Last week, Ford invited me (and a bunch of other automotive journalists) out for a socially-distanced “Bronco Day” at an off-road vehicle park north of Detroit, in celebration of both the recently revived off-roader’s 55th birthday and the new 2021 Bronco and Bronco Sport's forthcoming arrival. We didn't get to drive the new rigs, but we did — with a congregation of cargo shorts-wearing Ford minders hovering around us — get up close and personal with and do off-road ride-alongs in both the Bronco and Bronco Sport.
The SUVs on hand were still pre-production vehicles, so we weren’t permitted to take photos of the interiors that were nowhere near up to production snuff — but we were, of course, free to take notes. Below are a few very preliminary thoughts from our first dance with the new Broncos.
The Bronco seemed confident on the trail
Ford's drivers seemed happy to bomb the Bronco around mildly challenging Michigan ORV trails. We went across sand, up and down grades and through water; the engineer I rode with demonstrated the locking differentials, Trail Control and Trail Turn Assist features, even though the Bronco probably could have done fine without them. We didn’t do anything resembling serious rock-crawling or seeing the manual transmission’s crawler gear in action.
Many Bronco owners will go off-roading with the doors off, at least once
That open-air feeling is great, in theory. I’m not sure how pleasant people will find it in practice. My ride was in a Bronco with the doors on, but no roof; I still had to remove my sunglasses mid-ride and left coated in a fine layer of dust. (My COVID-19-spec face mask came in handy.)
To be fair, Ford offered me a roofed Bronco; I inflicted the Built Wild treatment on myself. Still, if I were to buy one, I'd test out the full door experience before plunking down for some fancy half doors, unless the most hardcore you get will be cruising onto a beach.
The Bronco Sport Badlands is legit
Ford talked up how proficient the Bronco Sport’s Badlands trim was off-road. My brief ride-along more or less affirmed that. It has a ton of power and torque, and handled more or less everything the standard Bronco did.
We didn’t do a one-wheel up obstacle test like we did in the big Bronco, and I believe we forded the water obstacle at a shallower point. But otherwise, it should be overkill for the off-roading most people do with their vehicles.
Pictures don’t tell the whole story
In pictures, the looker of the family would clearly seem to be the two-door Bronco with the Sasquatch package. In real life, I felt the Sasquatch package started to feel like overkill, even treading into "bro truck" territory. The standard, still-off-road-capable tires of the non-Sasquatch version looked far more proportional. If Ford’s making us choose between the Sasquatch package and the manual, I'd take the latter.
Ford will accessorize the hell out of your new Bronco vehicle
We knew the Bronco would offer myriad personalization options, thanks to its modular design. As Ford revealed with the Bronco and Bronco Sport concepts on display, Ford is doubling down with the accessories from name brands like Yakima for racks and Warn for winches. If you use gear for something outdoorsy, a Ford Bronco vehicle will probably offer an easy transportation solution for it.