After visiting Ford’s Bronco media event in Horseshoe Bay, Texas on June 22-23, I want a Bronco. Bad.
Up until now, my general stance has been that I will get one –– in time. I’ve publicly voiced my desire for the Bronco here while quietly telling myself I could wait 3+ years for a used one. After all, when you’ve been driving a $500 Jeep for the last 13 years and enjoying it, could any vehicle really be worth depreciation? Bronco Nation, I was wrong. The all-new Bronco is it for me. And I would like nothing more than to have a brand-new MY21 or ’22 off the lot. I’ll even happily wait for a ’23 if necessary.
Let me tell you what changed my mind from “I’ll get it when I can” to “I’m way overdue to order.”
You Think You’re Ready? You’re Not.
I’ve been fortunate to get some solid interaction with the Broncos already. Over the last several months, I’ve prowled their exteriors in person, scoured the design details of the interior, sat in them, drove in them … and loved every second. I knew this would be the SUV to replace my Jeeps. This is one fun vehicle, capable and comfortable, too.
But can I say this? Seeing them is cool. Riding in them is fun. Driving them short distances has been a treat. But none of that prepares you for taking them off road in depth. That’s what shifted my plans from “the near future” to “now.”
The Ford Bronco Drive Week
With production underway and Broncos beginning to be delivered, it was time for Ford Motor Company to bring in the press. Media outlets gathered in the Austin area for two-day shifts with the Bronco. We started at the Fair Market, where we could explore models and shoot trim details.
Next, Ford walked us through short sets of presentations by various team members integral to the launch –– names with which the Nation is well-versed. You’ll be familiar with many of the details as well, but every time I attend a Bronco event, I find myself wishing each and every one of you in the community were there too. Plus, I don’t think we tire of hearing the story from those who helped piece this launch together. The excitement and dedication they put into making this vehicle one we’ll all enjoy is evident every time I listen to them.
Mark Grueber, U.S. consumer marketing manager, kicked things off by sharing his part in the “Bronco underground,” simply to demonstrate how long this come-back has been in motion. However, without those lunchtime meetings and after-work hours put in of their own accord, we wouldn’t be here, so close to sixth generation ownership.
We rotated to Jiyan Cadiz, North American passenger vehicle communications manager, who reminded the media of Bronco’s tenets: capability, open air ability, customization, simplicity, and authenticity. These were the reasons that interested me in the Bronco back at launch, and the same ones that have hooked a flood of other fans too, from Early Gen owners to conquests. The original Bronco’s spirit was captured, and appetites were whetted: 75% of 2021 Bronco customers are new to Ford.
Eric Loeffler, chief program engineer, went over the suspension and drivetrain. In keeping with the only fully 4×4 brand in America, Ford designed the Bronco to do business on road and off. He covered the IFS suspension, the hydraulic stabilizer bar disconnect that one-ups Jeep’s electronic option, the midsize truck platform and monotube position-sensitive damping shocks, as well as the air induction path. The flow starts at the upper driver’s side corner of the grille and ends at the induction box on the passenger side. If mud and water were to make it that far, a trapdoor will release it out the bottom. The side air curtains are another protection feature of the Bronco –– this time for passengers. Slow rollovers won’t deploy the curtains, but trigger points activated during fast rollovers will, helping keep occupants from harm.
Mike House, SUV program manager, discussed the modularity, and Paul Wraith, chief designer, was eager to explain the human-interest aspect of the Bronco: This is a vehicle built for you, off real-life stories, not made-up customers.
Lastly, Esteban Plaza-Jennings, brand manager, brought up Ford’s desire to make this a vehicle that can be optioned with top components on even the lowest trim, such as the Sasquatch package on a Base.
Time to Drive
We were then able to pick out a Bronco to take on a two-hour road test, from the market to the Sandy Creek Marina, and on to the Horseshoe Bay Resort after. I grabbed the 2.3L 10-speed Black Diamond, wanting to test out a more basic trim. However, more basic did not mean it was lacking. I was impressed by the 4-cylinder engine: Our route was filled with elevation changes, but they were no problem for the Bronco. There was no noticeable body roll, and the handling was solid through the curves and turns. Additionally, it’s one of the first vehicle designs I’ve come across that mimics the few blindspots of my XJs, a feature I’ve been committed to not giving up in my search for a replacement SUV. Other than the much more responsive pedals and lower clearance of the Bronco vs. my 2000 Jeep, I felt immediately at home in the vehicle and thrilled by its performance on road.
Once at our destination, we turned over the keys –– something I think we were all sad to do ––and headed over to the Texas Off-Roadeo location. There, we could go through the ORX course, drive competitors’ vehicles on road (no comparison), and spend time with the dozens upon dozens of Broncos and accessories.
The next day was trail time. Three action-packed courses in varying levels of difficulty and practically every type of terrain were where my mind started locking in my order. We swapped vehicles for each trail, and I was able to take out a mix of 2- and 4-door Broncos in Wildtrak, Badlands, and Outer Banks. I experienced both the 2.3L and 2.7L engine, but always the automatic transmission. Some of you know I’ve planned to secure the Badlands, mainly because I want options, am not a high-speed off-roader who wants Baja mode, and like the stabilizer bar disconnect option on Badlands. Interestingly, however, the Wildtrak had me guessing if Badlands really was the trim for me. Even still, I could see myself owning nearly any trim and being happy. It’s hard to go wrong with Bronco … and it may even be impossible.
As you all here at Bronco Nation know, the technology works like a dream, and for me, the 360 cameras took the most getting used to, simply because I drive vehicles without even a backup cam. Once I got used to remembering they were there, I enjoyed having them. Trail Control was a convenient feature as we snaked the trails, one I liked more than I expected. And after recent rain, hitting those front and rear locker switches when appropriate let us leave a lighter footprint on the trail. It’s just one more of the features Ford has made so easy to use in the Bronco.
The Countdown Is On
Driving short distances in the Bronco has been enough to convince me it has a great design and handling. Riding in the passenger seat of the vehicle with teammates, Shelby Hall, and Brad Lovell (I jumped at the chance to ride with him on the Fun-Haver course) would make anyone’s day. But taking it off road yourself will change the game, even for the most already-ardent order holder. If you think you love the vehicle now, just wait. Everything pales once you’re behind the wheel.