CHATHAM, Mass. – It had been almost a quarter century since the last Ford Bronco was offered to the American public, but in 2021 the iconic sport utility burst back onto the automotive scene in a modern, but true-to-the brand, two- and four-door, hard- and soft-top, Go Over Any Type of Terrain (G.O.A.T.), sixth-generation package.
The styling and underlying technology – including a full suite of advance driver-assist systems (ADAS) – is fresh but the tall, square profile harkens back to the Bronco from the ‘90s. Like the first generation of 1966 — the first to wear the G.O.A.T. nickname — the mission of the all-new 2021 Bronco is to deliver maximum 4×4 capability and confidence. And fun.
We experienced the new Bronco in the guise of a two-door, hardtop 2021 First Edition, a limited run of 3,500 units for the inaugural model year which includes virtually all the goodies Ford offers for this SUV.
Engineered for true G.O.A.T. capability
Similar to the square proportions of the first-generation model, today’s Bronco features short overhangs and a wide stance optimized for off-road adventure. The side profile features a flat, no-nonsense surface with clear-cut edges and robustly flared fenders. Large, open wheel wells are augmented by removeable bolt-on front and rear fenders, and fender flares with quick-release fasteners for easy customization.
The all-new Bronco-specific Ford T-6 architecture features a fully boxed, high-strength steel chassis with seven crossmembers to deliver available maximum front and rear suspension travel over rough terrain. Every Bronco comes with a High-Performance Off-Road, Stability, Suspension (HOSS) System for optimum stability and control for thrilling off-roading at speed.
Up front is the HOSS independent front suspension with twin alloy A-arms and long-travel coil-over springs brings improved confidence and comfort. A rugged solid axle design at the rear features variable rate long-travel coil springs with five locating links to deliver both strength and off-road control.
The Sasquatch off-road package of the First Edition brought long-travel position-sensitive Bilstein® dampers with end-stop control valves are featured to help improve off-road durability and reduce harshness. It also included electronic-locking front and rear axles, 4.7:1 final drive ratio and high-clearance suspension (11.5-inch ground clearance).
Also, part of the off-road hardware are 35-inch, LT315/70R17 M/T tires mounted to 17-inch black beadlock, aluminum wheels.
Powertrain enhances off-road capability while delivering on-road functionality
The four-wheel-drive system for the First Edition features seven G.O.A.T. Modes™ designed to help drivers better navigate any type of terrain. These are: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, with Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl for off-road driving.
In addition, the driver can select 2H (two-wheel-drive high), 4H, 4L (4WD low) or 4A (automatic – the car’s computers decide about where the power should go based on road surface, thus allowing it to be a full-time 4WD machine).
This 4WD system operates off the 10-speed automatic transmission, all of which combine to transmit the 330 horsepower and 415 pounds feet of torque (on premium fuel; 315 and 400 respectively on regular) produced by the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine to the road.
Driving the Bronco, you know the power is always there, just a stab of the right foot propels this beast ahead without drama. The ride is a bit stiff on road, but not uncomfortable or overly intrusive.
Technology and amenities beyond Bronco legacy
The styling and off-road chops of the new Bronco might harken back to the previous generations, but the technology, including the advanced driver-assist systems, and amenities mean not having to make any real compromises in driving, riding and living with this version.
The square design motif carries inside the Bronco which has a utilitarian, purposeful look to the straight-forward layout of the large instrument cluster and switchgear.
Dominating the dash is the 12-inch color touch screen at its center and at the center of the infotainment system which includes the Ford Sync® 4 system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 10-speaker B&O Sound System delivers the infotainment’s audio, while the screen displays the navigation information as well as the rear and 360° surround-view camera.
The seats, leather clad and for the front row, heated and power adjustable, are comfortable. In general, the Bronco was more comfortable than its looks and mission might lead you to believe – it makes a fine daily driver and gets no complaints from passengers!
Other interior features include dual-zone automatic climate control; USB-A and C as well as 12- and 110-Volt power sources; heated leather-wrapped steering wheel; universal garage-door opener; lighted visor mirrors, and carpeted flooring.
The technology extends to a comprehensive suite of ADAS under the Ford Co-Pilot360™ umbrella including Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, BLIS® with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping System, Auto High-Beam Headlamps and rearview camera with backup assist grid lines.
The First Edition adds adaptive cruise control, reverse sensing system and forward sensing system.
Numbers do not tell the story
The Bronco is a large, square powerful machine built to tackle any type of terrain. Ultimate fuel economy was not the engineers’ goal for this vehicle, but it benefits from all the modern methods to squeeze maximum efficiency from this package.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates this version of the Bronco at 17 miles per gallon in all applications. We pushed the SUV hard, with no consideration to mpg numbers and saw 20.4 at the conclusion of our time with it. I was pleasantly surprised by this figure.
Another number which did not shock me was the $58,410 price which included the $1,495 destination & delivery charge. There were no options; all the features described – and many I did not get to – were part of the First Edition’s standard pricing.
The 2022 Bronco line begins with the $30,800 base price with seven additional variants moving up the price, feature and capability ladder to the high-performance Raptor at $68,500. This range will allow you to build just the right Bronco for your needs, desires and pocketbook.
I have spent most of this review talking about the engineering features and capabilities of the new, sixth-generation Ford Bronco, specifically the unique First Edition. I have mentioned the numbers like 330, 20.4 and $58,410. But what I have not written about may be the most important factor – the fun factor.
Vehicles like the Ford Bronco are really about the fun they can provide. With or without the top on or off; whether driving along a rutted trail or uneven beach road; traversing a grass-covered hill or going to the store for a gallon of milk – every trip, long or short is a blast!
And that’s the bottom line – fun – and the Bronco delivers it.