Ford has released the 2023 Bronco dealer playbook, and leaked screenshots show that the ’23 Wildtrak will receive the High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (HOSS) 3.0 system as standard. This is exciting news to us; let us tell you why.
Wildtrak: The High-Speed Off-Roader
Since launch, Wildtrak has been a popular trim. But its placement in the series lineup was a head-scratcher for many and kicked off plenty of Wildtrak vs. Badlands debates. While the Wildtrak came with more features standard and had the Sport G.O.A.T. Mode, Badlands seemed more capable with its stabilizer bar disconnect, Rock Crawl mode, and weight-bearing rock rails.
What the community didn’t know was Ford had something up its sleeve: upgraded suspension components coming. We’re speculating, but maybe Ford had considered adding these to Wildtrak from the beginning, before all the delays happened.
Ford’s unique-to-Bronco suspension ranking system has been in place since the launch of the 6 Gen, but the motor company began emphasizing it with the Bronco Raptor release in January and the announcement of 3.0 in February.
The system spans 1.0 through 4.0 and is present on all models:
- Version 1.0: standard on Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, and Outer Banks
- Version 2.0: standard on Badlands, Wildtrak, Everglades, Heritage, Heritage Limited, and Sasquatch-equipped Broncos
- Version 3.0: optioned on 2022 Wildtrak ($2,515) and standard in 2023
- Version 4.0: standard on Bronco Raptor
Introducing HOSS 3.0 first as an option and then making it standard distinguishes Wildtrak that much more from any other trim.
What You Get: NORRA-Ready Performance
With HOSS 3.0, Ford gives you the steel Capable bumper with tow hooks and integrated fog lamps, front steel bash plate, plus the stars of the system: FOX 2.5-inch Internal Bypass Dampers, the Ford Performance Severe-Duty upgraded steering rack from the Bronco Raptor, upgraded inner and outer tie rods, and a rear sway bar on both 2- and 4-doors.
When the 3.0 system was introduced, the immediate reaction from the community was “How can I add that on my Bronco I’ve already taken delivery of?” At the time, Esteban Plaza-Jennings, former Bronco brand manager, informed BN that parts couldn’t be bolted on to make your own HOSS 3.0. The main reason? The rear sway bar Ford added to 4-door Sasquatch Broncos at the beginning of this year was not available on ’21 Broncos.
“The primary difficulty for anyone that wants to bolt on 3.0 is that rear sta-bar,” says Bronco Vehicle Engineering Manager Jamie Groves. “If you`have a 21MY truck, you don’t have the brackets on the frame to mount the rear sta-bar. Specifically for HOSS 3.0, the rear bar enabled us to reduce spring rates, which offered some tuning opportunities. It’s like adding another knob to turn in suspension tuning. That rear bar enables better off-road and on-road performance.”
You’ll Love the Way It Drives
The new parts and revisions result in off-road competition-inspired spring rates and improved on- and off-road ride and handling performance –– and those competition-inspired components came in handy during a real stage rally: the NORRA Mexican 1000.
Last year, Brad Lovell, Groves, and fellow Bronco engineer Seth Goslawski entered a stock 2021 non-Sas Badlands in the Evolution Pre-Runner Truck class. In May, they repeated a podium-finish in a 2022 HOSS 3.0 Wildtrak, all while up against twice as many entries. This year’s Bronco was stock as well, and it also had the added safety equipment the class dictates: roll cage, race seats, harnesses, fire system, and extinguisher.
“We carried an extra spare tire and a big trolley jack,” says Groves. “All of that is heavy. The truck is tuned for normally loaded off-road usage, and we ended up running the truck at near its max-rated capacity.
“Performance-wise, it was 100% stock, even stock fuel system. One of the reasons we run the class we do is because it allows a stock fuel system; you don’t have to put a fuel cell in the truck. We get to prove out our entire stock fuel system and skid plate.”
Tried and Tested
In the rally, they covered approximately 1,300 miles (1,000 of that being off-road) in 24 hours of drive time spread out over 5 days.
“Generally, we were off the start line around 9:30-10:30 a.m., and you end up driving from a few hours to seven hours a day. The great thing about the event, for an engineering group, is that it’s a staged rally. You get to stop every day and inspect the truck and look for things that are damaged or parts of the truck that you’re still working through, asking, ‘Is this going to be race-proof?’”
Sometimes the men were running at 100 MPH, while other areas dictated 6 MPH. They experienced a bit of everything: graded gravel desert roads, rock gardens and boulders, sand and silt, and wide-open, flat dry lake beds.
Groves notes that nothing broke, though the passenger rear shock reservoir took a hit and was swapped out after the day ended.
“We only stopped on the clock for tire changes. Like last year, we never stopped for any kind of mechanical trouble. The way I look at it, nobody is going to go run an event like that or Rubicon Trail stock. We’re the only ones running stock trucks in things like that. Customers, if they’re going to run Rubicon or a race, are probably going to do a few things, included upgraded underbody protection. That is an area where, certainly, if I was going to race my own truck or run it down Rubicon Trail, I’d put some upgraded bash plates on to help protect the frame in the front. I’d also put on something to protect the shocks in the rear.
“We replaced the front brake pads and the air filter every night and had a long checklist of things we had to go through. Because we have a lot of experience from development work and from the off-road durability testing that we do, we understand the truck well and know what level of abuse it can take.
“HOSS 3.0 certainly adds a whole extra layer of performance and robustness that we didn’t have with the 2.0 last year. Not to diminish how great the Badlands and performance of 2.0 is, but this system does take it to the next level. Rather than having to drive around the suspension in a lot of cases because of big whoops and ruts and really rough terrain, the HOSS 3.0 could take more of that at higher speed. It was more fun, more capable, and very durable. This truck, you can really push hard out there. There are some good pictures we’ve got with the truck in the air, and it lands that kind of stuff really nicely.”
Non-stop G.O.A.T. Action
Did they use the G.O.A.T. Modes while they were out there pushing it?
“Absolutely,” says Groves. “We were in Baja Mode nearly the entire time. What that can do is way more than can be done by leaving it in Normal Mode and pushing other buttons. The expert community has the sense that they don’t need drive modes, that they can use their lockers when they need them and turn stability control off, but you can never get all the benefits that the G.O.A.T. Modes can provide without actually using the G.O.A.T. Modes.
“Baja does things to the powertrain calibration that you can’t achieve otherwise. It has the turbo anti-lag feature that keeps the turbos spooled up; it changes the shift schedule so it’s always right in the gear you want it to be in when you’re tipping back in and coming out of a turn; it modifies the ABS tuning so that you don’t lock the brakes but get higher slip, which then, on sand, you can build a pile in front of the tire that helps you decelerate. In Normal Mode, it thinks you might be on ice and not let you get as much slip and build that berm of sand. There’s all these things that happen with those modes that you just can’t achieve otherwise.”
What This Means for You
First, if you’re not getting a 2023 Wildtrak, take heart that you have G.O.A.T. Modes to play in, at minimum. Read: Another engineer’s take on the G.O.A.T. Modes –– Winter Driving in the New 2021 Ford Bronco. Then, recognize the HOSS 2.0 suspension is also great and capable of incredible things.
But with HOSS 3.0, you will experience smoother off-roading with a lesser chance of breaking the more expensive parts –– depending on your driving skill. You should go into high-speed off-roading with mechanical sympathy in mind: Have a knowledge of the vehicle so you can understand what will damage the Bronco and be able to sense when you’re pushing the truck hard enough to optimize your pace.
Groves explains it as such: You can give a truck to a really fast driver, and they can go out and drive it really fast, but maybe not for 1,000 miles. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re a fast driver but can’t get it to the finish line.
“We go as an engineering exercise to show that the truck can finish the event,” says Groves. “It’s a pretty grueling 1,000 miles, and the class we’re in is not a class that we go down there with intentions of winning. We’re the only stock truck, straight out of Michigan Assembly. We’re in with pre-runner trucks –– anything with doors that open goes. Buggies, UTVs. They’re all intentionally purpose-built for that type of event. Some of the trucks in the class are verging on spec trophy trucks. We fit into that class by the rules, but it’s not a class we’d expect to be competitive in. We joked during the week we brought a knife to a gun fight. The reason we do as well as we do is because we’ve done so much testing on the truck and know it’s durable. If we can avoid being broken down on the clock and needing to fix it, then that’s what gets us in the position to be on the podium.”
And while having this amazing suspension standard on Wildtrak is awesome news for what you’ll be able to do stock off-road and on, it also means the price of a 2023 Wildtrak is likely going to go up at least $2,515. We’ll find out on September 19 when the 2023 order guide and price list comes out.
In the meantime, read our article on price protection to see if you’re covered, and check out our article on converting your order to a 23MY and the dates you need to pay attention to (i.e., Nov. 21!).