Ford’s new Bronco is the Mane Attraction
If this thing looked any tougher, it’d wear knuckle-dusters, steel-toe boots and be affectionately known among prison inmates as Slugger.
This is the new Ford Bronco, capable of crawling up the side of Everest while you check your email, and eating Jeep Wranglers for breakfast.
Just look at it. It has more square edges than a box of Lego, more flat surfaces than Kansas. And those monster 35-inch tires wouldn’t look out of place on an Operation Desert Storm Humvee.
I know it’s a little confusing with two Bronco models out there. The first to be introduced, the Bronco Sport, has its origins in the wimpy Ford Edge, and offers as much off-road capability as a dachshund. This new Bronco Bronco is a stadium Monster Truck by comparison.
And this being Ford, it’s offered in more flavors than Ben & Jerry’s. Take your pick from the Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands and Wildtrak.
Then there’s the choice of two-door, four-door, four-cylinder or six-cylinder, 7-speed manual or 10-speed automatic, soft top or hard top. Phew.
Price-wise, the lineup kicks off with a stripped-out base 2-door at $29,300 and summits to the 4-door Wildtrak at $49,475. Start checking a few options boxes, and don’t expect much change from $60,000.
I’ve just spent a fun week bouncing around in the mid-range Bronco Black Diamond four-door with the 2.3-liter Ecoboost turbo four-cylinder and 10-speed automatic under the hood. Base price $39,340 or $48,325 nicely loaded. It’s the sweet spot of the range.
One must-have option is the $4,495 Sasquatch Package which includes those huge, Prius-crushing 35-inch tires mounted on 17-inch rims.
They definitely add to the Bronco’s tough, macho persona and endow it with mile-high ground clearance for boulder-crawling. But they do offer one serious challenge for driver and passenger — you need a stepladder to climb aboard.
The sight of my five-foot-two wife attempting to clamber into the passenger seat was worthy of a TikTok video. Free Solo climber Alex Honnold didn’t have this much of a problem ascending El Capitan.
Once you’ve managed the ascent, you’ll discover surprisingly little room inside. The rear seats are pretty cramped, while luggage space behind them is hardly big enough for a few boxes of Duraflames for the camp fire.
And while Ford likes to show the Bronco in its ads in cool, barebones form with the doors and top sections of the hardtop removed, trust me — in real life, you won’t be going “naked.” Just lifting off the doors requires a few hours of free time, an engineering degree, and the collective muscle of your local weightlifting team.
But Broncos are about the fun of the drive, and even with that 2.3-liter turbo-four spinning all four wheels, it’s a blast to pilot.
Yes, there’s the option of a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 packing 330-hp, but our little 2.3 with an impressive 300-hp, has major giddyup. It positively gallops off the line and has no shortage of mid-range punch for swift, safe passing.
But there’s not a gas station it wants to pass. The sheer heft of the truck — it tips the scales at over 5,300 pounds — coupled with the aerodynamic efficiency of a brick wall, results in an EPA combined average of 18mpg. During a cross-Florida trip, it guzzled unleaded at the rate of 16.2 to the gallon.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to find any off-road conditions that came anywhere near challenging the Bronco’s professional-grade 4×4 system. A deep sand trail I use, that tends to bog down most other 4x4s, was the equivalent of smooth asphalt to the Ford.
Of course, few buyers will take the road less traveled and get their Broncos painted with mud. But it’s nice to know that if you wanted to vacation in an Amazonian rain forest, your Bronco could take you there.