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I’m always intrigued by how the public salivates over a new vehicle that brings with it high expectations that somewhat revolve around a well-known nameplate of the past. The Ford Bronco, a name made all-new again, has a fan following but nothing like it does now since the Bronco has returned to aim directly at Jeep’s Wrangler. After spending a little quality time with Ford’s new bucking horse, I can say with confidence that Jeep has met its match.
SUVs have fundamentally taken over the American landscape of automobiles alongside pickup trucks as the dominating vehicles of choice. Rightfully so, trucks and SUVs bring a lot to the table for their versatility and off-road conquering abilities. The new 2021 Ford Bronco embodies those principles but does it somewhat on its own terms instead of replicating what Jeep as managed to pioneer in the Wrangler for a vehicle that can virtually go anywhere there’s some form of land that you can stand on.
The new Ford Bronco, not to be confused with the smaller Bronco Sport based on a completely different platform, touts a wide range of trim levels and configurations (Bronco Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak, First Edition – all available in two or four-door) to appease a large audience. The chassis of the new Bronco is quite capable of conquering terrain and still providing a decent ride quality out on the road. My test vehicle of choice was from my local Auto Nation Ford dealership with a unique configuration to keep the price relatively low. What you see is a base Bronco but equipped with just the right options for those who want trail-conquering off-road capability and the powertrain that adds a little extra oomph in the form of Ford’s 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 engine.
The 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 engine with 330 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque is optional for the Bronco and gets paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The standard engine, a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, is good for 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque and gets paired to a 7-speed manual transmission as standard with the 10-speed automatic being optional. The 7-speed manual comes with a crawler gear, what some have called a “granny” gear in the past, enables a short ratio to allow the 4-cylinder turbocharged engine to spin up for extra low-range engagement and torque for low-speed off-roading obstacles.
Of course, all Broncos are 4×4 and suck down fuel at a pretty good rate when you have the 2.7-liter V6 engine and the Sasquatch package with its 35-inch tires. You’re looking at about 17 mpg overall in both the city and on the highway. For Broncos without the larger tires, the EPA says you’ll get about 18 mpg. The fuel tank is 16.9 gallons for the 2.3-liter, which gets slightly better fuel economy (as high as 22 mpg highway without the Sasquatch package) and 20.8 gallons with the 2.7-liter V6. If you so desire, you can tow up to 3,500 pounds no matter the Bronco’s configuration if you have equipped it with the Class II Trailer Tow Package and the payload maxes out at 1,370 pounds.
I can say, the 2.7-liter engine does well with its substantial torque to move the Bronco along with authority but has a slight touch of turbo lag out of the hole. Zero to 60 mph clicks off in about 6.3 seconds. On off-roading trails, the engine does excellent to keep things moving without bogging down in deep sand pits (I took the Bronco to some crazy sand dunes). I would go as far as to say the longer wheelbase of my Bronco Base 4-door was not any hindrance in tackling the crest of tall hills or any other sand trails. Basically, I wasn’t nearly as concerned as I was in the long-wheelbase Jeep Gladiator that I reviewed last year. Also, the new Bronco can do all that a modern-day Jeep Wrangler can on challenging off-roading obstacles, even using the quite versatile 10-speed automatic transmission. The dedicated GOAT (Goes Over Any Terrain) drive and off-road modes engage the right transfer case setting along with the front and rear differential locks, which come equipped on my base test vehicle as part of its optional Sasquatch package. The Sasquatch package is the must-have option for the Bronco especially if you select any trim level below the Wildtrak (Sasquatch package comes standard on the Wildtrak and First Edition trims). Adding the Sasquatch package brings the much-anticipated rugged edge to the Bronco to compete with the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon by adding 35-inch tires that wrap 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels, high-clearance fender flares to give those large tires proper space, BILSTEIN monotube shocks, front and rear locking differentials, and a 4.7 final drive ratio.
Ford was smart to give the new Bronco the versatility of adding packages like the Sasquatch package to any trim level, in addition to packing on other options like the auxiliary switches that have pre-run accessory wiring to easily add additional OEM and aftermarket accessories like an LED light bar or front winch, something Jeep does as well.
Other aspects about the new Bronco that sparked my interest in being more forward-thinking than the Jeep Wrangler is the fact of having the rearview mirrors left attached when removing the doors (they aren’t connected to the front doors), better on-road stability with steering that consistently tracks straight, better overall visibility, a more comfortable and spacious cabin upfront and in the back seats, frameless doors that are easier to remove, and an interior that is still loud but quieter than a comparably equipped soft-top Jeep interior even with the knobby off-roading tires. However, the frameless doors of the Bronco appear to be a little clumsy in holding the glass in place when they are open and shut, despite the windows performing an automatic inch-drop-down when opening. Also, the rear swing-open door is quite large and can get in your way if you ever need to open it with a vehicle behind the Bronco or while in a garage – something to keep in mind.
The tie-down anchors that sit on the left and right of the hood are nice touches to not only give you a perspective of where the front fenders end, but they can be used for accessories or support as much as 150 pounds of force from a tie-down strap routed to the roof.
The interior of the new Ford Bronco is surprisingly simplistic and laced with several easter egg trinkets revealing unique Bronco logos or even the fuel filler area having embossed outlines of historic generations of the Bronco. The climate control in the Base version is a manual single-zone setup. Above the physical controls is a smaller 8-inch touchscreen that still offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and the core functions of Sync 4. A larger 12-inch infotainment touchscreen is optional with a more powerful B&O sound system. The gauge cluster is part analog for the speedometer with a digital information screen to the right that has a digital speedo along with several vehicle status displays and off-roading data. The RPM gauge through the digital screen is more like the fuel gauge and can often be confused at quick glances.
Ford went above and beyond in the details of the new Bronco. Not only did they set out to compete with the Jeep Wrangler, but in most aspects, they surpassed the Wrangler with a more cohesive package for a multipurpose vehicle that has rugged do-it-all off-roading chops when its properly equipped with the Sasquatch package. Moreover, the Bronco comes out of the gate with nearly endless accessories that can be added from the OEM parts bin or forthcoming aftermarket outfits, just like the Jeep Wrangler has enjoyed for countless years.
Getting to another set of numbers that matter, the Ford Bronco doesn’t disappoint with a base price of $28,500. However, you’re going to want to at least add on a couple of options and the Sasquatch package to make the best use of the unsurpassed capabilities of the Bronco, which will quickly raise the price by at least $5,000 in addition to the welcomed 2.7-liter engine option, adding on another $1,895. My smartly-equipped 2.7-liter Sasquatch test vehicle came to a final price of $44,020, which also included the optional front modular bumper, front steel bash plates, removable soft cloth top, keyless entry keypad, auxiliary switches, and floor liners.
I would like to thank my local AutoNation Ford dealership along with Doug Lawrence (904-292-3325) and his staff for providing the new Ford Bronco for my review. No horses were harmed during my “adventures”.
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