While the Bronco is an acceptable on-road cruiser, it felt most at home once we veered off onto the trails.
BOWMANVILLE, ONTARIO – Few SUVs have been as highly anticipated as the return of the all-new sixth generation Ford Bronco. The mid-size retro SUV is returning to the automotive market after a 25-year hiatus and Ford is making big promises with advanced off-road technology and rugged engineering to go along with the free spirit of the original Bronco. After seeing countless pictures of various accessorized Broncos over the past year, it is finally here, and Ford invited us to put the 2021 Ford Bronco through its paces.
The 2021 Ford Bronco comes in two body styles – two and four door – and is offered in six different trims that are each named after the experience they look to deliver. The base Bronco is for buyers who are looking for a no-nonsense 4×4 SUV, or looking for a blank slate to customize. The Big Bend is made for people who are looking for better interior comfort; the Black Diamond comes with heavy-duty off-road equipment such as heavy-duty bumpers and bash-plate and a marine-grade washout interior.
The Outer Banks is for those who want more style with body-coloured exterior door hands, mirror caps, and fender flares as well as signature LED headlamps and taillamps; and the Wildtrak is made for desert running with a dedicated Baja terrain mode. Buyers who long for the ultimate Bronco experience should opt for the top-of -the-line Badlands trim that offers you everything the other Broncos offer plus its own heavy-duty suspension that allows you to disconnect the front stabilizer bar to help navigate through the most treacherous environment.
Customizability is a big emphasis for the Bronco and buyers have the liberty to do exactly that with optional packages on each of the six trimlines plus over 200 accessories to make one they can truly call their own. Ford had really nailed it with the Bronco’s styling where it has a good mix of retro and modern design cues and the demos we had today all wore the rugged-looking 17-inch black aluminum wheels and 35-inch mud-terrain tires as part of the optional Sasquatch Package that gave it even more flair off the beaten path.
Two engine choices are available for the 2021 Ford Bronco; a base 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft. of torque. The upgrade is a 2.7-litre Ecoboost twin-turbocharged V6 with a healthy output of 330 horsepower and 415 lb-ft. of torque. A ten-speed automatic transmission is available for both powerplants, and buyers of the 2.3-liter engine are given a row-your-own option with a seven-speed manual gearbox.
We observed plenty of low-end power to get the Bronco going regardless of the situation and the Bronco pleasantly surprised us with how well it manages to keep its speed up especially on the highway. Off-road capable SUVs with all-terrain tires tend to have bad on-road manners but the Ford Bronco was impressive with its predictable steering control and overall composure. The 35-inch tires were noisy on the pavement which was to be expected and our only main complaint with using the Bronco as a daily commuter. The Bronco is also quite spacious inside with acceptable room for the backseat occupants in the three-door model thanks to its tall boxy roofline and large windows.
While the Bronco is an acceptable on-road cruiser, it felt most at home once we veered off onto the trails. Ford engineers have built a capable Terrain Management System with up to seven G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) modes – Normal, Eco, Sport, Sand, Baja, Mud, and Rock Crawl – that gave us the ability to adjust on the fly based on different traction needs, and we were able to get through the trails without much drama.
The optional Sasquatch package came in handy with its class-leading 11.6-inch maximum ground clearance and 33.5-inch water fording when we were faced with a relatively deep water crossing and we were also able to take advantage of its Spicer Performa-TraK electronic locking differentials to aid us with traction when the roads ahead got slippery.
One of the key differentiating factors of the Bronco is an available Trail Toolbox that proved to be handy in making our experience off-road easier. It has an available Trail Control cruise system for low-speed trail driving, Trail One-Pedal Drive to eliminate the need to switch between gas and brake pedals which is very useful on the slopes, and an exclusive Trail Turn Assist that tightens the turning radius by the use of torque vectoring. We had the opportunity to put the Trail Turn Assist feature to the test through a series of tight U-turns and can confirm that the Bronco is able to get around with a much tighter turning circle.
Inside the Bronco, our attention turned to its class exclusive 12-inch touchscreen which houses the SYNC 4 infotainment system and its FordPass Performance applications with off-road navigation. The oversized screen is also used to project images from its 360-degree camera including a unique off-road spotter view to allow drivers to monitor the situation underneath the vehicle.
The rest of the Bronco is designed with functionality in mind; all of its power switches are located on the dashboard or the centre console so they can remain functional when the doors come off, and the instrument panel surfaces are wipeable with rubber touchpoints to protect against water and soil. There are six available auxiliary switches mounted overhead with pre-wired electrical leads to key accessory points for easy customization.
The 2021 Ford Bronco is an important launch for the historic brand and is more than just a blast from the past. It is loaded with modern off-road features with rugged good looks to boot, and is ideal for those with a urban commute but are also hardcore for the outdoor life. We can’t wait to do a more extensive test of this exceptional new entry later this year.