by Frank A. Aukofer ~
Ford’s fondness for free-spirited, even feisty, names for its vehicles comes to fruition with the 2021/22 Bronco revival, especially the two-door Black Diamond model with four-wheel drive and a seven-speed manual gearbox.
It joins the Raptor trucks; Mustang models, including those with electric power or brutish gasoline engines, and the all-new Maverick, now no longer an economy sedan but a small pickup truck with a hybrid powertrain.
There’s some minor confusion because the Bronco name attaches to two completely different vehicles—the Bronco Sport, a pleasant compact crossover sport utility vehicle based on the Ford Escape, and the off-road oriented Bronco tested here.
The Bronco comes in six versions, starting with the Base trim level and its price tag of $31,490, and climbing up to the top-line First Edition, which nudges $60,000 with options. There are two engine and transmission choices, along with available four-wheel drive.
Driven for this review was the 4X4 Black Diamond version, up two notches from the Base model and down four from the First Edition. It is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. It arrived with a starting price of $38,340 and, with a modest list of options, topped out at $40,025, reasonable given its off-road capabilities,
On the tester, the turbo four-banger was mated to a seven-speed manual gearbox, with second through seventh of those speeds set up for overall driving. First gear has an ultra-low crawl ratio for turtle traveling in rugged terrain.
The other drivetrain combination pairs a 10-speed automatic transmission with a twin-turbocharged V6 engine that delivers 330 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels or all four wheels. The V6 is not available with the seven-speed stick shift.
At first blush, this Bronco comes across as a lean, mean machine that would be amenable to an owner who relaxes in sack cloth and ashes. Though it’s as well equipped as most vehicles are these days, it makes do with manual climate control and without adaptive cruise control.
As with its main competitor, the Jeep Wrangler, you can remove the roof and doors for adventuring in the elements, where it is most comfortable in its steel skin. This is a vehicle for challenging the boondocks; it is not suited to long-distance cruising.
There’s plenty of power from the turbo four-banger, and the seven-speed manual gearbox shifts smoothly, though with long throws. (You don’t use the crawl ratio in normal on-road driving). Zero to 60 miles an hour acceleration is in the seven second range and the EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating is 17/19/18 miles to the gallon.
At highway speeds, the cavernous interior functions like an echo chamber, amplifying sounds from tires, road, engine and wind. At lower speeds on smooth surfaces, it quiets down some but the racket at speed, combined with a stiff, choppy ride, can make for driver fatigue.
The Bronco handles well enough in everyday traffic, though the steering is slow at 3.5 turns lock to lock. But the saving grace is its short wheelbase — the distance between the front and rear axles — of just 8 feet 4 inches, which results in a tight turning circle for maneuvering on and off-road.
There’s plenty of utility to go with the sport qualities. It is strictly a four-passenger vehicle with bucket seats in front and back. The back seats only partially fold, limiting the cargo carrying capability of 22 cubic feet with the seats up and 52 cubic feet folded. Loading is through a big sideways opening third door. Unfortunately, it is hinged at the right side, which means that the person doing the loading has to stand in the street.
Embarking passengers, especially into the back seats, presents a challenge. The step-in height is more than knee high and, as in any two-door, you have to clamber past the front seatback. Children and tall gymnasts won’t have much of a problem but it’s nearly impossible for older adults to crawl back there. The lesson here is if you’re going to regularly accommodate passengers, wait for the four-door Bronco.
The Ford Bronco dates back to 1966 and the version most similar to the 2021/22 model was the last of the first-generation Broncos in 1977. It was about the same size and had a V8 engine but with just 135 hp.
- Model: 2021/22 Ford Bronco 2-Door Advanced 4X4 Black Diamond sport utility vehicle.
- Engine: 2.3-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 300 hp, 325 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Seven-speed manual with low off-road crawl gear and four-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 14 feet 6 inches.
- Height: 6 feet 1 inch.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 97/22 cubic feet. (52)
- Weight: 4,630 pounds.
- Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
- Payload: 1,170 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/19/18 mpg.
- Base price (2021), including destination charge: $38,340.
- Price as tested: $40,025.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.
Photos (c) Ford
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