Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 22, 2021
When automakers run out of ideas, they turn to their history books. Land Rover recently resurrected the Defender nameplate, General Motors is bringing back the Hummer brand, and now Ford is joining the party with the revived Bronco, poised to compete against the off-road titans from Jeep, Land Rover, and Toyota. As they say, a rising tide raises all ships, and when there’s stiff competition, the customers (yes, that’s us) always win.
Not to be confused with the more pedestrian Bronco Sport, this beast of an off-roader sports one of the most striking and distinctive designs of 2021. The Bronco has kept so much of its original 1960’s charm but also with a unique personality that separates it from others wearing the blue oval badge, especially in our test vehicle’s Wildtrak trim sporting a not-so-inconspicious shade of Cyber Yellow. We’re not normally into yellow paints but it works really well with the Bronco’s boxy silhouette.
Like the Jeep Wrangler and Land Rover Defender, the Bronco is available in both a two- and four-door spec, with choices of softtop or hardtop panels. And like the Jeep, the doors, roof panels, and rear roof section can all be removed for a true outdoor experience. If you ever needed an excuse to hit the safari or camp in the wilderness, this is it.
The interior follows the same off-roading theme, and its open-concept design doesn’t stray too far from the Jeep formula: flat dashboard, wide seats, large center console, and a sizable steering wheel. The dashboard isn’t as flat or as shallow as the Wrangler, and the Bronco’s cabin actually feels somewhat airier and more expansive. Plenty of Easter Eggs can be found in here as well, like the American flag nestled into the gear shifter, or the drive mode dial that is labelled G.O.A.T, or goes over any terrain. This was Ford’s code name for the original Bronco.
Ford has really nailed down its infotainment unit called SYNC 4. The menus on the substantial 12.0-inch screen are swift, clean, and concise, with barely any learning curve. Those used to swiping and pressing with their smartphones will have no issue growing to like this interface, and it’s just as good as the Volvo unit that utilizes a similarly friendly Google operating system.
There are quite a few wiggles and niggles with the Bronco, though. And I mean that quite literally. Whenever you roll down the windows, they wobble about as if they are about to fall off. It’s almost as if they’re not glued down to their base - doesn’t exactly scream quality does it? But that’s the tradeoff with a frameless door. And while the rear swinggate does have hinge stops, it never stops where you want it. You have to hold it at a certain position and see where the momentum lets it go, and that’s not easy when your hands are full of groceries. It doesn’t help that the door is incredibly heavy too, so good luck when parked on an uphill.
The Ford Bronco comes with two engine options: a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder delivering 300 horsepower on base models, and a punchier 2.7-litre turbocharged V6 dishing out 330 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque on units such as our Bronco Wildtrak. Both utilize a 10-speed automatic transmission with selectable four-wheel drive, though a 7-speed manual is available for base models if want to row the gears yourself.
The V6 is a proper unit with oodles of power but lots of turbo lag as well. It takes a second to fire into high gear, but the 10-speed makes the most of the meaty torque range. It doesn’t eagerly hunt for the top gear and our meager city and highway average of 13.3 L/100km isn’t exactly stellar, but it’s not bad for a vehicle with the aerodynamics of a square brick. It only requires 87-octane fuel as well. Furthermore, the V6 is a rather coarse and rough unit, vibrating excessively under acceleration as it jolts to life and rumbles its way forward.
Now keep in mind this is strictly a street-based review of the Bronco. We did not take it on any off-road excursions or courses, nor did we stumble into any inclement weather, so our thoughts are solely from living with the Bronco as a street vehicle, a daily commuter, and a transportation tool. So for the week that we drove the Bronco, the diff switches gathered dust, the front stabilizer bar was never disconnected, and we never took it into low gear, but we did play with the roof-mounted auxiliary switches while we pretended to play pilot.
In that light, it’s not the most comfortable thing around, and we have the highly capable but noisy 17-inch mud-terrain tires to thank for that. (Fun fact: the Bronco is actually wearing Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires. Yep, that Wrangler, but Ford cheekily removed the name from the outer sidewall). There is slightly less cabin noise than the Jeep but that is clearly a relative observation. There is so much wind pummeling and leaking through the front and side glass that you’d think the air vents were having an existential crisis. You get used to the noise (somewhat) at speeds under 80 km/h, but once you hit triple digit speeds on the highway, not even the spectacular Bang and Olufsen speakers can drown out the auditory maelstrom.
The Bronco also delivers that same, wobbly, brittle ride as the Wrangler - such are the constraints and penalties of their inherent designs, however the Bronco’s front wheels wander less thanks to its independent front suspension, and it is easier to keep the vehicle straight without veering into the neighbouring lane. As a result, the Bronco’s on-road mannerisms are significantly better than the Jeep’s, as is its handling but not by much. Of note, the Defender 90 is like riding on a fluffy cloud by comparison.
The resurrection of the Bronco nameplate doubles down on the nostalgia factor but Ford has backed it up with proper off-roading hardware and an old-school personality to match. It’s not as premium or as comfortable as the more expensive Land Rover Defender 90, but it’s slightly more grounded and stable than the Jeep Wrangler. As a daily driver, there are better options, but few with as much pedigree and visual charm. Ford also offers a laundry list of off-roading accessories too so they have clearly thought this through. It’s not just a one-tricky pony afterall.
Model: 2021 Ford Bronco Wildtrak
Paint Type: Cyber Yellow
Base Price: $56,494
Price as Tested: $67,629
Engine: 2.7-litre turbocharged V6
Horsepower: 330 hp @ 5,250 rpm
Torque: 415 lb-ft @ 3,100 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4X4
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 14.0 / 13.9 / 13.9
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 13.3
Tires: LT315/70R17; Goodyear Wrangler Territory