At last, the all-new 2021 Ford Bronco is getting into customer’s hands and being seen on public roads. Yes, after much anticipation and delay, the classic nameplate is starting to appear in parking lots and off-road trails. So now, people still on the waiting list, potential buyers, and seemingly anyone who owns a Jeep Wrangler are asking – does the new Ford Bronco live up to the hype? I recently had the opportunity to find out at the Bronco Off-Roadeo. This off-road driving course allowed me to test a 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Base model with the optional Sasquatch Off-Road package and kick up some dirt on the dusty trail.
The Bronco Off-Roadeo is an off-road driving school that doubles as an opportunity to test and demo the 2021 Bronco’s comfort, capability, and performance over various gurgling terrains. After driving the 2021 Ford Bronco up, over, and through the Texas Hill Country for five hours, I can say that it does live up to the hype. Of course, no vehicle is perfect, and the Bronco does have some details worth nit-picking. Nevertheless, the new Ford Bronco delivers in being a user-friendly off-roading SUV guaranteed to stretch smiles from ear to ear.
Bronco Off-Roadeo at Grey Wolf Ranch
The Bronco Off-Roadeo is hosted in four different locations across the United States: Moab, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Texas. Each site offers Bronco owners and guests the experience of learning the art of traversing through photogenic landscapes while riding Ford’s latest thoroughbred. The Texas-based Bronco Off-Roadeo is located in Grey Wolf Ranch near Horseshoe Bay, TX.
It was still morning when I drove through the Bronco Off-Roadeo arch and made my way down the hill to the Bronco Off- Roadeo welcome center. The facility officially opened in spring 2021. At first, this event was exclusive only to people who had purchased a new Ford Bronco or Bronco Sport. However, this summer, the Bronco Off-Roadeo opened to anyone wishing to register online for the 10-hour, one-day adventure course (meals provided).
Why the Base Model 2021 Ford Bronco is the One to Buy
After a brief but informative lecture on the basics of off-road driving and drivetrain components, the driving instructors took us to the stable. Here, the select group of invited automotive journalists and I were free to choose our own 2021 Ford Bronco to drive. Every available trim variant from The First Edition and the Badlands to the Wildtrak and the Outer Lands was amongst the herd. Some Broncos were 4-doors while others were 2-doors sporting a soft-top roof. The one that caught my attention was a Carbonized Grey Base Bronco 2-door.
This particular Bronco Base was optioned with the Sasquatch Off-Road Package, a $4,995 add-on. For your money, the Bronco is fitted with 35-inch all-terrain tires wrapped around 17-inch high-gloss black aluminum wheels and Ford’s Advanced 4×4 terrain management system offering front and rear locking differentials with Trail Turn Assist. Under the hood was the optional 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 producing 310-hp and 400 lb.-ft of torque, a welcomed upgrade from the standard single turbocharged 2.3-liter I4 producing 300-hp and 325 lb.-ft of torque.
The well-equipped base model interior included satellite radio, an infotainment screen, power windows, and the hardtop is fitted with a sound-deadening headliner. The Dark Space Gray with Black Onyx cloth seats did remind me of an airport shuttle but offered manual lumbar support with plenty of cushion for comfort. The key features in the cabin were the row of “Hero Switches” located in the center of the dash and the G.O.A.T mode selector dial resting just below the ten-speed automatic gear shift.
The configuration of this Ford Bronco is perfect if what you want is a capable truck. If you want an SUV to haul groceries and car seats while taking comfort that you can hop every curb in the neighborhood, then you’ll probably find a fully-loaded 4-door Ford Bronco more appealing. However, if you live a life that advertising firms would categorize as “active.” If you own more than one canoe, have a favorite fishing spot, or enjoy wearing pants with excessive amounts of pockets. Then, you will adore a 2-door 2021 Ford Bronco Base.
If you want a Ron Swanson on wheels, a base model Bronco like this one fits the bill. Every additional option on this truck is purpose-built to get you from point A to point B as nearest as the crow flies. The Sasquatch Package upgrades the Bronco’s standard HOSS (High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension) with Bilstein position-sensitive dampers and independent front suspension.
If you want a Ron Swanson on wheels, a base model Bronco like this one fits the bill. Every additional option on this truck is purpose-built to get you from point A to point B as nearest as the crow flies.
According to Ford, with this off-road package, a 2021 Bronco is better equipped to handle sharp drops and inclines with a 43.2-degree approaching angle, a 29-degree break-over angle, and a 37.2-degree departure angle. This premium suspension setup is standard on higher trim levels like the Bronco Badlands and Wildtrak. In addition, all 2-door models of the Ford Bronco come with fuel tank shields as standard, with optional steel underbody production available to protect vital drivetrain components. Building a 2021 Ford Bronco 2-door Base on Ford.com with identical options listed accumulated to a total MSRP a few dollars short of $40k.
On the Dusty Trail in a 2021 Ford Bronco Convoy
The Bronco Off-Roadeo takes guests on a convoy along challenging terrain overlooking the scenic wilderness at Grey Wolf Ranch. The route took us through tight, mesquite brush trails, steep inclines, and slippery rock beds overlooking the evergreen Hill Country. The varied terrain gave us plenty of opportunities to try out the 2021 Ford Bronco’s G.O.A.T modes. These modes differ depending on trim level, with higher-end models offering up to seven drive modes. For example, the base Bronco I was driving does not offer a Baja mode, but does have Sport mode and the option to select two-wheel drive.
The Bronco’s Hero Switches provide drivers with access to turn off traction control, engage Trail Turn Assist, and lock the front, rear differentials on-the-fly. A feature that quickly became a convenience when I failed to keep steady throttle input driving up a loose rocky hill during one section of the trail. As a result, the Bronco started to lose traction just before reaching the summit, and the wheels began to spin. After I stopped on the hill to regain control, a Bronco Off-Roadeo instructor suggested I use the Hero Switches to lock the front and rear differential. Then, giving the throttle a push, the Bronco pulled itself over the top of the hill. It managed with such ease that it left me genuinely thrilled at its capability.
Bust a Move with the Bronco Trail Turn Assist
This switch panel also engages the Bronco’s Trail Turn Assist. Intended to be used in situations where the terrain narrows and requires tight radius turns. Trail Turn Assist works by locking the rear inside wheel while turning. You can hear the wheel lock-up with a mechanical spring noise like pulling a handbrake as you begin turning. The sensation is similar to riding a bike and putting your leg down for leverage during a full-send ride. It is hard not to smile as the Bronco busts a move and hurls itself like a pole-vaulter towards the desired direction. It is fun.
Trail Control, All-Terrain Cruise Control
Driving off-road can be tiring after a while. The constant throttle and braking input can be a real strain on the old leg muscles. So, Ford gave the 2021 Bronco Trail Control, which is low-speed cruise control. Once engaged, drivers set the desired speed limit, usually under ten mph, and focus only on steering while the Bronco handles the rest. This feature was put to the test driving up and down a slippery hill loaded with large, unforgiving rocks. All we had to do was point the wheel in the right direction as the Bronco crawled forward, freeing me up to pay attention to a more critical task like adjusting the air conditioning.
Bit of Baja
We were allowed to flex the Ford Bronco’s muscles in one section of the course that required switching to Sport Mode. Traditionalists may miss the V8 sound, but the 2021 Ford Bronco EcoBoost makes up for it with speed and turbo spool. The Bronco is agile for its boxy size and sprints to a full gallop when you kick the throttle making quick use of its 310-hp and 10-speed automatic to create rooster tails and dust clouds.
Breaking In the 2021 Ford Bronco
There is no question that the new Ford Bronco performs outstandingly well off-road. With that said, no vehicle is perfect. The Bronco’s electronic steering, for example, offers little to no road feel, which makes it challenging to know what the front wheels are doing. This is something you will probably get used to as you become more familiar with the truck’s handling.
It feels like you’re driving a life-sized RC truck with a springy bounce in its step. It has enough sway to remind you that this is a truck built with fun in mind.
The Bronco’s chunky square side mirrors are placed directly in the line of sight for people who prefer to lean out the driver’s side door to better gauge the terrain ahead. It’s A-pillars also take some getting used to as the first few minutes driving the Bronco felt as if I was watching a widescreen movie.
My favorite thing about the 2021 Ford Bronco is how it drives at low speeds on even ground. It feels like you’re driving a life-sized RC truck with a springy bounce in its step. It has enough sway to remind you that this is a truck built with fun in mind. To sum it up, the new Ford Bronco is an off-road bred vehicle that encourages you to get out there and find a panoramic view worth posting on social media.