SPIED: 2021 Ford Bronco and 2022 Ranger Raptor Mule
We’re getting closer and closer to the reveal of the 2021 Ford Bronco, as evidenced by the funky short-wheelbase Ranger mules spotted scooting around the company’s Michigan headquarters. But we’ve also been seeing reports of a new Ranger Raptor mule with unique suspension, wheels and tires, and bodywork, lending new credibility to the rumor an off-road–centric package will be offered on Ford’s midsize pickup.
First, the Bronco, now expected for the 2021 model year. We’ve seen these mules (or similar ones) before, featuring the front bodywork and cabin of a 2019 Ranger SuperCab, mated to a chopped-off rear bed and ultra-short wheelbase. In fact, the Bronco mule’s wheelbase looks even shorter than the 2011 Ranger’s regular cab, short-bed body style. That promises good things for off-road capability and maneuverability. For a better idea of the 2021 Bronco’s proportions, sans the mule’s funky bodywork, we masked off the vehicle and used a Microsoft Paint–grade marker to show the short-wheelbase Bronco’s possible shape. We like the overall stance and think it would be a great foil to the Jeep Wrangler.
However, as recently reported from a Ford dealer meeting, the Bronco will also be available in a Wrangler Unlimited–rivaling four-door model. We presume that vehicle will ride on the current Ranger’s 126.8-inch wheelbase, putting the longer Bronco in between the aforementioned Wrangler and the Gladiator pickup in terms of size. Attendees to that dealer meeting also alleged that both the two- and four-door Bronco would feature a removable roof—whether that means a fully removable hardtop, like the old Bronco, or targa-style removable roof panels is unclear.
Also unclear is the purpose behind the Ranger Raptor prototype spotted in Dearborn recently. Most of the industry’s automotive journalists have been under the impression that Americans wouldn’t be privy to the Ranger-sized Raptor variant, but if that were the case, we’re not sure why Ford would go to the trouble of dressing up an American-market Ranger SuperCrew with wider front and rear fenders, a taller suspension, F-150 Raptor–style aluminum wheels, and BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A off-road tires.
Also plainly apparent on the Raptor mule are twin exhaust tips, which suggest a higher-performance powertrain than the current Ranger’s 2.3L EcoBoost I-4. Also spotted in the fully camouflaged interior was an A-pillar gauge, likely monitoring exhaust temperature or turbocharger pressure. Spy photographers corroborated that suspicion, saying this mule sounded like it had a V-6 under the hood. Could a 2.7L EcoBoost V-6 with 325 hp and 400 lb-ft be in the Ranger’s future?
According to the photogs at SpiedBilde, this mule is likely a testbed for the next-generation Ranger and its Raptor variant, which should arrive for 2022 or 2023. However, we certainly hope we won’t have to wait that long for an off-road–ready Ranger, which would make a perfect rival to the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.