What Is It?
One of the most highly anticipated models in many years, the 2021 Ford Bronco is an all-new off-road-oriented vehicle that pays tribute in both design and capability to the original Ford Bronco from the 1960s. Larger, modern and more capable, the 2021 Bronco is now rolling into Ford dealerships around the country, following the arrival of the smaller Bronco Sport earlier his year. We recently had our first opportunity to drive the larger Bronco, both on the highway and off-road.
Ford provides us with a 2021 Bronco 2-Door Badlands equipped with the Sasquatch Package, making it the most off-road-capable version of the new Bronco from the factory. Base price for Bronco 2-Door Badlands with Advanced 4 x 4 is $42,095. The test vehicle also included the Badlands Lux Package, a 2.7-liter EcoBoost Engine, a 10-speed automatic transmission, the aforementioned Sasquatch Package and other options for a total price as tested of $56,150 — including destination and delivery charge of $1,495.
The Bronco Badlands includes all of the equipment of the Bronco Big Bend trim level, and also adds a Terrain Management System with seven modes including Rock Crawl and Baja; Badlands Suspension with a front stabilizer bar disconnect; a heavy-duty modular front bumper; a powder-coated steel rear bumper; and auxiliary switches in the overhead console.
The Lux Package adds heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, a 12-inch center touchscreen, a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, a voice-activated touchscreen navigation system, and a wireless charging pad.
The Sasquatch Package improves off-road capability with 17-inch black-painted aluminum beadlock-capable wheels; 35-inch LT315/70R17 Mud-Terrain tires; electronic locking front and rear axles; a 4.7:1 final drive ratio; high-clearance suspension; position-sensitive Bilstein shocks; high-clearance fender flares, and a 10-speed automatic transmission with Trail Control.
The proportions and design of the original 1966 Bronco influenced the styling of the new Bronco — it retains the boxy shape and classic short-wheelbase of the 2-door variant, although a 4-door variant is now offered as well. Bronco gets built with a fully boxed, high-strength steel chassis. The Bronco 2-Door has a 100.4-inch wheelbase — more than 15 inches shorter than the 4-door version for better off-road maneuverability and an increased breakover angle.
The Bronco 2-Door includes a standard three-section molded-in-color roof with two removable front sections and a removable rear section. The two front panels can be stored onboard. The frameless doors can also be removed; the side mirrors are mounted on the cowl so they remain in position with the doors removed.
In keeping with the nostalgic exterior design, the new Bronco instrument panel draws inspiration from the original Bronco, with clearly visible, intuitive gauges and controls. As the Bronco focused on off-road capability, Badlands features washable rubberized floors with integrated drains, as well as marine-grade vinyl seating surfaces that resist mildew to make cleanup easier after a day off the beaten path. Instrument panel surfaces are wipeable, with seamless silicone rubber on the dash-mounted switches and rubber touchpoints to protect against dirt and water.
Under the Hood
The test Bronco Badlands we drove was powered by the optional 2.7-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 producing 330 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. The 2.7-liter EcoBoost gets mated exclusively with a 10-speed automatic transmission featuring manual shift mode.
Advanced 4 x 4
The 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Badlands comes with Advanced 4 x 4 that features a 2-speed electromechanical transfer case adding an auto mode for on-demand engagement to select between 2H and 4H. Power gets distributed to a Dana 44 AdvanTEK solid rear axle and Dana AdvanTEK independent front differential unit. The Sasquatch Package adds a Spicer Performa-TraK electronic-locking differential both front and rear for improved traction while traversing rough terrain.
On the Road
The new Bronco is incredibly fun to drive since it sports such a unique look, capturing the style and design of the original yet in a new, modern interpretation that attracts a lot of attention. During our testing we were impressed by the on-road ride and handling, especially given the 2-door short-wheelbase version equipped with the Sasquatch Package and 35-inch Mud-Terrain tires.
Likely a testament to the suspension tuning and Bilstein shocks, the ride of the 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door is comfortable, and the on-road handling is more responsive than expected. The steering is deftly weighted and provides more response than expected given the vehicle’s tall tires. Although we expected the Bronco 2-Door Badlands Sasquatch to be highly capable on-road, we were impressed with manners that will make it more livable on a day-to-day basis.
The Badlands seats are comfortable, and we appreciate the SUV’s overall interior layout. The digital instrumentation is easy to read, and the 12-inch touchscreen seamlessly integrates with the dashboard. Ford’s Sync4 infotainment system is one of the best in the industry — both intuitive and easy to use. On the downside, the horizontal spokes of the Bronco’s steering wheel are a little too large to comfortably hold the wheel at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. Also, the dash ends have a series of small trim pieces of differing size and color that don’t have the fit and finish one would expect in a vehicle priced above $50,000.
The Bronco 2-Door should really be thought of as a 2 + 2 vehicle. Especially with the Badlands and Sasquatch packages (even with the front seats slid forward), it takes some agility to get into the second row — and once there it’s a tight space. The short-wheelbase, 2-door version is intended for its increased off-road capability; anyone who consistently needs to accommodate back-seat passengers should consider the Bronco 4-Door.
Although we did not have the opportunity to experience extreme off-road conditions or do any rock crawling in the 2021 Ford Bronco, we did have a change to navigate an off-road course with a number of obstacles, as well as climb and descend in some soft dirt. As expected, the Badlands Sasquatch handled the off-road conditions easily, giving us an opportunity to experience the breakover angle on a steep hill, as well as the approach and departure angles as we descended into a pool of water.
During our press drive the Bronco easily climbed up and over a pile of logs while we experienced the low-range capability and locking differentials. While traversing the logs, the all-wheel-drive system, differentials and tires all worked together to find grip and negotiate the obstacles.
Driving the 2021 Ford Bronco through a series of moguls gave journalists the opportunity to see the amount of suspension articulation, as well as how the front stabilizer bar disconnect gives the Bronco’s front wheels more travel for the tires to remain in contact while in extreme conditions.
The steep dirt hill of the course highlighted the capability of the 2021 Ford Bronco’s all-wheel-drive system, with front and rear axles locked to distribute torque to all four wheels, making it easy to reach the top of the hill. The descent was equally controlled with Bronco’s low range and Trail Control functions to keep speed in check despite the loose, slippery conditions.
Granted we did not tackle any extreme off-road conditions, although the Bronco 2-Door easily handled the obstacles and terrain, leaving us with the impression that Bronco will perform well in more extreme conditions as well — hopefully we’ll be able to take Bronco to the next level soon. When equipped with the Sasquatch Package, the Bronco 2-Door should be competitive with the most capable production vehicles offered.
Ford set out to build a new Bronco with a high level of off-road capability —a vehicle in the image of the original Bronco, but with a modern design and the latest technology. Designers and engineers really hit the mark. The 2021 Ford Bronco’s on-road manners are a pleasant surprise in a vehicle that manages to maintain high levels of off-road capability. Although the Bronco will still be a slight compromise as a daily driver in exchange for its off-road prowess, we believe it’s a trade worth making to enjoy time off the beaten path in this amazingly capable, fun machine.