Ford clearly had the Jeep Wrangler in mind when it designed the new 2021 Ford Bronco. Engineers benchmarked the Wrangler’s capability, and equaled or improved upon many of its features and abilities. (Ford also exploited particular weak points in the Wrangler lineup; for instance, the Bronco lets you add the badass, off-roading Sasquatch package to the base trim, whereas if you want the ultimate off-roading Wrangler, you need the pricey Rubicon trim.)
The Bronco even followed the Wrangler down the open-air route, allowing — and facilitating — roof and door removal. But there was one Wrangler feature Ford opted not to include, even though the original first-generation Bronco had it: a fold-down windshield.
Ford’s chief Bronco designer Paul Wraith told Ford Authority that Ford did consider a fold-down windshield but ultimately opted not to include one for safety concerns.
“We looked at that. In the original vehicle, you could do that,” Wraith told Ford Authority. “But it brings with it some problems. It does provide the user with a fairly rare event since you start getting into things like flat windshields, which is a compromised construction around pillars.”
“What we actually really wanted to do is provide a very open-air feel, thin out the pillars as much as we could, which is why we have the airbags in the sport tubes,” Wraith said. “It’s very safe, very open and a good experience — and I think we made the right tradeoff.”
The original Willys Jeep used a fold-down window for convenience; it eliminated an obstruction to loading oblong items (as well as made it easier to shoot out of). It's definitely cool in theory, and one could argue it might have some utility for traversing off-roading obstacles. But it mostly persists on the Wrangler due to tradition, and is something most owners seldom if ever use.
A fold-down windshield is not a feature that’s likely to tip buyers toward a Wrangler or Bronco. That said, Ford making the open-air experience safer might be. And as we can attest, you can still get a lot of open-air (not to mention a fine coating of dust) off-roading in the Bronco without a fold-down windshield.