Beefcake and plastic
The Ford Bronco makes a hell of a first impression rolling down the street. It’s big, it’s blocky and — in my tester’s Wildtrak Sasquatch trim — it’s riding on some incredibly beefy all-terrain tires, with a fifth one slapped onto the rear cargo door. It looks ready for adventure right off the bat, and after decades of staring at more or less the same Jeep Wrangler, it’s a welcome addition to the mall-crawling cartel. Even in an unassuming color like silver, the Bronco can’t help but stand out.
The interior is a little more hit-or-miss. The primary issue is materials — while I understand the desire to weatherproof the hell out of everything given its open-air nature, this Bronco costs $58,420 out the door including destination and has more plastic than my Volkswagen Golf. That said, everything’s put in a smart, easy-to-reach location, whether it’s the inboard window switches or the differential disconnects atop the dashboard. The marine-grade vinyl on the seats seems like it will handle moisture without issue, and while it’s not as plush as leather, it’s still plenty comfortable.
From a daily-driver livability standpoint, I’d like to see a little more storage in the cabin. Since all four doors are removable and on the thin side, there are no built-in pockets, just some cargo nets instead. What interior storage you do get is limited to the center armrest, which is deep enough for a medium-sized purse. Additionally, there’s the glove compartment and the tray ahead of the cup holders, which on my tester includes a wireless device charger. The cargo area is plenty massive, though, at 35.6 cubic feet for the hardtop Bronco; that’s better than the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Land Rover Defender, but the Toyota 4Runner is the cargo king in this segment. The swinging rear door may present issues in a small garage, but I can open it a smidge and open the top-hinged upper half in a pinch.
Now, let’s talk hardtop. I wouldn’t recommend removing it without help, mostly to prevent any damage to the roof panels, but it’s not a difficult process. For the front and center panels, just swing the latches out of their (very clearly marked) locked position and lift. It doesn’t take much effort, although if you have a roof rack, you have to break out the tools to unscrew it first. The rear portion is a little trickier, as it requires disconnecting a harness and washer-fluid tube and undoing a few bolts. Thankfully, if all you’re after is a little extra sun, you can remove just the front panels and store them in a dedicated bag in the cargo area for on-the-go reattachment.
Comfortable, but noisy
While the Ford Bronco’s hardtop seals well enough to keep the weather outside, it doesn’t protect against wind noise, of which there is plenty. There’s a good bit of tire noise on my tester, too. Its 12.4-inch-wide Goodyear Territory all-terrain tires will absolutely dominate non-pavement surfaces, but in suburban driving they mostly cause a racket. That noise fades into the background at highway speeds, when wind seemingly sneaks its way through the roof with ease. Ford offers a noise-deadening headliner for $450, which my tester has, and which I believe should be standard equipment — I can only imagine the cacophony that’d fill the cabin without it.
The rest of the Bronco driving experience is… really dang pleasant, actually. The Wrangler’s solid front axle makes the Jeep far less comfortable in daily use, while the Bronco’s independent front suspension does a suitable job muting potholes and undulations in conjunction with those thicc tires. I mean, sure, the Bronco’s body-on-frame construction isn’t exactly hiding here, but this SUV doesn’t bounce and shudder. It’s cool and composed, with decently responsive steering and pedals that are easy to modulate. The Sasquatch’s high-clearance suspension does induce a small bit of pitching when leaving a stoplight or arriving at one, though.
My Wildtrak-trim tester sports the more powerful engine of the two on offer, a 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 making 330 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. Even with a Raptor model on the way, this V6 makes the Bronco scoot, emitting a pleasant note as it shoves itself along. Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission neatly swaps through the ratios about as imperceptibly as the Bronco’s stop-start system functions. It all comes together very nicely, until you reach the EPA fuel-economy estimates. Sasquatch variants are rated the worst of any Bronco, at 17 mpg city, highway and combined. Sadly, I wasn’t able to do much better than those numbers, either, although a light foot may bring highway values up a smidge, to 18 or 19.
While our own Emme Hall will go more in-depth on the Bronco’s off-road prowess with her Wildtrak two-door review, the Bronco rolls off the factory floor ready for adventure. Its electronic 4×4 system swaps between high-ratio 2WD and 4WD modes with ease; you can leave it in high-range two-wheel drive all day, or if you want a little extra peace of mind, you can move the dial to four-wheel-drive auto, which will let the computer deal with all that business on the backend. Eight different vehicle modes tailor my inputs to better match the terrain, whether it’s mud, snow or rocks. There’s also some clever trail tech in here, like a one-pedal mode that makes for more precise crawl control, and a turn assistant that brakes only the inner wheels when turning.
Lots of good tech
Ford’s other new models have been slaying the tech game, and that continues in the Bronco. An 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display is standard but opting for the High ($1,295) or Lux ($3,590) equipment packages upgrades that to a 12-inch monster that fills the dashboard. Both screens run Ford’s Sync 4 system, which I have always enjoyed thanks to its straightforward layout and zippy responsiveness. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is Amazon Alexa integration. An 8-inch screen in the gauge cluster puts relevant information closer to the road, including a very clear lane-keeping diagram that should help keep your tires far from any dashed white lines. Charging is a breeze, too — all Broncos come with a pair of USB ports in each row, one USB-A and one USB-C. Higher trims also get a 110-volt AC outlet in the back.
Nearly all of the Bronco’s safety systems require a model that can equip the Mid equipment package. That grants access to Ford Co-Pilot 360, a suite of active and passive safety systems that includes automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Rear parking sensors are in the Mid package, as well, but upgrading to High throws front sensors into the mix. You have to throw down a few grand for the Lux package to get adaptive cruise control, though, which is a bummer. It’s a double bummer when you notice that the Bronco’s adaptive cruise doesn’t bring the vehicle to a stop, even though that capability is baked into other trucks like the F-150. Shame, that.
Down to brass tacks
The 2022 Ford Bronco is offered in a seriously wide variety of trims. The bargain-basement Base trim starts at just $34,945 (including $1,495 in destination charges) for a four-door model, but you can shed a few thou if you’d prefer a two-door. Several variants stand between the Base and my tester’s top-tier Wildtrak trim, which starts at $50,970. With the Lux package and a few other extras, the price settles at $58,420.
With that wide a swath of pricing, the Bronco has all manner of competitors. The Jeep Wrangler persists, although the Bronco is better than it in nearly every way, unless you really need a solid front axle. The Toyota 4Runner offers more cargo space and a roof that doesn’t whistle, but then again, it’s not a roof you can remove, either. The Land Rover Defender 110 offers plenty of capability and far more refinement inside, but its base price picks up just ahead of where the Ford leaves off.
There’s also the matter of trying to get a Bronco. It’s fun to blame the supply chain when I wake up 10 minutes late, but it has wreaked havoc on the auto industry, as has the semiconductor shortage. Ford’s problems are also of its own making, as it has been dealing with a cosmetic hardtop issue that will see the automaker replacing every molded-in-color hardtop it’s already produced. And then there are vultures passing for dealerships, who are capitalizing on demand by throwing multi-thousand-dollar markups onto window stickers for no reason beyond pure avarice. Oh, and let’s not forget the cadre of Bring a Trailer users who apparently only bought a Bronco to resell it immediately for a profit. If you really want a Bronco, you may have to wait… a while.
Nevertheless, I believe the Ford Bronco is well worth that wait if you’re able. It’s comfortable on the road, far more than its primary competitor, and it’s loaded with solid technology and ample creature comforts. Whether it’s headed for the dirt or not, the Bronco is the latest in a long line of home runs from the big Blue Oval.