2021 Ford Bronco: Wild Horses Really DO Run Free

Published on December 15, 2021 in Test Drives by Miranda Lightstone

I will admit that driving the all-new Ford Bronco was the vehicle I was looking forward to the most in 2021. It seems only fitting that it be one of the last test drives in the year, and it was well worth the wait.

When it comes to a car as iconic and infamous as the Bronco, Ford had a massive task on its hands. Somehow they had to do the nameplate justice for nostalgia and all those who remembered actually driving or being driven in one in their youth, while also bringing it squarely into the now for future generations to fall in love with it all over again.

Let’s get some naming and product issues out of the way first: The Ford Bronco Sport and the Ford Bronco are not the same car - at all. While they are both Broncos, the Sport is smaller in size, capability and price.

After a week behind the wheel, we were pleasantly surprised by the Bronco’s overall comfort and interior amenities, but rather shocked with the way-too-high fuel consumption. However, it’s clear that the pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to this American off-roader.

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

A New Contender for Off-Road King?

We all know the leader of the off-road pack has been the versatile and capable Jeep Wrangler for decades. Iconic in its design and its drive, the Wrangler has held on to the title for a bit too long, without any major improvements in how it drives or handles itself on smoother surfaces. Well, now the Bronco has come along to really challenge the Wrangler in every sense, especially in both on- and off-road situations.

While we didn’t do any severe off-roading during the week, it was plain to see that this vehicle would tackle any and all surfaces without much trouble. Of course the elevated ride height, along with the absolutely massive tires - 35” rubber with 17” available beadlock-capable wheels standard on the Wildtrak edition we had - and electronic locking front and rear axles all help in making this a huge threat to the Wrangler’s legacy.

Then there are the terrain modes as well, or as Ford likes to call them the G.O.A.T. Modes (Greatest Of All Time Modes). Those allow you to toggle through different terrains (slippery, sand, mud/rut, rock crawl, sport, and even a baja setting) to switch up the the throttle response, axle setup, and change the suspension as necessary.

Photo: Julien Amado

Truthfully, the Bronco handles itself really well on regular pavement, too. Sure, it drives large and wide and loud, but then we wouldn’t expect anything less from a vehicle that looks like it does.

Hold On Tight at the Pumps Though

Now, even though the Bronco is equipped with a 2.7L EcoBoost turbocharged engine, it still manages to create 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Quite an improvement over the 1980s version most of us remember that, despite the 5.0L V8, only produced 190 hp. 

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

Now, Ford has always touted its EcoBoost engines as not only being performance driven but also efficient and lighter on gas. Well, such is not the case in the Bronco.

After a week behind the wheel with mostly highway driving, my final fuel number was an astonishing 15.2L/100km. It has been quite some time since I saw a rating so high on the average consumption read-out. And with gas at the price it currently is, you may feel a bit like you’re riding a bucking bronco every time you pull up to fill - so hold on tight.

Rugged Luxury Inside and Out

One of the things that stood out the most for us about the Bronco was its level of interior comfort and amenities. Somehow, Ford designers have toed the line perfectly between convenient, rugged construction and an upscale feel and materials.

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

From the rubber-lined grab handles (with Bronco etched into them) to the nostalgic two-tone brown leather seats, everything inside this bad boy is a calculated design, and it works. The large colour touchscreen may also be my favourite version of Ford’s SYNC yet. Not to mention the super-cool video graphic that plays every time you turn the car on. There is also plenty of room in the front and back, and the trunk is a generous 2,197 litres with the second row folded down.

From the outside, the Bronco screams masculinity and toughness. I absolutely adore the square look from nose to tail. Nothing is subtle about the Bronco, nor should it be. Others, like the long-in-the-tooth Toyota 4Runner have claimed the look of zombie apocalypse vehicle of choice for years now, but I think that title is about to be transferred to the Ford Bronco 4-door.

Photo: Julien Amado

Of course, there is an available soft or hard top version, and just like the Wrangler, all the things can be removed (including the doors). I did not attempt to remove the hardtop room - I may be Canadian but it was hovering just above zero and I am by no means a lover of the cold! However, I was informed by a colleague that the removal process is similar to that of the Jeep, with 2 panels up front and a much larger single piece in the back. I likely would have required help to remove the back piece, but could have managed the front two solo.

Embrace Your Wild Side

It’s always a risk to bring back an iconic name plate and vehicle. People hold onto the memories of the original version they knew. And to bring it back 15 years since we last saw it, means that there are definitely those who will remember it well, even the original 1966 version.

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

While I don’t have a great deal of experience with the original, save for a highschool friend of mine who’s first vehicle was a 2-door third or fourth generation Bronco in bright red that I rode in a handful of times, I understand the importance of bringing it back to market. Even then, at just 16 years old I understood the cool factor, and his excitement to drive it everyday was infectious.

Do I think Ford has done the Bronco name justice? Absolutely. And even though there are currently issues with production and getting units in quickly enough, I’m pretty sure buyers will have no problem waiting for the day their brand new Bronco will arrive on the lot to take home.

Test drive report
Test model 2021 Ford Bronco
Trim level Wildtrak 4-Door
Price range $40,499 – $59,994
Price as tested CA$59,994
Warranty (basic) 3 years/60,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 5 years/100,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 12.8 / 11.6 / 15.2 L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner
Strong points
  • Masculinity boost comes standard
  • Can go anywhere
  • Comfortable ride
Weak points
  • Gas mileage is atrocious
  • Drives big in urban settings
  • Accessories can really drive the final price way up
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 1.0/5 One of the worst fuel consumption ratings I've seen in years, and I was trying to be careful the entire week!
Comfort 3.5/5 Shockingly comfortable with minimal shake and vibration on the highway
Performance 3.5/5 This is a heavy, heavy vehicle so you aren't getting anywhere quickly. However, off-road it will lead the pack
Infotainment 4.0/5 Possibly one of my most favourite Ford infotainment systems to date
Driving 4.0/5 Cumbersome at times, but capable and comfortable
Overall 4.0/5 Great alternative to the Wrangler that offers more overall comfort
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