AUSTIN, TX – It’s hard to explain the appeal of extreme off-roading.
It’s popular with young people who don’t mind the 99 degree heat (common here in summer), insects, snakes, angry fire ants, and slow walking while the rest of the world wants speed. Drop it in a downpour to create a puddle of mud that smells better every hour, and you have the perfect date – for certain people.
For those hard-core types, Ford’s resurrected and completely redesigned body-on-frame Bronco is here to challenge the Jeep Wrangler, which until now had really had the Wards Small SUV segment all in its own right.
But Bronco (visible, left, in the side mirror) arguably the first SUV to be launched in 1966, years before the term would be applied to the extended family of carriers that never left the pavement.
So how did this head-to-head US sales competition take shape, as Ford tackled a supply issue last year that delayed deliveries of certain Broncos? Figures for the full calendar year don’t tell the whole story: 204,610 Wranglers vs. 35,023 2-door and 4-door Broncos, according to Wards Intelligence data.
What’s more obvious, however, is the final three months of 2021, when all 35,023 Broncos are shipped, up from 39,900 Wranglers for the same period. This is shaping up to be a battle.
It’s worth noting that the Ford Bronco Sport, which launched earlier and is certainly tougher than the original Ford Escape, ripped it off in Wards’ unibody-based Small CUV segment, where 20 high-volume entries competed.
In its short time in the market, the Bronco Sport has taken the No. 3 spot, with 108,169 deliveries in 2021, trailing only the Honda HR-V No.1 and Subaru Crosstrek No.2, while surpassing the popular Chevrolet Trailblazer, the Hyundai. Kona, Kia Sportage and Nissan Kicks, among many others, show Wards Intelligence data.
As staff, we’ve spent a lot of time behind the wheel of 2-door and 4-door Broncos of various trim levels, and it’s clear what the fuss is about: classic styling, weather-resistant interior, fold-down or removable roof, protruding fender flares, rims industrial, five large, prominent wheels (including one proudly mounted on the rear swing gate) and GOAT mode (for Passing All Types of Terrain).
Marketing a vehicle like this isn’t the same way it was used to move the Mustang or the F-150.
Instead, Ford has invested in a new concept known as the Bronco Off-Roadeo, where customers can experience the sensation of putting a wheel 2 feet (61 cm) off the ground, or throwing a body nearly overturned. , or slamming a steel skidplate so hard against a boulder that it feels in one’s spleen, or climbing up an intimidating rock wall that looks vertical like an upright Bronco windshield.
In the past year, Ford has opened four Off-Roadeo locations (Moab, UT; Gilford, NH; Mount Potosi near Las Vegas and here in tough Texas terrain near Austin), and more than 11,000 Bronco owners and order holders have visited. rough locale for something more than a test drive.
Additionally, salespeople from Ford dealerships across the country have come to learn about the vehicles and how to sell them – not only specifications and trim levels but also more than 200 factory-backed accessories to back up profits. There are more than 30 Jeep Jamboree events held throughout the year, so Ford has a lot to do to build the Bronco brand.
The Off-Roadeo experience is all about the Broncos, of course, but just as important is immersing yourself in a culture that celebrates the great outdoors with barbecues, nighttime stargazing by the fire and lawn games like cornhole, King of the Hammers, and learning how to lasso. a goat.
One could argue that ravaging the countryside in a 4-wheeler isn’t completely one with nature, but the course managers say they are careful to minimize the environmental impact.
It’s part of capturing the off-road experience, all under the watchful eye of a trained scout standing by the vehicle’s front bumper, trusting the driver to do exactly what he says – “turn right, now left, a little more, brake, give a little gas. ”
Do as instructed, and the Bronco will not let you down. You might blow a tire – as happened here by one of the test drivers – but a rangefinder will usually prevent serious damage to the exterior body panels and undercarriage.
On the road, with its independent front suspension, the Bronco is comfortable to ride and even quite quiet, depending on tire selection (35-inch tires are available).
Spinning the wheels are the two famous EcoBoost engines – the 275-hp 2.3L turbocharged 4-cyl. (same as in the Ranger) and the 315-hp 2.7L turbocharged V-6, both of which are directly tied to Wards’ Top 10 Engine winners of recent years. The engine is paired with a 7-speed manual (4-cylinder only) or a 10-speed automatic transmission.
At the start of the launch, the sales mix was leaning towards the 4-cylinder, and about two-thirds of early customers were expected to opt for the 4-door Bronco.
There’s a Bronco for every wallet and purpose, from a base model of $28,500 to a $56,915 First Edition, and among these are the trim levels known as Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Wildtrak and Badlands, not to mention the available Sasquatch pack.
Regardless of the trim level, the Bronco enjoys a seemingly insurmountable challenge, whether the doors or the top are on or off. Mechanical parts make a difference, from locking front and rear differentials and torture-tested suspension to the front stabilizer bar that can be removed for higher articulation and better ride comfort.
Obviously, it’s not about the luxury items in the Bronco: marine-grade vinyl fabric and seats are standard on the lower trim, and only with Outer Banks trim and over the leather is offered, as is adaptive cruise control (but not stop-and-go). , advanced sensing, 360-degree and 12-in camera. (30-cm) Sync 4 infotainment systems.
Standard across all models is 8-in. (20-cm) Sync 4 infotainment screen, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, downhill control and rearview camera. Available driver assistance technology includes lane maintenance and blind spot detection, but lane centering is not offered at all, nor are the refrigerated seats.
Ford ended production of the previous Bronco in 1996 – just as the SUV craze was about to take off, oddly enough – so Bronco loyalists have been eagerly awaiting its return. Now, they keep the Wayne, MI, assembly plant humming, as long as enough parts and semiconductors come in.