We all know what the Ford Bronco is meant to do. You only have to look at press pictures, digest the technical specs or try to think of another car that could legitimately feature the ‘Everglades’ trim to know that it’s very much meant to be a 4×4 in the traditional sense. The Bronco has been designed explicitly for people (i.e. Americans) who are really off-roading, who might need a winch and spotlights (besides looking cool) and might know the difference between all of the AdvanTEK axles. Ford didn’t really bring the Bronco into this world to topple on the city streets. But it wasn’t the first 4×4 used on them…
In our few hours or so with the Bronco in London, it was impossible to track the number of Defenders (new and old), G-Class (new and old) and Range Rovers (you get it) sharing the capital’s roads. People love SUVs in town, just in case you haven’t heard of them. Some people like something awkward and stubborn to drive like an old Defender in town, because it looks cool. So while this may not be the Bronco’s toughest test, the urban jungle is certainly a relevant one.
Those who buy an SUV to attract attention in the city could do much worse than buying the latest Ford. And rather than something like the axle-portal G-Wagen (yes, people have one in London) or even the more off-road Sasquatch Packaged Bronco, the Outer Banks Bronco with reasonable wheels and tires is far less scary. People want to know about it, of course – they give it a thumbs up, and want to talk about it because they’re interested. And in London, where driving a Brum through Mayfair probably won’t make anyone smile, that’s a huge plus for the Broncos.
Like the Mustang, you won’t find many Ford badges on it. Similarly, like the world’s most famous pony car, its design is classic enough to be recognizable without veering over to pastiche. The Bronco isn’t as well-known here as the Mustang, but there are enough clues – the headlights and silhouette in particular – that it immediately marks it as a Bronco. For those who haven’t seen it emblazoned on the grille. It looks good, though, different without being weird and smart without being quiet, if maybe a little meek after seeing nothing but Broncos on 35-inch tires.
It’s a similar story inside, the car takes itself seriously as an off-road prospect but never loses its sense of fun. The extra switches on the roof are a perfect example: they’re there to control the bits and bobs you might put on an off-road adventure, but they also click and clack like you’re preparing to launch a missile from the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The GOAT (Goes Over Any Terrain) drive mode selector is useless on the North Circular, but just a chunky dial type that’s easy to reach with one eye on the terrain. Same for the handle grip by the A-pillar; it may be there to keep you steady while crawling, but it’s also great for cruising along. There’s the same sense of fun and fitness for purpose at the Bronco as a toy, with plenty of detail to make you smile, connected to equipment that might come in handy in an adventurous sense. The atmosphere won’t impress anyone accustomed to European SUVs, but the essentials seem to be well done.
The Bronco is powered by Ford’s 2.3-liter four-cylinder Ecoboost, paired with an optional 10-speed automatic. Even at 300hp and 325lb ft, the engine always feels on the wrong side of the two and is a bit of a ton. It’s fine but forgettable (and the car is responsive enough), buzzing you up to the required speed, but the Ecoboost motor doesn’t do much to detract from the appeal of the V8 Bronco – or even the V6. Whisper it, but an electric drivetrain might be preferable, providing useful instant torque off-road (or away from all the traffic lights on Park Lane) without a gloomy soundtrack. At the official 21mpg, it’s not even very efficient.
That the Bronco was still so much fun to chat with, despite the less-than-inspiring engine, says a lot for the rest of the experience. It’s still a body-on-frame car, sharing some key parts with the upcoming Ranger, and of course the Bronco doesn’t provide the sort of serenity and frenzy of a modern unibody SUV. It seems that getting agitated by imperfections is easy enough and everything responds with a delay (since hypersensitivity isn’t much use off-road), but you quickly get into the groove with it. The hood handle makes it easy to place and good visibility; by big SUV standards, the Bronco is nearly compact, and it’s a lot more fun driving a 4×4 through city streets when everyone nearby isn’t mad. Those looking for the dynamic power of the new Defender will be disappointed. But those fed up with the old should find a fun modern Bronco. Using one every day will be no trouble at all. Even though we can only talk to 40mph or so…
However, there is no denying the entertainment value of the Bronco in the UK. And that’s before you factor in the retractable roof, removable doors, and hidden off-road potential. It’s a fun car, and that’s quite commendable in the ugly-faced automotive world. That said, you have to really buy what the Bronco has to offer (and settle for a left drive) to really do it. Because what a $40k Ford is at home is more than £70,000 here – and a 4×4 for fun and frolicking becomes a little hard to justify at that cost. At least the Jeep Wrangler is available in top-of-the-range Rubicon specs, with a turbo four-cylinder and comparable automatic powertrain, for £20k less. On the right wheel. You clearly have no shortage of Defenders to choose from. Until we can try one with a more preferable engine, then, or import it for a lot cheaper, the Ford Bronco looks set to remain an outlier in the UK – but worth it anyway.
SPECIFICATIONS | OUTER BANK FORD BRONCO 2022
Machine: 2.264cc, four-cylinder turbo
Transmission: 10-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 300@n/a rpm
Torque (lb feet): 325@n/a rpm
0-62mph: 8.8 seconds
Top speed: N/A
Price: £74,995 (with Sutton two year warranty)