Welcome to the very first new car review here at The Starting Line, powered by The Autoverse! We kick it off with a good one too, the brand new 2022 Ford Bronco! Ford product manager Donald Frey—who also supervised the development of the Ford Mustang—kicked off development of the original Bronco back in the early 1960s. Several generations later, on June 12, 1996, the last Bronco left the Wayne, Michigan production plant. So, this new Bronco brings the iconic nameplate back to the Ford lineup for the first time in 26 years. Let’s see how the new sixth generation stacks up!
(Fun game, every time I say “beefy”, you have to drink.)
Automotive enthusiasts recognize the new Bronco as being clearly different from it’s smaller Bronco Sport cousin, though I’ve heard many people on the street confuse the two. Particularly in the Wildtrak trim that our red press loaners showed up in, the actual big Bronco is hard to miss. The Wrangler-like Bronco is a clear shot across the bow of Jeep’s iconic off-roader. Each element of the Wrangler has been analyzed, and in some cases improved upon.
The Bronco is available in eight trim levels for 2022. All but the newest special models, the Everglades and Raptor, are available in two and four-door layouts. The Base two-door starts at just under $31,000, which is about $1,000 more than the base two door Wrangler. The cheapest Bronco four-door for 2022 starts at $34,700, with the gap to the Wrangler being about the same ($33,595), roughly a grand.
Our test vehicle for the week was a four-door Advanced Wildtrak. Having been on a recent hunt for a new vehicle, I found their naming convention for Bronco trim levels a bit confusing. The window sticker denotes it as an “Advanced 4×4” with the Wildtrak package applied, where if you build it on the Ford website, you have to start with the Wildtrak trim. The difference has to do with whether your Bronco has the standard “4×4 with Part Time Selectable Engagement” or the optional “Advanced 4×4 with Automatic On-Demand Engagement”. Checking that box on most trim levels requires the $6,000 Sasquatch package. Our Wildtrak is only available with the beefy Sasquatch.
Get all that?
Bronco shortage got you down?
We’ve got just the thing over at The Starting Line: A proper bit of old school, a 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Ultimate Edition
Before options, the four-door Advanced 4×4 clicks in at $49,475. Our tester adds $3,590 for the Wildtrak Series, Rapid Red Metallic paint ($295), Cargo area protector ($120), hard top ($1,795), Wildtrak graphics ($520), towing package ($595), sound deadening headliner ($495), keyless entry number pad ($110), Storage bags for the top and door ($350), and leather seating and trim ($2,195).
All in you’re at $59,540 before destination and delivery which gets you to $61,035 before any… ahem… additional dealer markup. It’s easy to tick off enough boxes on a new Unlimited Rubicon Wrangler to get to that price range. Let’s take a closer look at the beefy Bronco Wildtrak starting with the exterior.
My desk overlooks the street in front of my house, where most of my press loaners are parked. Aside from the new Maverick (review coming soon!) the Bronco had a lot of people stopping to look at it. Between the bright red paint and massive tires, it’s not a vehicle for introverts.
Subjectively though, it’s a good looking thing. It’s big, it’s chunky (beefy!), and looks purposeful. Ford historically has done retro-redux pretty well, and the Bronco delivers nice nods to previous generations while not looking out of place parked on a street in 2022.
The interior carries the big and beefy theme with large buttons and dials throughout. While some other chunky interiors end up looking a little low-rent (Hi Toyota!) the Bronco interior is quite cool. The ergonomics are also very good, I dig the big grab handle. I love the big auxiliary switches up top, each can be used for various aftermarket (or Ford Performance) add-ons. The seats are comfortable, but I wasn’t a big fan of the two-tone seat colors. The color and texture alone isn’t quite premium enough for the $60,000 mark.
From a technology standpoint, things are well laid out and easy to use. The stereo had really good bass and the wireless CarPlay worked almost flawlessly. That is not always the case, many recent test vehicles (from a variety of manufacturers), and even my own 2021 Mach-E, have had inconsistent wireless CarPlay performance.
The Bronco is beefy, and that translates to the interior, for the most part. There is 38.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, that’s about seven more cubes than you get in the Wrangler. And you’ll get 83 cubic feet of total space with the seats folded. Interestingly, the smaller Wrangler has more rear leg room by two full inches.
Regardless, the Bronco was a great companion for running errands and doing the school run. It was also fun to park next to other vehicles.
Out on the pavement it’s surprisingly pretty quick, the 2.7L EcoBoost V6 definitely gets the Bronco moving even with the large tires. It has a “best in class” 330 horsepower and 415 lb. ft., which I assume is just measured against the (non-392 powered Wrangler). It’s sort of surprising that there are no paddles, not that you need them. The 10-speed transmission can still be shifted up and down with a small button on the shifter.
Out on the road you can feel the width. While it’s only 2 inches wider than a Wrangler (without mirrors), once you add the side mirrors, the Bronco is another nine inches wider (86.2 inches total). Traversing narrow city streets definitely required some attention. Also, and this should not be a surprise, the 35″ mud-terrain tires aren’t especially quiet. Pay close attention to the road noise on your test drive (if that’s an option these days), and make sure you’re good with it.
On the school run, the Bronco did well. Other than some climbing in and out, my youngest loved it (actually he loved that bit too). Interesting software thing to point out, just like in my Mach-E the backseat seatbelt warning gets triggered the second you drop somebody off. Even though no one was sitting back there, it alerted me to the lack of seatbelt. You can clear it by clicking “OK” on the wheel.
On really straight stretches of road where you don’t need much steering input the lane keeping system can be a little aggressive. I steered me back towards the middle when I didn’t think I was that close to the edge. However, in a Bronco Wildtrak, you’re always close to the edge of the road.
Finally, the rearview mirror seems like it’s in your way a little bit because you’re sitting up so high. Here is the Bronco behind a massive dump truck that doesn’t seem quite as massive.
Ford set about making a better Wrangler. I’m sure that involved purchasing, disassembling, reassembling, and abusing many JK and JL Jeeps. What they did was pick apart all the little elements of the Wrangler that don’t work as well and try to improve them. I’m a two-time JK and recent JL owner and I can say unequivocally that they did it.
Any complaints I have about the interior of the Bronco are also present in a Wrangler that is similarly priced. For anyone considering a new Bronco, it’s quite good. Like the Jeep competition, there is a wide variety of mild-to-wild options including the new Bronco Raptor.
Competition almost always improves all competitors, and I can’t wait to see how the continued Bronco-Wrangler battle that looms on the horizon.