Particulars on the brand new 2021 Ford Bronco have been trickling out slowly, forward of the truck hitting showrooms subsequent yr. From its preliminary disclose to the various hidden Easter eggs to Ford’s parade of accessory-laden ideas, anticipation is boiling over—to the purpose that greater than 165,000 hand raisers have already put their identify (and $100) down for one. Whereas the hype will certainly proceed till we really drive the brand new Bronco in just a few months, we are able to verify a brand new key piece of information after briefly using in an early pre-production mannequin: It should be pretty much as good off-road as we thought it is perhaps.
Our passenger-seat time was restricted, lasting solely 10 minutes over roughly two miles of trails and obstacles in southeastern Michigan’s Holly Oaks ORV Park. Our ridealong was in a two-door Badlands mannequin, one of many Bronco’s extra devoted off-road configurations with 33-inch all-terrain tires, electronically locking entrance and rear differentials, and a hydraulically actuated entrance anti-roll bar disconnect. An out there Sasquatch package deal with 35-inch mud-terrain rubber appears to be like very imposing. The Bronco’s normal 270-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four with a seven-speed handbook transmission acquired us round. A two-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with its normal 285-hp 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed stick serves because the closest level of reference.
The Bronco’s bigger dimensions versus the Wrangler are instantly obvious. At 100.four inches, the two-door Bronco’s wheelbase is 3.6 inches longer than the Jeep’s, and the Badland’s 76.3-inch width is 2.5 inches wider than the Rubicon’s. It isn’t full-size-pickup huge, however anticipate to incur some woodlands pinstriping when branches claw into the paint on slim two-tracks.
The bigger measurement means extra inside house than the Jeep. You will not really feel crowded by the dashboard or rub elbows with the front-seat passenger. Nevertheless, we did discover the sharp-edged lid of the Bronco’s center-console bin to be ideally positioned for whacking your humorous bone. Passenger seize handles on the sprint and console are welcome if a little bit of a stretch to succeed in. This can be a prototype, so it is lower than manufacturing ranges of match and end, however the Bronco’s switchgear and ergonomic structure are acquainted Ford fare, and all the pieces we touched and checked out appeared satisfyingly utilitarian. Good packaging leads to a formidable quantity of room to stretch out within the again seat of the two-door, together with a decently sized cargo maintain.
From our expertise with the most recent Wrangler and our trip within the Bronco, it looks like the Bronco is extra secure, seemingly on account of its wider stance and impartial entrance suspension. A Wrangler might have a equally excessive diploma of functionality within the grime, however its stable entrance axle inhibits trip high quality, and its recirculating-ball steering makes for a obscure entrance finish. The final two-door Rubicon we drove felt spooky sufficient at pace to warrant two palms on the wheel and did not encourage quite a lot of confidence when sliding round on grime roads.
From the appropriate seat, the Bronco felt planted and composed—and fairly comfy—as the motive force tossed it into tight, sandy switchbacks and drifted up hillsides. Granted, the fastidiously laid-out course at Holly Oaks was no Rubicon Path, which Ford’s improvement drivers have already conquered within the Bronco. However the venue did reveal the Badlands’ agility and physique management, in addition to good bump absorption on exhausting hits. To drive that residence, our driver bounced over a few angled concrete slabs.
The controls for the locking diffs and disconnecting anti-roll bar are situated on the middle stack and inside straightforward attain. The disconnect was solely activated as soon as throughout our stint to focus on the Bronco’s wheel articulation over chassis-twisting ridges, however the rear locker was a boon for traction within the smooth sand. The G.O.A.T. (Go Over Any Terrain) terrain-mode selector dial (with seven settings within the Badlands) is positioned on the console behind the shift lever, though our whole trek was executed within the Sand mode.
With 310 pound-feet of torque, the two.3-liter 4 has loads of low-down grunt but nonetheless pulled nicely at greater revs as we crested steep ascents. We won’t remark but on the non-obligatory 310-hp 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 nor on the out there 10-speed computerized, which comes normal with the six and is non-obligatory on the 4. Essentially the most that we might collect in regards to the seven-speed handbook is that it appeared to simply slot into gear. The stick’s dogleg first gear serves as an ultra-low “crawler” ratio and works nicely for gradual, technical driving over rocks and ruts.
Ford additionally allow us to trip within the Bronco Sport Badlands. For one thing based mostly on the Escape and with out the long-travel suspension and massive tires of the large Bronco, the “child Bronco” stunned us with its sure-footed functionality because it tackled a few of the identical trails as the large truck. Fitted with the non-obligatory 250-hp 2.0-liter 4 and eight-speed computerized, the pre-production Sport had loads of energy. However extra fascinating was the deep, throaty engine be aware that performed by means of its stereo audio system and appeared like greater than 4 cylinders underneath the hood. The Ford of us we pressed for a proof have been stingy on specifics however famous that the Sport is nearer to manufacturing than the prototype two-door we skilled. The prototype’s 2.3-liter 4 had the buzzy thrum of a four-cylinder Mustang, however it’s seemingly that it will sound higher when it reaches manufacturing. This is hoping the manufacturing Bronco sounds as robust because the Sport.
We cannot be capable to confirm that till we drive the Bronco ourselves subsequent yr. And we cannot know for sure the way it compares to the Wrangler till we hit the sand, mud, and trails with them each aspect by aspect. However our preview trip did put to relaxation any doubts that Ford is critical about combating the Wrangler within the grime and on the paths.
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