What is it like to drive the all-new 2021 Ford Bronco on the road? Tommy and I get to drive one in and near Austin, Texas. We jump into one that is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine and row our own 7-speed manual transmission. Why did we pick the smaller and less powerful engine? Well, it’s nearly the same power plant that is also used in the Ford Ranger pickup truck. This gives us some basis for comparison to a frame-based vehicle of similar size. The 7-speed manual transmission is totally unique, so we had to try it.
When using premium octane fuel the Bronco’s 2.3-liter turbo-4 is rated at 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. This is a higher rating than in the standard Ford Ranger. The Bronco is not a very light-weight vehicle. It is meant for some serious off-roading. Most of the trims come with large off-road tires.
Still, the 2.3-liter engine feels strong. It has just a touch of turbocharger lag before its full power is delivered in a smooth and linear fashion. The manual transmission offers relatively short throws. It feels very similar to the Jeep’s 6-speed manual transmission. Once in a while, I found the 1st gear a little difficult to locate. No issues with any of the other gears. No matter what – it was pleasurable to drive this engine/transmission combination.
Given that it was a very hot Texas day, and there were two of us in a Bronco 4-door Badlands edition. Tommy and I managed a relatively brisk 8.75 seconds 0-60 MPH acceleration. This is not earth shattering, but still a pretty good time while shifting your own gears. The higher-end engine option is a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 (330 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque) with a 10-speed automatic transmission. While the extra V6 power is always welcome, I did not feel the four-cylinder really lacking in power for regular driving on busy city streets or on the interstate.
When driving the new Bronco over broken pavement, it feels a bit like a midsize pickup truck and not like a midsize crossover. This is understandable because it is a relatively large body-on-frame SUV. Does it have that much better on-road suspension feel than a Jeep Wrangler? I would say the ride difference between the two is a bit subtle. What is not subtle is how solid and stable the Bronco feels at speed. Nice.
We drove the Badlands with a soft top, and we found the noise level coming from the rear of the vehicle to be higher than anticipated. Is it noisier than a Wrangler with a soft top? It’s difficult to say because we could not test both back to back on the same road.
Our full on-road driving video review is coming soon. In the meantime – here is the Bronco we drove around the city.