Ford Bronco — An off-roader you can live with every day

By Jim Meachen

(November 28, 2021) The most obvious aspect of the Ford Bronco is its curb appeal. Still new to many who have seen the modern iteration only between the covers of auto magazines or on YouTube videos, it's an attention grabber on the street. Viewing one in person clocked in Cyber Orange paint seemed to be the highlight of the day for a few people in the supermarket parking lot, at the gas station, and outside a favorite restaurant.

Not as popular as the new Corvette when it was driven a couple of years ago, it ranks high on the list of automotive attractions we have been blessed to "show off" over the many years.

The new edition is a continuation of the original Bronco that went through five generations from 1966 to 1996 with the earliest model a popular restoration vehicle. Developed as an off-road vehicle, the original Bronco was designed as a competitor for the Jeep CJ-5, Chevrolet Blazer, International Scout and Toyota Land Cruiser.

The resurrection of the iconic vehicle, which was replaced in 1996 by the Expedition, has created quite a stir.  But getting the body-on-frame Bronco into full production has been troubling for Ford. And obtaining one may take patience — whether you've had a longstanding order or are considering jumping in for the 2022 model year (Ford began taking orders in September).

Ford delayed production last spring due to COVID-19-related production issues. Then came the well-advertised microchip shortage forcing more cutbacks in production, and if that wasn't enough, Ford encountered quality control issues with at its hardtop built by Webasto. Every hardtop Bronco built through mid-summer needed a replacement top due to cosmetic issues when exposed to water and humidity.

This makes Ford's decision to build a "baby Bronco" based on the company's compact Escape SUV a brilliant one. The Bronco Sport looks a lot like the standard Bronco including the defining grille design — and the top trim Bronco Sport Badlands edition is very off-road capable. The small SUV has sold nearly 100,000 copies through October.

The delays in getting the full-sized Broncos out to the public is obviously not what Ford had intended. But good news for people with yet-unfilled orders and those who simply want to purchase one, production is supposed to resume in December — now on the 2022 model — at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant.

Its prodigious off-road capability, extensive customization options and modern technology features make it an intriguing rival to the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner and Land Rover Defender. The 2-door Bronco measures 174 inches in length with a 100.4-inch wheelbase and the 4-door version creates more passenger space measuring 189 inches long with a 116.1-inch wheelbase. In addition to being off-road capable the Bronco also works well doing the chores of everyday life, as we discovered over seven days and 250 miles.

No matter how hard core your off-road adventures, virtually every Bronco owner will spend a vast majority of driving time on the streets and highways. And the good news here is that the Bronco exhibits excellent road manners — for an off-road vehicle. In fact, we think it outshines the vaunted Wrangler in that regard. The Bronco is easy to live with as a commuter vehicle or a grocery runner.

And it will not be condemned to the slow lane regardless of which of the two available engines you purchase. We drove the smaller base engine and found it rewarding in all aspects of driving including passing and merging.

The base turbocharged 4-cylinder makes 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, and the optional engine, a 2.7-liter V-6, creates 330 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. The 2.7-liter is mated to a 10-speed automatic and the 4-cylinder gets a 7-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. But we figure most people will opt for the 10-speed automatic for a small option price. We drove the four-banger with the 10-speed and were surprised at its lively step, measured at 0-to-60 in around 6.5 seconds.

The Bronco comes in seven trim levels — Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak and the limited production First Edition, which is sold out. It's also available as either a two-door or a four-door. As you might suspect, there's a long list of options ranging from appearance and personalization items to different roofs and off-road hardware, wheels and accessories. The Bronco in base 2-door trim starts at $35,490 and ranges up to $50,970 for the Wildtrak.

We drove the two
-door version of the Outer Banks edition with a few extras including the 314A equipment package that brought such goodies as the 12-inch LCD touchscreen with navigation, Bang & Olufsen sound system, 360-degree camera, 4.27 axle ratio, adaptive cruise control, and forward sensing system. Cost: $3,590. That brought the bottom line to $49,540.

To get the top off-road experience the Sasquatch package can be added to any trim level. It brings such things as a 1.2-inch suspension lift kit, higher-mounted fender flares, 17-inch beadlock-compatible wheels, 35-inch mud-terrain tires, front and rear locking axles, an electromechanical transfer case, heavy-duty position-sensitive Bilstein shoes, and a shorter final drive ratio. The package will add $2,495 to the cost of the truck.

The one downside both the Bronco and Wrangler have in common is a noisy interior at highway speed. You will be forced to pump out the tunes from the audio system at high volume or converse in elevated tones just short of shouting.

The elevated noise level is partly due to the fact that the truck can be literally stripped of its roof, doors, fenders and grille for the adventurous off-roader using a few wrenches and a screw driver. Because of this, the sideview mirrors are anchored to the A pillar and the window switches are not on the door, but in the center console.

Ford has created a blockbuster hit with the new Bronco. But getting your hands on one — and paying a fair price — might be difficult in the current automotive climate. With some patience, however, you should be able to purchase a 2022 model at near sticker price sometime in the near future.

2021 Ford Bronco Outer Banks 2-door


Base price: $35,490; as driven: $49,540
Engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 300 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 325 foot-pounds @ 3,400 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drive: four wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 100.4 inches (4-door: 116.1 inches)
Length: 173.7 inches (4-door: 189.4 inches)
Curb weight: 4,717 pounds
Luggage capacity: 22.4 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 52.3 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 16.9 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 20 city, 22 highway
0-60: 6.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner, Land Rover Defender

The Good
• Impressive off-road capability
• High level of customization
• Agreeable on-road performance

The Bad
• High level of wind noise at highway speeds

The Ugly
• Poor fuel economy