The legendary Ford Bronco returns with cool retro styling, innovative features, and impressive off-road capabilities. While purists will decry the absence of a V-8 option, they’ll applaud the Bronco’s optional manual transmission and many nostalgic details. Its interior layout is simple but loaded with technology, such as an available 12.0-inch touchscreen and an off-road performance app. The cabin also contains durable, waterproof surfaces that protect things when the doors and the soft or hardtop roofs are removed. Its convertible nature—along with two- and four-door body styles—pits Ford’s most rugged SUV against the popular Jeep Wrangler. With a highly capable chassis and drivetrain, the 2021 Bronco has a legit chance to challenge the Jeep for the trail-rated crown.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Sorry, folks. The Bronco doesn’t come with eight cylinders. Instead, there’s a standard 300-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder or an optional 330-hp twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6. A 10-speed automatic transmission bolts to both gas engines, but a seven-speed manual is only compatible with the smaller one. Unfortunately, neither engine has an enthusiastic soundtrack. Every Bronco sends power to all four wheels, and its independent front suspension is more sophisticated than Jeep’s front stick axle. Other noteworthy options include 35-inch mud-terrain tires, Beadlock-capable wheels, electronic locking front, and rear differentials, and a sway-bar-disconnect feature. After our first driving impressions, the Bronco most impressed us with its on-road refinement. Not only is its steering more precise than the Wrangler’s wheel, but the Ford simply handles better overall. Of course, equipped with the largest tires and softest suspension, there’s significant brake dive, and its body-on-frame construction isn’t kept secret. Still, the Bronco isn’t a one-trick pony, and it’s capable of conquering truly treacherous terrain. Both the two- and four-door models are also rated to tow 3500 pounds—the same as the Wrangler.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The four-cylinder Bronco with the automatic transmission is the thriftiest variant, with ratings of 20 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. Upgrade to the V-6 version with the Sasquatch package that includes aggressive, oversized tires and its fuel economy plummets to 17 mpg both in the city and on the highway. Once we have the opportunity to run a Bronco on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, we can evaluate its real-world mpg. For more information about Bronco’s fuel economy.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Available with two or four doors, soft tops or hardtops, and removable body panels, the Bronco offers the same open-air possibilities that make the Wrangler an outdoor person’s delight. The Ford’s interior has a few more innovations than the Jeep, too. For example, the Bronco has a rack built into the top of its dashboard that allows smartphones and GoPros to be mounted there. It also has frameless doors that are easy to remove. However, their long side glass can snag the weatherstripping and they allow extra wind noise to enter the cabin. Still, the extended-wheelbase four-door models have space on board to store all four doors. Since the exterior mirrors are mounted on the base of the windshield, they’re still useable when the doors are taken off. When exposed to the elements, the cabin can be protected with the available rubberized flooring and marine-grade vinyl upholstery. Those who want a fancier environment can opt for leather seating surfaces, but the interior’s expansive swaths of plastic look cheap on upper trims. Even in the two-door Bronco, there’s enough space in the back seat to comfortably fit two adults. The four-door version alone has a third, middle seat in the rear and offers a hair more legroom, but most of its extra length applies to the cargo area, which is more than 50 percent larger than the two-door.