 100% right on it points but no in using the FJ Cruiser as an example.

Here is what the Bronco needs to be successful.

1. It has to look right. The FJ did not
2. It has to have a modern interior, yet rugged exterior.
3. Balance Off/On Road capabilities
4. Loads of mods from the start. Ford HAS to lead the way this. Jeep is doing it with the JL and Ford should follow it's lead.
 

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The FJ Cruiser was a failure, so I am not sure why the author seems to think it is the example Ford needs to be following. ... Also, I am not sure why people refer to the FJ Cruiser as being retro. ...
Agreed, the FJ might have been well done mechanically for its target audience, but it was awful in most regards. The only way it serves as an example for the Bronco is in that they will both theoretically compete with the Wrangler, and hopefully the Bronco does a far better job of it.

The FJ design reminds me a lot of the failures of today's crossovers -- very curvy for a "SUV", highly restricted rear and side visibility. I hope the Bronco is FAR more retro in its design -- one of the big things driving me away from the 4Runner is that goofy bubble body look it shares with the FJ.

Build It Ford Tough—For Real -- yes, agreed. Don't just give an impression of ruggedness, actually be rugged and durable, especially in regards to mechanicals. I would also extend this to say don't just give an impression of off road worthiness either.

Bring on the Mods + Offer Options To Personalize Its Style
-- really the same thing, the platform must be very customizable, and Ford needs to actively cultivate that. Agreed.

Make It Look Evocative -- well, it needs to look good. I personally very much want it to evoke the early bronco. Some 'reimagining' would probably help with safety and efficiency, but a classic SUV has a very simple shape, don't stray too far.

Give It a Stick -- I'd broaden this a bit to include other classic 4x4 mechanical components like a hi/low range transfer case, lockers, and solid axles -- all of which go back to the first point of ruggedness and durability.

Spare Trying to Hide the Spare -- ok, this one just goes back to Looks and Ruggedness combined.

More Doors’ll Do Fine -- yeah, 4-doors will keep sales volumes up. More importantly is a specific element of Looks, again, the right wheelbase proportion to other body dimensions. A big part of whether I go for 2 or 4 doors will come down to wheelbase and overhangs, and how they affect angles and capacities -- I expect them both to come with back seats that will be empty 99+% of the time.

 

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2015-2018 They only sold 243 units? Guess I could do a Google instead I'll just ask you. Were they some sort of Limited Exclusive Offerings?
Nope, it's just that dealer stock on it doesn't sell because people don't want old-looking vehicles... almost like the sales decline of the Nissan 370Z (thought FAR more severe). If dealers don't buy them to keep stock, that would make the "special order only", per se. But I feel like most people (myself included until looking into it a bit more for my last post) don't even know that the FJ is still produced
 

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The JL wrangler is actually a bit wider than the ranger. The are pretty darn close.
Interesting. Maybe it's just the fact that I haven't seen many JL wranglers in person, but they all just look so narrow in pictures!

Actually, as I was typing it, I realized what it is... The flares on jeeps probably add a good 4 inches total of width, while the rest of the body remains looking narrow. I imagine the Bronco will forego flares like that and have a more bulky body overall, thus APPEARING much wider while in reality not being much wider than the wrangler

Edit: looking it up, the Ranger is actually about a foot wider than the wrangler, with the wrangler being 73.9" and the ranger being 85.8". Considering the 4runner is also about the same width as the Jeep, if the bronco maintain's the ranger's width, it's going to be a big girl
 

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Many people forget the FJ Cruiser dropped in sales when the economy crashed in 2008. Because of this, I'm pretty sure Toyota didn't feel they needed to invest in updating it. The Bronco wouldn't have anything to worry about unless the economy crashes again.
 

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and FJs were sold until 2016 in Australia https://www.caradvice.com.au/443137/toyota-fj-cruiser-production-to-end-in-august/

and the Phillipines,

it is still on sale in the Middle East to this day

actually I am about to buy a used one probably pretty soon, on Monday I am heading to the seller's place to check / test the car, if it turns out OK and fit for my needs then I am probably forgetting about the Bronco for a while...:frown::blush: I don't care about retro / looks / legends ... heck it's a Toyota after all - at least is a 4.0 V6 N/A engine

I know it sound blasphemous, but please don't judge / criticize me for the decisions I am about to take :fingerscrossed:
 

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... looking it up, the Ranger is actually about a foot wider than the wrangler, with the wrangler being 73.9" and the ranger being 85.8". Considering the 4runner is also about the same width as the Jeep, if the bronco maintain's the ranger's width, it's going to be a big girl
No, they aren't. The body of the Ranger is about 73" wide (1860mm). The width you're quoting is the Ranger Raptor including mirrors, which is wider than a F150. The normal Ranger has a track width of 63".

The body of the Wrangler is about 60", but the wheels/tires protrude significantly for a track width of 64", an inch wider than a Ranger.

Having a narrow body with a slightly wider track is very good on the trails and maneuverability in general. The wider body the Bronco is likely to have will make the cabin interior feel a little more spacious and comfortable, and the wider grille and engine compartment can offer space for a larger engine and radiator -- both potentially very big advantages for Bronco if they are capitalized on. One of the major limits on Wrangler and Gladiator towing capacity is said to be the space available for the radiator.

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BHFPM0596_2019_Ranger_Specifications_v5 page1.png

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2018-Jeep-Wrangler-JL-JLU-Dimensions-Length-Width-Track.jpg

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No, they aren't. The body of the Ranger is about 73" wide (1860mm). The width you're quoting is the Ranger Raptor including mirrors, which is wider than a F150. The normal Ranger has a track width of 63".

The body of the Wrangler is about 60", but the wheels/tires protrude significantly for a track width of 64", an inch wider than a Ranger.

Having a narrow body with a slightly wider track is very good on the trails and maneuverability in general. The wider body the Bronco is likely to have will make the cabin interior feel a little more spacious and comfortable, and the wider grille and engine compartment can offer space for a larger engine and radiator -- both potentially very big advantages for Bronco if they are capitalized on. One of the major limits on Wrangler and Gladiator towing capacity is said to be the space available for the radiator.

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BHFPM0596_2019_Ranger_Specifications_v5 page1.png

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2018-Jeep-Wrangler-JL-JLU-Dimensions-Length-Width-Track.jpg

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Interesting, the information I was looking at made no mention of the Raptor... in fact, it was for a US-spec ranger. Wonder where the discrepancy is

Either way, I still think the Bronco will at least look wider than the Wrangler since it'll (hopefully) be all body with no flares. I don't want it to be much wider than the Jeep, and was actually really surprised (and slightly disappointed) to read that the Ranger was over a foot wider. Part of the reason I want a Bronco and not an F150 is because the F150 is too big for my liking
 



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