If we gave stars based on charm and character, Bronco would get five of them. This is further proof that Ford is building a car that will make you smile, with a sense of fun (and a sense of humor) built into it. The bumpy ride (at least on our test car) may not translate well to the UK, but the rest of the pack certainly will. This could be the low-priced Defender rival that many are looking for.
The new Ford Bronco is another example of an iconic SUV reinvented – just as Land Rover did with the Defender. There’s a lot in common too, with a healthy dose of retro detailing, but in the US the Bronco starts at a little over half the price of the Defender.
Our Advanced model with the additional Sasquatch pack (more on that soon) has a retail price of $42,960, which equates to around £32,000. We’re not saying the price will stay in the UK – that price conversion never happened – but we do fully expect the British Bronco to undercut the Defender and the Bronco’s arch nemesis, the Jeep Wrangler, if it does appear in the UK.
But should Ford bother? In short, yes; this is a serious 4×4 that could fill the gap left by the Defender by moving upscale – and it’s not just a pretty face.
Let’s start with the look, which harks back to the original Bronco of the sixties and seventies. It won’t mean as much in the UK as it does in the US, but the two-box profile has wheels pushed into the corners of the car for the best off-road performance, while there’s little detail along the sides except for the prominent bumps along the car’s shoulders, which mimic the original.
At the front, the square grille is paired with cute round headlights – again, like the original – separated by an LED stripe that leads to the bold Bronco name in the center of the grille.
The rear features a side-hinged tailgate that opens more than 90 degrees, plus sleek vertical LED headlights – another retro nod – and a bucking broncho badge.
Whether you remember the original or not, it’s a great look that carries over to an interior where it’s very much like the Defender – or the Defender is similar to the Bronco, whichever way you want to look at it.
The upright dashboard has handrails to help you lift yourself into the front seat and travel the entire width of the cab. There’s a central eight-inch touchscreen and a digital instrument cluster of the same size that both feature cool Bronco-inspired animations as you get in the car.
The word Bronco is stamped on the dashboard in front of the passenger like the Defender on the Land Rover, while separate heating controls are under the touchscreen, again like on the British model.
Sure, the build quality is better on the Land Rover, but the Ford feels more usable and fits perfectly into its image. And while there’s more hard plastic in the Bronco, there’s nothing to complain about – it all feels durable, looks great, and is easy to use.
There’s also plenty of room inside once you get on board, with chairs that look like they’ll survive the worst family or farm life they can face. But there are also some nice design details, such as the bucking bronco on the floor at the rear which gives the middle rear passengers something to look at as they have to sit on akimbo legs, on either side of the transmission tunnel. The shoes are great too.
There’s a choice of three- or five-door bodies, removable roof panels, and even removable doors, plus the endless accessories Ford will sell your Bronco for, including a clear roof rack. And if you have to carry something too bulky on top, like a Kayak for example, then there’s a handle on the front of the hood to help you secure long loads. They are also useful for seeing where the front corners of the car are – as Mercedes did with its indicators on the G-Class.
Under the hood of our Bronco sits the familiar 2.3-liter four-cylinder Ecoboost engine that debuted in the Ford Mustang and has also been used in hot Focus models in the UK. It’ll never have the guts of a 2.7-liter six-cylinder Ecoboost option, but it’s not bad with a decent bit of speed of 296bhp if you really want it, though the engine note is a bit uncultured.
The 10-speed gearbox is a gem, though – responsive and incredibly smooth, with buttons on the side of the shifter offering little manual control. The car will run in two-wheel drive most of the time, automatically switching to four-wheel drive when needed or via a manual override button.
And given the Bronco’s 4×4 credentials, the steering is surprisingly strong and responsive, without the slack you usually get with serious off-road cars. However, don’t think it’s a sports car. Again, it fares better than some, but will still lean in corners as the tires struggle for grip. The turning circle turned out to be very tight.
Our off-roading is limited to some rough terrain among multi-million pound homes and much like the expensive building sites in Bel Air, overlooking Los Angeles, but the Bronco felt perfectly capable of coming up with seven GOAT modes – GOAT, of course, stands. for Crossing All Kinds of Terrain – and many other smart 4×4 devices.
Then there’s the Sasquatch Pack for the ultimate off-road experience, adding 35-inch tires with 17-inch wheels, front and rear locking differentials, 4.7:1 final drive ratio with electronic locking front and rear axles. The Bilstein shock raises the car, while the flared arch gives the Bronco an even bigger look.
As you might expect, the ride can get a little hectic, bumping you a bit on urban roads and stumbling over broken concrete on the freeway. Oddly enough, on the Bronco it’s not a deal breaker – it just seems to add character to the car.
And that’s what this car is all about; we grin from ear to ear driving it around Los Angeles. But will it be translated to English? Size wise, Ford boss Jim Farley told us it’s about the same size as the Defender – and he’s right: at 4,811mm long and 2,189mm wide it’s only slightly larger than the Land Rover.
|Model:||Ford Bronco 2.3 Advanced|
|Machine:||2.3 liter turbocharged four-cylinder|
|Transmission:||10-speed automatic four-wheel drive|