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off-road

2022 Ford Bronco 2-Door Black Diamond: A DriveWays Review…

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® brand just opened its all-new Bronco build-and-price configurator, enabling customers for the first time the opportunity to visualize the color and material choices that reinforce the rugged nature of the Built Wild™ brand.

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.

Specifications

  • 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.

Frank drives the two-door 2022 Ford Bronco.

Photos (c) Ford

2021 Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4X4: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Other than its menacing mien, the clue to the purpose of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is that gigantic spare wheel and tire bolted into the cargo bed. 

There’s a twin, another spare hanging underneath, because both might be needed. Together they announce that this behemoth is not your average big pickup. Far from it. This dystopian machine starts out as a Ram 1500 but gets a shape-shifting transformation into a mighty dune busting, rock climbing, Baja California racing truck without peer.

Start with the brutish power. Under the hood is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ 6.2-liter supercharged Dodge Hellcat V8 engine, snorting out 702 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque that forces its way through a mighty eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels.

Anyone might conclude that power of that magnitude might be needed to get this 6,866-pound truck away from the curb. But Car and Driver magazine, using testing equipment and the TRX launch control, measured its 0-60-mph acceleration time at 3.7 seconds. Forget inertia, Newton’s first law of motion that an object at rest stays at rest.

That’s not all. The Ram TRX, dubbed T-Rex by some of its enablers, comes with a whole bag full of off-road goodies, including adaptable Bilstein shock absorbers that enable it to rocket off hills and sand dunes and cushion its landings on the other side, a la Evel Knievel.

Time for a disclaimer. In this Covid-19 restricted metropolitan area surrounding Washington, D.C., there was no opportunity to do the fun stuff of boondocks-bashing for this review. But other assessments by professionals have testified to the TRX’s extraordinary capabilities in tough terrain.

The surprise is that this Marvelous Mrs. Maisel of the truck world handles itself — with a little help from the driver — quite well in the real world of urban and suburban commuting, though of course not economically.

The EPA rates the TRX’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 10/14/12 mpg on premium gasoline — not the sort of numbers that would endear it to environmentalists hoping to save the planet from premature oblivion. Likely the argument would be that, at the tested TRX’s bottom line sticker price of $87,570, it would be but a blip on the green movement’s charts.

Back to the surprise. Climb up into the TRX’s cab — make sure you have strong leg muscles — and punch the start button. The Hellcat V8 roars into life, frightening any small wildlife in the area, but soon settles into a muted drone.

You can actually tootle around in city traffic without contributing to noise pollution. If you keep the massive supercharged eight-cylinder sedated under 1500 rpm — watch the tachometer — you won’t bother yourself or anyone around you.

But punch the throttle and you’re noisily off to the urban drag races. Another surprise: the TRX is relatively light on its tires and delivers a not great but acceptable steering feel and handling. So if you’re not weekend hammering the dunes or rocks, you could use the TRX as a commuter vehicle — and also as a family hauler because it has a generous amount of space for five people.

But its forte is conquering grueling terrain, including sharp rocks that can blow a tire in an instant, which is why the TRX carries two full-size spares. It also has seven selectable drive modes to likely cover anything it encounters: auto, custom, mud/sand, rock, snow, towing, sport and Baja. 

The TRX has full-time four-wheel drive with high and low ranges, as well as a locking rear axle. Two-wheel drive for economical cruising on pavement is not available. 

With a base price of $71,690 and $87,570 as tested, it comes with a classy interior with carbon fiber accents. A long list of standard and optional equipment includes full-speed collision warning and emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, high-performance brakes, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, blind spot and cross-path detection, front and rear parking assist, and head-up display. 

Also: 12-inch iPad-style center screen, navigation, leather-trimmed and heated seats, premium audio system, SXM satellite radio, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a power tailgate release.

So there’s actual comfort when you aren’t bashing the boondocks.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4X4 pickup truck.
  • Engine: 6.2-liter V8, supercharged; 702 hp, 650 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with four-wheel drive, high and low range.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger volume: 132 cubic feet.
  • Cargo bed length: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • Cargo bed volume (est.): 50 cubic feet.
  • Off-road approach, break-over, departure angles: 30, 22, 24 inches.
  • Ground clearance: 12 inches.
  • Water-fording depth: 32 inches.
  • Weight: 6,866 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,310 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 8,382 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 10/14/12 mpg. Premium fuel.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $71,690.
  • Price as tested: $87,570.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Stellantis

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