In August of 2020, I had Paul Wraith, Ford’s Chief Designer on MiB. He is the guy behind the redesign of the new Ford Bronco. Mike Levine, Ford’s PR head, helped arrange the interview. Levine DM’d me a few weeks ago: “Want to check out a new Bronco for a week?” I jumped at the chance.
The Black Diamond Edition I played with was a 2-door, automatic, modestly optioned, except for the $6090 Sasquatch off-road upgrade, bringing the MSRP to about $47k (here is the window sticker). What you get for that is an incredibly competent off-roader, a solid competitor to Jeep’s Rubicon.
Overall, my impression of the truck was good – it’s a well-made, good-looking truck that is very capable off-road. Bronco fans are ecstatic, and it is likely to give Jeep some serious competition. I do have some observations to share, as this is not a truck for everybody.
You sit higher than you otherwise would in a Jeep or even a Porsche Macan or Lexus RX. I towered over most other trucks on the road short of a Suburban or Expedition. Jeep owners will feel at home with the cabin wind noise and bouncy ride. Both trucks are walls of steel and glass moving through space — not especially aerodynamic. The persistent tire thrum – especially with the enormous 35-inch Sasquatch rubber in each corner — isn’t as bad as I feared, but it is always there. That makes this a truck I would not want to take on long road trips (you can option a more civilized version).
The Bronco’s retro-modern styling is handsome. A version of a truck that was beloved in the 60s and 70s, before they began rusting away or simply became too expensive to run in the face of rising gasoline prices. I averaged 17.6 mpg in mostly local driving. Despite its 4491-pound curb weight, the 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 accelerates quick enough thanks to its 310 horses. I did find the accelerator too sensitive; the brakes grabbed further down the pedal travel than I preferred as well, a quirk the Porsche Panamera shares. Then again, it’s a beater/press loaner, so who knows.
I did manage to get off-road, driving around on the beach and over some sand/gravel piles. They presented no impediment, and it inspired a lot of confidence. Most of the time I didn’t even bother putting it into 4L, it just chewed up whatever was presented.
Unlike my 2-door Rubicon with its relatively short (95.4-inch) wheelbase, this truck never felt “tippy.” Rubi is the only vehicle I have that isn’t low-slung and wildly overpowered; if I mistakenly throw it into a turn too fast, it lets me know it. Not so with the 100.4-inch wheel-based Bronco, which always felt well planted.
The Cyber Orange Metallic Bronco attracted a ton of attention wherever I took it: At Home Depot, people stopped to ask about it; just tanking up with gas or parking on the street led to multiple conversations. (that will fade as they become more available). For now, it’s an attention-getter, and for the first couple of production years, Ford may have trouble keeping up with demand.
One of the best things about Jeeps is how incredibly mod-able they are; I added Running Boards, Roll Bar Grab Handles, and a Rubber Rear Cargo Liner (after removing the rear seats). These are all simple add-ons that would benefit the Bronco immensely. An incredibly robust mod aftermarket exists for Jeep, it has already begun developing for Ford as well.
If you are a diehard Jeep owner and would never think about replacing your Wrangler, well move along, nothing to see here. Jeep fans should be happy that after so many decades, there is finally competition in a sector Jeep had mostly to itself for so long. This has been reflected in Jeep’s incredibly high resale value – and that was pre-pandemic.
If you want something less harsh on the road than the Bronco or Wrangler, but still has validated off-road capabilities, the Toyota Four Runner is comparably priced. If you want a little more luxe creature comforts, but still retain the ability to go off-roading, consider the Land Rover Defender; the Hybrid version is out in the UK, and if it’s available in the USA when my BMW X4 goes off-lease next Summer, that would become the family workhorse and the vehicle of choice for longer-distance drives.
All told, the Bronco is a solid off-roader, a fun Tonka toy of a truck.
MiB: Paul Wraith, Chief Designer for Ford (August 8, 2020)
2021 Ford Bronco (July 17, 2020)