Not For Everyone, But Everything to Some
by Brendan R. Appel
Let’s get this out of the way up front: the Ford Bronco is not for everyone. If your idea of the perfect SUV is something soft, quiet and comfortable that you can confidently pull up to the valet at your country club in, the Bronco should be just about the last SUV on your shopping list. But if your idea of the perfect SUV is something you take where no sane vehicle has a right to be with totally open sky above you and no doors to your left and right, then step on up and check out Ford’s full-sized, off-road Sport Utility Vehicle that happens to also be road legal.
The Bronco is aimed squarely at the same rough and tumble buyer that up until this year would have been exclusively shopping at their local Jeep dealer for a Wrangler. What exactly do I mean? The doors and windows on the Bronco are a bit flimsy because they’re removable. The roof buffets wind like its name is Jimmy because it comes off as well. The windshield cuts the wind like a brick because it looks cooler that way and happens to give the driver a better front view. The tires are loud because they serve the Bronco’s true purpose, which is not a trip to Starbucks or to the mall.
No, the Bronco is really made for one thing: leaving the pavement and leaving most other 4×4’s in the dust. Ford does this by stuffing an inordinate amount of off-road specific technology into the Bronco. Available options include lockable front and rear differentials, sway bar disconnect, and (on the automatic transmission models) something called trail turn assist – which basically helps spin the Bronco in place to take tight turns. All of these features are available with the push of a button properly located high up on the dash between the driver and front passenger. Every Bronco also comes with 4-wheel drive (hi and low), and certain packages include a forward trail camera with tread lines to show where your tires are about to go. This feature is especially useful to help see over the crest of hills and comes on automatically when you’re in any of the special off-road G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Terrain) modes.
We used these systems to great effect on our off-road adventure at Road America in Elkhart Lake WI, where the Bronco crawled over rocks and ruts like speed-bumps at the mall. High hills and rocks sometimes required locking the rear differential, but most were handled in standard 4-high mode. At any point you can engage trail cruise control, which allows you to crawl along at 1 or more miles-per-hour, controlling your speed with buttons on the steering wheel. You can also engage one-pedal driving, allowing you to stop the car by simply releasing the gas pedal. If you have a sharp turn to make, engaging trail turn assist will basically help spin the Bronco like a top, avoiding a three-point turn. At no point did it appear our Bronco even broke a sweat. In short, the Bronco makes off-roading for beginners easy – but, if you’d still like a hand at learning the finer points, Ford offers a free off-road experience it calls the Off-Rodeo. Pick from Texas, Moab, Nevada or New Hampshire, and Ford will give you a Bronco to drive and experts to guide you. We can’t think of a better way to introduce a whole new generation into the wonderment of getting off the beaten path and exploring the world around you.
Prices for the Bronco start at $29,300 for a Base 2-door version with the 4-door model costing you a stout $4,150 extra. The top-tier’d Wildtrack trim starts at $47,780 with the 2-door, but only $1,695 extra for the 4-door. Our middle-of-the-road 4-door Black Diamond edition with the manual transmission stickered for $42,920. We anticipate most Bronco buyers will cross-shop it against the Jeep Wrangler which starts at $29,070 for a base Sport 2-door and $32,570 for the 4-door. And especially the very off-road capable Rubicon 4-door starting at $43,265, but similarly equipped can reach $56,735 – approximately what you’d pay for a well-equipped Bronco Badlands.
For the first time in what may be forever, the Wrangler has a legitimate competitor in the Bronco, and the competition is only just heating up. Next for Bronco? A just announced high performance “Bronco Raptor” – we can’t wait!
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