This is the 2022 Ford Bronco Badlands – the real one. Growing up in the 90s I watched a lot of Monster Jam, and my favorite part was the pre-show where a bunch of stock or shoddily modified street trucks would run through an obstacle course of jumps, mud pits and general mayhem. Jeeps and old pickups were popular choices, but first-generation Ford Broncos were pretty well dominant.
At the time, they were cheap, light and fast enough to put on a great show, tough enough to put on a great show, and wider than the Jeeps which had a tenancy to topple over. Next to the infamous OJ Simpson incident, that’s my most obvious recollection of the Ford Bronco, so when I heard that Ford was resurrecting the nameplate I wondered what type of anemic little crossover they had in mind. Fortunately, I was very wrong, so to see what they really delivered, I spent a week with a 2022 Bronco Badlands.
Firstly, the Bronco looks simply badass. In my opinion, Ford nailed the styling on these, keeping enough of the traditional styling cues picked up from the first generation, but overdoing it and making it look like a retro caricature of itself. It’s boxy, tough looking, and stands out against rounded blob-like SUVs clogging up the roads. The only thing comparable on the road would be the Jeep Wrangler, but the Bronco looks much more substantial.
Our tester, a highly optioned top-tier Badlands four-door example, came finished in ‘Area 51’ grey and sporting 17-inch black beadlock capable wheels wrapped in 315/70R17 (35-inch) mud terrain tires – part of the Sasquatch package. On the higher trim level trucks all of the exterior lighting is LED, which combines well with the grey and black theme giving our tester sort of a post-apocalyptic vibe. However, once thing I appreciate about the Bronco is that even the basic models look really good, and I have no doubt we’re on the cusp of starting to see some really cool looking modified examples on the streets.
Every Bronco comes with either a soft-top or a removable hardtop, ours got the latter which can be removed in three sections, allowing front and rear passengers to have an open-air experience without removing the rear cap. The three-piece design should also make the hardtop easier to handle than the Wrangler’s two-piece unit. The doors are also removable on all Broncos and the windows are frameless so they can be rolled down before removing the doors, making the doors easier to store.
The four door model even has on-board storage bags for the doors. Given that it’s November in Ontario and we had our first snow of the season this week, I did not get an opportunity for any open-air motoring, but I imagine the Bronco with the top and doors off would be something to experience.
The interior is built for outdoor adventure. That means if you’re looking for exotic or luxurious materials, the Bronco may not be for you. In here, it’s all about durable, practical, easy to clean surfaces. Leather trimmed seating is available, but even in our top-tier Badlands model the seats came finished in marine grade vinyl for all weather durability. There are lots of easy-wipe plastics, but all high touch surfaces are rubberized and feel sturdy. Controls such as power windows and mirrors are on the center console to make door removal easy, but the switches are also sealed, like you’d find on a boat, to prevent the elements from getting to them.
From a practicality standpoint, the Bronco gets the job done. The dash layout is simple and intuitive, the optional heated and cooled front seats are comfortable, the driving position is great, and storage up front is adequate, though I suspect adventurers will find it a bit shy. The rear seating offers plenty of headroom, but legroom is at a premium. It’s fine for children, but I can’t see adults being too happy in the rear seat for an extended period. Cargo room in the back however is great, but the rear swing door with hatch glass combo is annoying and bulky to operate.
The Bronco’s base engine is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder. To amp it up, the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 is also available and good for 315 horsepower and 410 lb-ft. on regular fuel, or 330 and 415, respectively, on premium. The 2.3-liter comes standard with a seven-speed (six plus a crawl gear) manual gearbox, or can be optioned with the 10-speed automatic, where the V6 is only available with the automatic.
Our tester came with the powerhouse 2.7-liter V6, and it propels the Bronco with authority. It’s a drivetrain Ford has perfected in the F-150, so it feels much smoother and more refined than one would expect from a turbocharged engine. It’s powerful, yet quiet and civilized, which makes it very livable for day-to-day use.
Of course, the Bronco, especially our Badlands Sasquatch with its massive tires, is built for off-road capability, so there are some sacrifices to make on the road. It’s bulky, and reacts as such on the road with fairly slow steering response, and all the handling of a full-sized pickup truck. Ride quality is superior to that of the Jeep Wrangler, but it’s still relatively rough, with wind noise at speed from around the hardtop. On-center steering is surprisingly tight and straight, even on the highway, which is impressive, and goes a long way towards making it more livable.
None of the mild off-roading I tried my hand at here in the suburbs made the Bronco Badlands flinch, but I am totally confident in its ability to tackle just about anything. Ford has really focused in on building the Bronco as a capable adventure off-roader, and delivered with features such as the best in class ground clearance and water forwarding. Higher trim level Broncos feature G.O.A.T modes, which stands for “Goes Over Any Terrain”. There are up to seven modes allowing the driver to select the type of terrain and the systems will optimize for the most confidence in those conditions.
Our Badlands tester also features some unique off-road goodies like electronic front sway bar disconnects, front and rear locking differentials, and a Bilstein monotube shock suspension system. Adding the Sasquatch package with its high clearance suspension and fender flares takes an already very capable Bronco and puts it over the top. What’s really great though is that Ford doesn’t force you into a top-trim in order to get the Sasquatch package. It’s available – though at a steep cost, on any trim level.
Back on the road, you’ll notice one of those sacrifices I mentioned; fuel economy. The boxy and powerful Bronco is no fuel sipper. After a week of mixed driving, in wintery conditions, we observed an average of 15.2L/100km. That’s full-size pickup truck territory, or worse, and to unlock the full power potential premium fuel is recommended. Of course, these results were with the V6. Opting for the smaller four cylinder may help to ease the pain at the pumps a little bit.
Ford does a good job of setting up various trim levels and option packages so you can build the Bronco that you want and afford, which means that just about every feature is optional. That also means that you can get into a stripped-down base model two-door SUV for $40,499. It’ll come with pressed steel wheels, 4×4, a soft-top and that’s about it, a blank canvas. From there, there are five more trim levels, each increasing in features and off-road capability, leading up to the Wildtrak, the ultimate high-speed off-road machine ready for desert racing, or whatever you have in mind for it.
A four door Wildtrak starts at $60,799. Our Badlands tester, in four-door format, starts at $57,099, but with nearly every option box ticked off including the Sasquatch ($6,350) and the Lux Package ($5,745), adding creature comforts like a heated steering wheel, B&O 10-speaker sound, adaptive cruise control, came to a pricey $74,239. That’s a lot of money from an off-roader, but if you’re smart with how you option your Bronco you should be able to get a nicely equipped example, with full off-road capabilities for under $60,000.
The 2022 Ford Bronco Badlands is very unique in the market today. The Jeep Wrangler is really the only viable competitor, and the Bronco’s fresh looks and more liable road manners give it a definite edge in our books. If you’re looking for a versatile, go-anywhere, off-road adventure vehicle, the Bronco is impossible to ignore. It’s back, it’s better than ever, and it’s ready to start forging new experiences with new generations.