I love fender flares. I love Broncos. I added fender flares to my own 1993 Bronco. So I should love the look of the new Bronco Raptor, a vehicle which is 15 percent SUV and 85 percent fender flare. But I don’t, like I’ve eaten too much ice cream and now I am sick. My eyeballs have OD’d, or OF’d, on the unsightly protrusions sprouting from the Bronco’s flat flanks. Those aren’t fender flares, they’re outdoor amphitheaters. They’re 1980s shoulder pads. It’s like somebody told the Bronco, “Keep making that face and it’ll get stuck that way,” and it did.
The Bronco Raptor gets unique fenders and quarter-panels, but it’s obvious that its 9.8 inches of extra width is mostly flare. And those flares are functional, given the 8.6-inch wider track and 37-inch tires, but they’re not exactly integrated into the overall presentation. The tastiest flared fenders are the ones you might not even notice right away, like the flanks of a C7 Corvette Z06 or a Porsche 911 Turbo. Subaru WRX: nice flares. And of course, the Ford F-150 Raptor was the reigning king of righteously flared truck fenders until the Ram TRX came along to challenge it. But the TRX and F-150 Raptor devote most of their extra width to the fender itself. Whereas the Bronco Raptor gets these Chernobyl mud flaps. Maybe it would help if they were body colored? No, I guess not.
Ford’s styling conundrum was that artful integration of that increased width would have required new doors. On a truck as slab-sided as the Bronco, you can’t add that much width at the fenders and quarter-panels and then just stop. (Well, you could, but I guess Group B box flares were ruled out.) Ideally you’d carry the extra width into the doors, front and rear, the way Subaru does with the WRX. Ford didn’t, probably because it would have been too difficult and expensive to reengineer removable doors on a niche model. Which left one other solution: quite a set of fender flares.
Would it help if they weren’t round? I suspect so. Flat fenders are a lot easier to extend without committing visual atrocities. Mercedes-Benz stuck damn portal axles under the G-wagen, adding about 10 inches to the track, and it looked excellent because the flares matched the lines of the flat fenders. Meanwhile, the Bronco’s flares exude all the smooth integration of Shock G’s proboscises. (RIP, “The Humpty Dance” forever.) Look at how the Raptor’s flares have mud-flap mullets. That is another disturbing and weird aspect of this Bronco’s lower-body acromegaly.
What it comes down to, here, is that there’s a difference between flared fenders and fender flares. You want more of the former and just enough of the latter. And Ford knows this, as most poignantly illustrated by the Bronco DR race truck that it’ll be selling to customers this year. The DR’s track width is almost exactly the same as the Bronco Raptor’s—73.7 inches at the front versus 73.6 inches for the Raptor—but its widened fenders are integrated into the bodywork. Or at least, better integrated. It looks extremely proper. Ford is only building 50 DRs, but maybe they’ll sell the fenders separately to desperate Raptor owners.
Or maybe Bronco Raptor people will just follow the lead of their big-tired Wrangler frenemies and take the fenders completely off. That choice would be defensible aesthetically, if perhaps not legally.
One other idea is that you could just get a Bronco Sasquatch, which looks excellent and can still do some jumps. There are solutions. One of which hopefully involves an emergency refresh, like Chevy did with the 2019 Camaro front end that only lasted one year because it was so monstrous. Be brave, Ford, and do the same with Rubbermaid Raptor.
I mean, I still want a Bronco. Just not this one.
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