Driving purists will want to sign onto this one.
Driving purists across the US were thrilled last month when Ford revealed that the brand new 2021 Ford Bronco will offer a seven-speed manual transmission. There's just one issue: it's only available with the smaller, less-powerful 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, and crucially, it can't be had with the hardcore "Sasquatch" package.
No doubt that decision was informed by a careful analysis of consumer preferences, which most likely uncovered that the manual transmission take-rate would be particularly low among the sort of customers who generally buy fully loaded off-road vehicles. Nonetheless, a new petition on Change.org aims to change everything.
The new Bronco "truly [knocks] it out of the park with features and design that calls [sic] on the decades of heritage," the change.org petition reads in part. "However, many people have been shocked to find out that the touted 7-speed manual transmission option is NOT available with the off-road Sasquatch package OR the higher output 2.7 V6 engine."
"We believe Ford is missing an opportunity to both honor the heritage of the vehicle and to also give enthusiasts what they want," the petition continues. "Ford should offer the manual transmission with any combination of engines or packages."
As fans of both the new Ford Bronco and manual transmissions in general, we can understand the sentiment behind the petition, which currently has about 4,000 signatures as of this writing. However, despite Ford claiming they are open to suggestions, we have our doubts that the automaker will be swayed.
For one thing, it's becoming increasingly hard to make a business case for manual transmissions in the modern era. Dealers don't want to stock them because only a fraction of the American population can actually drive them, and many buyers who might otherwise prefer a manual know there are significant trade-offs when it comes to ownership, from the difficulties presented by friends and family members who can't drive stick, to trouble reselling the vehicle later down the road.
Moreover, the Bronco's 7-speed standard, the Getrag MTI550, is only rated for up to 550 Nm of torque - about 406 lb-ft. At around 400 lb-ft, the 2021 Ford Bronco's 2.7L EcoBoost V6 is right at the upper limit of that nominal torque rating, and while the gearbox has surely been engineered with plenty of overhead, well, you don't get to be a major global automaker without erring on the side of "overly conservative".