After much anticipation, Broncos are now appearing on roads everywhere and people are starting to understand the difference between it and the smaller Bronco Sport. The Bronco officially debuted as a 2021 model and is available in eight trims for 2022. The Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, and Wildtrak are all available in either two or four door configurations. The latest models to join the lineup, the Everglades and Raptor are exclusively four door vehicles. Beyond the doors and trims, the Bronco can further be built to your desires with a soft or hard top variation, a wide variety of wheels, and plenty of accessories. Four door models accommodate five passengers while two door versions seat four. Ford also recently announced plans for two new models in 2023 that include the Heritage and Heritage Limited edition which pay homage to the original ones that debuted back in 1966.
Under the hood are three different powertrains. The most powerful is the Raptor's 3.0L EcoBoost V6 10-speed that pumps out 400 horsepower. The more common options are the 315 horsepower 2.7L EcoBoost V6 or the 275 horsepower 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder on regular grade fuel. Fill it up with premium fuel and the horsepower will increase on each to 330 and 300. Broncos are available with either a 7-speed manual or 10-speed automatic depending on trim. Prices start at $31,300 for a 2-door base model and climb up to $53,000 for the Everglades. The more niche Raptor version starts at $68,500. Competition is primarily the Jeep Wrangler as it is currently the only other off-road vehicle that is available in 2 or 4 doors with a removable top and doors like the Bronco. Prospective buyers may also look at other off-road oriented vehicles like the Jeep Gladiator, Land Rover Defender, Lexus GX, or Toyota 4Runner. I had the opportunity to spend a week in both a manual four-door model as well as an automatic two door Bronco. Here's what stood out...
There is no doubt that Ford nailed it with the design of the new Bronco. It is a modern-day design with plenty of cues from the original version. The overall size is comparable to the Jeep Wrangler in both configurations. Bronco's feature round headlights with BRONCO spelled across the grille, although not all headlights feature the circular LED lighting signature as that is only an option on the Big Bend and standard on the Outer Banks and up models. One of my test vehicles had the LEDs and the other didn't, in my opinion, the LEDs add a modern distinguishable look to the Bronco and are worth the upgrade.
Its boxy shape gives it a prominent silhouette and around back are rectangular taillights and a rear mounted tire. The overall appearance will heavily depend on the trim level as changes to the grille, badging, wheels, and tires all affect the style. Other details such as the tie-down latches up front and available accessories like the roof rails or bull bar add to its overall rugged appeal. Wheels range from 16 to 18-inches in style and tires vary from 30 up to 35 inches in diameter with either all season, all-terrain or off-road oriented tires.
Color Palette (+)
In addition to all the accessories available to customize your Bronco, there are also a wide variety of colors available. Stand out in something bold like Race Red, Cyber Orange, Hot Pepper Red, or Velocity Blue. Or opt for something more subdued such as Cactus Gray, Area 51, Carbonized gray, or Eruption Green...whatever you choose, the Bronco is the type of vehicle that can pull them all off.
I drove both a 4-door manual 4-cylinder and a 2-door automatic V6 for a week each. Both versions offer different driving dynamics for various types of enjoyment. I thoroughly enjoyed the manual transmission Bronco as a nice throwback to simpler times. Manuals are only available on the 2.3L which generate 300 horsepower and 325-pound feet of torque. Ford features a digital tachometer gauge that resembles a bar graph which may take some acclimation for shifting. The clutch is well-tuned for easy shifting. The 4,600 pound 4-door was a little slow to get going, but 3,000 RPM seemed to be the ideal time the engine picked up a little boost. It wasn't the quickest off the line either, for optimal speed leave it in first longer than you might be comfortable as it revs to 5,000 RPM before shifting. Driving the Black Diamond with 32" General Grabber A/Tx tires delivered a relatively smooth ride for an off-road oriented truck. Turning radius was great around town and it rode like many other body-on-frame SUVs on the highway. Road noise was greater on the highway, as expected with a removable top. It's not a luxury crossover but combined with smooth gear shifting it wasn't all that jerky or bouncy.
Switching gears, the 2-door automatic V6 was a bit of a wilder ride for a couple key reasons. First off, it was the Wild Trak model with the Sasquatch package which featured the 17" beadlock wheels wrapped in 35" M/T tires. It was also a shorter wheelbase and featured a lift with a taller ride height. All combined, the 2-door Wild Trak was much "wilder" on the highway. It felt loose and a bit uncontrolled with every bump in the road and it was best to always keep two hands on the steering wheel. This could potentially be off-putting for some, but I enjoyed the drive and thought it was engaging. That said, this version was built for slow, off-road driving rather than the highway. The automatic V6 was quicker from a stop, but thirstier at the pump. The 2.7L V6 nets 330 horsepower and 415-pound feet of torque. It was a lot of fun to drive around town as it was impressively nimble around corners. Steering was balanced, but on the loose side to accommodate off-road type of driving.
Open Air (+)
One thing that sets the Bronco apart from the Wrangler is the lack of a center bar across the roofline, which allows for a wide-open roof when the tops are off. The Bronco is available with both a soft or multi-piece hardtop. The soft top can be opened partially, fully, or completely removed. It functions manually by unlatching clips up front and folding it back. To fully fold it down, the rear windows must be pulled out which requires some effort and multiple steps before folding the top completely down and latching it down. It doesn't require much storage and is easiest if you intend to put it up or down frequently.
The alternative option is a hard top roof which consists of three or four panels depending on how many doors. Both versions came off easily by unlatching a couple hitches and locks that keep them in place, along with some bolts that could be taken out using the Bronco toolkit. The four-panel version consists of two small panels over the front which can be conveniently stored in a case in the back. Across the back seats is the third panel and a fourth shell piece encompasses the back windows over the cargo area. The back shell is lighter than the Wranglers and could be lifted off alone (carefully) but is easiest with a partner. The shell of the 2-door is heavier since it extends over the passenger area and will require a second set of hands to put on or off.
Keep in mind that adding the roof rails will add extra steps to the top removal. To fully remove the top, the rails will also need to be removed which requires an additional ten minutes or so. If you want full "naked" mode, the doors can also be removed by unplugging the electronics for the windows/locks and then removing two bolts on each door. They come off easily but take some hand / eye coordination to align properly when putting them back on. Overall, the entire transformation to full open-air can be done in less than 20 minutes.
Off-Road Ability (+)
The Bronco is highly capable off-road. Standard on Big Bend and up models are G.O.A.T Modes (Goes Over Any Terrain) which include Normal, ECO, Sport, Slipper, Mud/Ruts, and Sand. Beyond these modes, an available Sasquatch package delivers turn-key off-roading features. Sasquatch is available on all Broncos (except the Raptor) and offers upgrades such as 35-inch tires, electronic-locking front and rear axles, HOSS 2.0 system (High-performance off-road stability suspension) with Bilstein dampers, fender flares, and is available with a manual transmission. They come with maximum ground clearance of 11.6-inches on the 2-door and 11.5-inches on the 4-door and can handle just about any type of terrain.
The underbody is protected by steel bash plates to protect critical hardware and additional skid plates are also available for reassurance when taking on rocky terrains. Depending on trim or options, just a push of a button engages the available front locking differential, the available rear locking differential, available sway-bar disconnect or the available Trail Turn Assist. Maximum water fording is 33.5-inches on most and up to 36.4-inches on the Everglades model. Other off-road bonus features available include rock rails, modular bumpers, washout vinyl flooring, trail control, train turn assist and trail one-pedal drive. For the ultimate off-roading Bronco, step up to the Raptor for even better specs all-around.
Proof that sometimes simple is better. The overall interior layout is heavily focused on function with easy to reach controls and durable materials. This approach aligns with the open-air roof to maximize its weather proofing. Some buyers may be disappointed if they're looking for high-tech, glossy, sophisticated interiors as that is not the Bronco's forte... even on models in the $50k range. One complaint I did have was the lack of a handle in the A-pillar which would be beneficial when pulling oneself up into a higher-riding version. There are rubber grab handles at either end of the dash, but they felt a bit too low and forward.
Interior Space (+/-)
The Ford Bronco is available in two-door (four-seat) and four-door (five-seat) body styles. Both have ample head and leg room for all their passengers. The seats are available in cloth, a marine grade vinyl, or leather which are durable and comfortable. Seats can be adjusted manually forward and back or up and down. The seats are generally comfortable but offer minimal side bolstering which would be a nice add for longer trips. A heated steering wheel along with heated and power-adjusted seats are also available. Carpet or rubberized flooring is also available and include drain plugs should water get inside. Rear seats in both models offer plenty of space, but access to the rear of the 2-door is more complex.
Cargo Capacity (+)
The 2-door has 22.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seats and 52.3 cubic feet with the seats folded. The 4r-door provides up to 38 and 83 cubic feet, respectively. Space is a plus when compared to the Wrangler's 12.9 cubic feet (2-door) or 31.7 cubic feet (4-door). The back seats also fold down easily when needed. Note the back-end swings open to the side rather than up (or down) so you'll need to park accordingly when loading cargo in the back. There is room in the back to hold the front roof panels (and an available carrying case for storage) but keep in mind that they take up a significant amount of space in the 2-door and limited room for anything else.
At the center of the Bronco's dash is either an eight or 12-inch LCD touchscreen that pairs with Ford's user-friendly SYNC 4 infotainment system. The 8-inch is standard and includes a rear-view camera with backup assist lines, wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto compatibility. The graphics are crisp and do feature a nice start-up graphic of boulders rolling and forming a bucking bronco. Other available features include a 360-degree camera, Bang & Olufsen sound system, and wireless charging pad. Technology is available in one of three packages from Ford: standard, mid, or lux. Most of the Bronco's innovative technology is focused on its off-road capabilities rather than interior luxuries.
Easter Eggs (+)
Who doesn't love a good easter egg in vehicles these days. Ford offers up plenty in the new Bronco that are fun to show off... here are a few favorites:
* Headlights- the circular design is a reference to the original and hidden inside them is an etched bucking bronco
* Bolts- Look closely at the hardware in the dash and you'll see that the bolts read Bronco on them.
* Name Plate- A made in Michigan steel plate is mounted in the dash and resembles the front grille of a Bronco using two bolts as the headlights
* Fuel Door- Behind the door are images of three of the original body styled Bronco and their body codes
* Lighting - Bucking broncos illuminate in the rear cargo area between two LED cargo lights.
* Lasso- Also in the rear cargo area are printed lassos on each of the tie down loops
Standard on all models is the bas Ford Co-Pilot 360 driver assist features that include auto high beams, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, dynamic brake support, hill descent control, hill start assist, and a rearview camera with back-up assist. Other available features include a blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, 360-degree camera, forward sensing system, adaptive cruise control, and evasive steering assist.
Final Statement (+)
Ford built the kind of Bronco that everyone wanted and did it well. There are seemingly endless ways to configure one to your personal preference and style. Having had the chance to drive multiple versions delivered two different experiences so be sure to make note of the differences. The Bronco turns heads and evokes conversations with strangers and during my time with both versions, everyone spoke highly of it. It has risen to the top of the favorites list in my household ... especially in its full open-air form.
First Impression Summary:
Test Vehicle 1: 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Wildtrak with the Sasquatch Package
Powertrain: 2.7L EcoBoots V6 (Automatic)
Exterior Color: Iconic Silver
Interior Color: Cloth Sandstone / Black seats
Options: Equipment Group 354A ($3,590), Tube Step ($395), Towing Capability ($595), Roof Rails ($365)
MSRP as tested: $53,650 (With Destination & Delivery)
Powertrain: 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 (Manual)
Exterior Color: Cactus Gray
Interior Color: Vinyl Gray / Black seats
Options: Hard Top Molded in Color ($695), Towing Capability ($695), Roof Rails ($365)
MSRP as tested: $42,720 (With Destination & Delivery)