Off-road capability isn’t usually something that comes to mind when you focus on vehicle technologies and conveniences. But the white-hot Ford Bronco is one of the most coveted vehicles in America. If you order one, the typical wait is six months to a year. In addition to the supply-chain problems, a production problem with the hard top and its supplier backed up the queue even more.
But is it worth the wait? HELLYEAH it is! I was thoroughly impressed by my Wildtrak Sasquatch tester that allows for ultimate off-road capabilities coupled with today’s technologies.
Jim Farley, CEO of Ford, says, “Bronco gave rise to the fun and versatile off-road SUV in 1966, becoming the first enjoyable sport utility vehicle for those who wanted to live, work and play outdoors. Like the original, the all-new Bronco family is engineered to take you to epic places, with capability to deliver confidence on any type of terrain.”
The Model Tree
The Bronco lineup can be confusing to first-time buyers. It starts with the Base model, then goes up incrementally in features and performance with Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Bank, Badlands, Wildtrak, Everglades and finally the Raptor. At least you can hand it to Ford for using real names and not alphanumerics to categorize the Bronco lineup.
You can add the Sasquatch off-road package to any Bronco, and this is where the hardcore off-roading fun begins. Checking the Sasquatch box adds 35-inch Goodyear mud-terrain tires mounted to 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels. This makes the Bronco look like an aftermarket creation right from the factory. The fender-flares are increased because with that much tire, you don’t want mud or rocks flung on the side of the truck.
To make the Bronco nearly unstoppable, Dana front and rear electronic locking axles with a 4.7:1 final drive ratio can be controlled from the dashboard. You can lock the front and rear axle with the push of a button, and you even have an electronic sway-bar disconnect. This gives the Bronco extreme off-road capabilities, getting components out of the way of the rocks. The sway-bar disconnect option only works when the Bronco is traveling slower than 20 mph. Faster than that, the bar will automatically reconnect and standby mode will be activated.
The Sasquatch package also adds HOSS-tuned, long-travel Bilstein position-sensitive dampers with end-stop control valves with increased ride height to help improve ground clearance.
G.O.A.T. usually means the Greatest of All Time. But in a Bronco it means Goes Over Any Type of Terrain, with seven driver-selectable modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery/Sand, Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl for off-road driving.
The Bronco Trail Toolbox gives drivers the technology to elevate their off-road experience. Trail Control is like cruise control for low-speed trail driving. Trail Turn Assist tightens off-road turning radiuses through torque vectoring by applying the brakes to one side of the vehicle. Trail One-Pedal Drive controls both the engine and brakes for easier slow rock crawling.
The Bronco has either a seven-speed manual transmission or 10-speed automatic gearbox. It is linked to an EcoBoost V6 that makes 315 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. If you feed it premium fuel, it delivers a little more power and torque, making you feel good about spending a little extra at the pump.
The interior is reasonably quiet for the capabilities of the Bronco. Obviously, noise, vibration and harshness are not a priority here.
My tester came with the soft top because of the hardtop problems. But overall, you know it’s a modern vehicle even with its off-road capabilities. The bonus of the soft top is the ability to tilt it backward and easily make the Bronco into a half-convertible. Making it a full convertible isn’t that difficult, but you need to remove the rear quarter panel plastic panels and the transparent-plastic rear window. Then the top fully collapses.
On the Inside
A massive 12-inch LCD screen is paired with the SYNC 4 system. The SYNC system also displays the available 360-degree camera system with off-road spotter views to provide additional visibility while rock crawling. A multifunction color LCD instrument panel is front and center, with the transmission shifter and G.O.A.T. Modes controller located in the center console.
We really like the big grab handles molded into the instrument panel. Attachment points are built into the top of the instrument panel for mounting a bring-your-own-device rack, with 12-volt and USB power connections nearby to easily mount cameras, navigation units, phones or other devices.
The optional B&O audio system is not the absolute best or loudest (for the loudest Bronco, look up someone called Alma Gates), but it does the job of keeping you entertained on the trail. There are 10 speakers in the system, and it is decent. But for making the Bronco extra fun, we might recommend tailgate loudspeakers to bring the party. The B&O can keep the passengers entertained, and an aftermarket tailgate system can keep all your friends jamming on the trail.
The Bronco has been hyped for years up to this most recent reintroduction. But it was worth the wait. The price is not cheap, starting at $30K for a base model and $60K for my Wildtrak tester. When you want to hit the trails, the Bronco is a worthy adversary to the Wrangler.