Ford's 4WD Bronco SUV has become an almost overnight success. It’s been so popular that they’ve become tough to find on dealers’ lots. A few Facebook posts indicate that dealers are selling their demo models. And some are even jacking up the sticker price.
A scarce inventory is also prevalent in media test models as this review is for a 2021, not 2022 model. But not much has changed operationally or functionally.
And since their debut last year, Ford has released a host of trim models of Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond (tested), Everglades, Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak and more recently, Sasquatch, high-performance and serious off-road Raptor, plus Heritage Edition and Heritage Limited Edition models that are reminiscent of the original 1966 models that are complete with two-tone paint of that era. Each version comes with enhanced features such as higher ground clearance, larger tires, locking front/rear differentials, enhanced 4WD system and trim packages.
As for our Black Diamond, it was a two-door although there are four-door models offered. The latter are the ones I see locally and in fact I don’t recall seeing a two-door in my travels.
Bronco is also offered in hard and soft tops. Our Black Diamond tester was a hard top but the front roof panels are removeable (as can the doors) after releasing four roof latches. The tops can then be stowed in a provided nylon bag.
It also comes with 32-inch General tires that are 8.5 inches wide and mounted on 6-lug rims. With these and a ground clearance of 8.4 inches (11.5 w/35-inch tires), plus a 4WD system offering 2H, 4H, 4A (automatic) and 4L gearing, Bronco is capable of fording 33.5 inches of water. There’s also selectable drive modes of Eco, Sport, Slippery, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl. Combined, these are what Ford calls the G.O.A.T system (Go-Over-Any-Terrain). So endowed, Bronco has an approach angle of 35.5 degrees, a breakover angle of 21.1 and a departure angle of 29.8. All go towards serious off-roading capabilities.
After a tall 23-inch step-in into the cabin, Bronco’s interior is not fancy, just functional the way an off-road machine should be. In fact, the rubberized cabin floor has drain plugs to wash out mud or in the event rain water should get in when the tops are removed.
Durable and long-wearing non-heated leatherette seats are heavily padded to absorb nasty, rocky trails and unimproved roadways. The back seats are equally as padded but ingress/egress is a squeeze. They can seat two small statured adults with limited leg room if the fronts are racked well rearward.
Flush mounted on the dash and vertical stack is an 8-inch infotainment display that serves the audio, Ford Connect, Wi-Fi Hot-Spot, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto connectivity and rearview camera with close-up view that is nice to have when backing up to a trailer. Navigation though must be connected with a smartphone as there was no separate app for it.
HVAC controls are large and easy to use even with gloved hands, but selections don’t display on the screen. Air direction is selected via man-form switches that are a nice touch and used in other Ford vehicles including the new Maverick pickup. And the system includes a Max A/C switch mode that quickly cools the interior and a feature absent on many new vehicles today.
Also on the vertical stack is a switch to lock the rear axle for when the going gets tough and added traction is needed.
The gauge clusters’ analog speedometer and digital tachometer includes a large driver information display. It shows the drive modes and other operating information plus alerts, all in digital form.
For 4WD, a combination touch/rotary dial on the console selects 2H, 4H, 4L and 4A (auto) by pressing on each gear detent. By turning the outer dial, it selects the multitude of drive modes previously listed. It’s a novel yet compact design.
As my tester came with the 7-speed manual transmission, the seventh gear is a Crawler (marked C) gear that saves the clutch when off-roading.
The gear selector is notchy and clutch pressure is on the heavy side. The optional 10-speed automatic would probably by one most Bronco buyers would opt for.
Back in the cargo area, that has a 30-inch lift-over, the cargo gate with spare tire on it, swings out to the right after which the gate window can be lifted up. This is a retro and helpful feature when carrying long items. The open window allows lengthy items to stick out through it.
With the rear seats upright, there’s 22.4 cubic feet of cargo space that measures 21.5 inches deep. Flip the 50/50 split folding seats and capacity increases to 52.3 cubic feet for 48 inches (4 feet) of cargo loading depth. When folding the rear seat seatbacks, the seat bottoms must first be flipped forward so the seatbacks can fold down behind them. It’s a two-step operation.
Beneath the cargo floor are two shallow bins. One holds the jack and tools, the other is to stow small items.
Bronco Black Diamond comes standard with a 2.3-liter, EcoBoost inline 4-cylinder (same engine as in the Ranger pickup) that produces an impressive 275-hp and 315 lb/ft of torque earning EPA mileage estimates of 16 city, 18-highway mpg with auto start/stop engine technology. It’s also tow rated for 3,500 pounds. The 10-speed automatic version is rated at 18/17 mpg.
So powered, the 2.3L offers robust acceleration and plenty of passing power. Under half and full throttle, the engine is noisy, especially if a window is open.
Optionally offered is a 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 with 310-hp and a whopping 400 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 17/18 mpg. And for the Raptor version, there’s a 3.0-liter twin turbo V6 with 400-hp and 450 lb/ft of torque for EPA estimates of 15/16 mpg.
As for ride and handling, Bronco rides similar to its main competitor the Jeep Wrangler 2-door. It’s taut, bouncy on nasty roads and has a bit of body lean in sharp turns taken at too fast a speed. With an independent front axle, solid rear axle, high-performance Bilstein shocks all around and coil springs up front, Bronco’s suspension has been designed to take the rough and tough.
Handling wise, it’s planted on highways and interstates and its then that its harshness disappears. After all, it’s a tough and rugged off-roader, not a Lincoln Town Car.
Since Bronco can be had with a host of safety features such as Co-Pilot360, Trail Control for low-speed cruise control, Trail Turn Assist that shortens the turning radius on narrow trails and a 360-degree camera with what Ford calls spotter views that shows what’s near the tires on rugged off-road trails, my Black Diamond was sparse in that department in that it only had pre-collision assist.
Bronco 2-door Advanced Black Diamond carried a base price of $36,845 to which was added Equipment Groups 321A Black Diamond Series, cargo area protector ($120), tow capability (receiver hitch $595), sound deadening headliner ($495), keyless entry keypad ($110), roof rail w/crossbars ($365) that brought the bottom line to $40,025 with a delivery charge of $1,495.
This is about the same price of a standard Jeep Wrangler 2-door, but their Wrangler Rubicon can fetch well over $50K.
If you crave a Bronco, there are a lot of models to satisfy your needs and desires. You can go mild or extreme if opting for the Raptor version.