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Ford Bronco (2022): off-road with a retro look

Ford's new off-road vehicle makes visual reference to the legendary predecessor and bears its name and is already a cult again. The first test drives on- and off-road clarify whether they are right.

If someone in the US likes your car, they'll show you "thumbs up" and say something nice about your vehicle. Simply that way. So the Ford Bronco gets a smile and a thumbs-up from a friendly elderly gentleman while filling up. Maybe the man still remembers the first Bronco from 1966 or he thinks back to the last one from 1996. The one that then merged into the Expedition and thus came to an end for the time being.,

But the Bronco will be back in the USA in 2022 and it will leave the Americans anything but cold with its clear but not ingratiating retro design. Six-digit pre-orders in a very short time and a sold-out First Edition model - although it is expensive in full off-road regalia and Ford even doubled the initially planned limitation of 3500 pieces - testify to a love that has not expired. If we were to sell our test Bronco (official price: $57,000) right away, we would be sure of a five-figure profit.

Turbo V6 petrol and big wheels

At least we get to drive this old new flame: the 2-door First Edition model of 2021 with the 2.7-liter V6 turbo engine and Sasquatch package with 35-inch wheels for really serious off-road use. Sasquatch has a date today with the Rowher Flats off-road park an hour away from Los Angeles, but before that he took the highway there.,

Two things are mutually exclusive in a car in terms of driving physics: What is used for scrambling, for example, knobbly tires, locked Differentials and maximum entanglement stand in the way of relaxed, fast motorway driving. However, this dichotomy can now be alleviated by electronically switchable technology. And the Bronco has plenty of that. Above all, it finally has independent wheel suspension on the front axle for highway driving. For off-road ultras, this is the Antichrist, but the old adage that you can only get very far off-road with rigid axles has already been more than scratched by the new G-Class and the Land Rover Defender. Both have individually suspended wheels, the Defender even four, and often go further off-road than their predecessors. The Bronco's peace offering to the Ultras is its ladder frame and rigid rear axle. He then quietly whispers coil springs instead of leaf springs.

Also stays the course on-road

But maybe the hardcore off-roaders can also be convinced that the wedged pony in the Ford stable shows surprisingly good street manners.Yes, the coarse lugs sing their song to the wind chirping on the A-pillar at higher speeds - we're not talking about the cd value, you can hear it - and the high unsprung weight of the all-terrain wheels with beadlock rim protection is noticeable with every transverse joint with a sympathetic rumble. But the Bronco drives straight ahead, conveys an approach of precision in the steering and doesn't rock like a drunken sailor around the curve, but surprisingly low-roll and civilized. You can travel with this car - take a breath - or cruise along the beach with the roof open - you can partially release it.,

It gets really cozy when the V6 turbo gets its spurs. He immediately smothers a brief discussion about the missing, befitting V8 with his combustion engine bass. It is an intense thermodynamic spectacle that causes great emotions precisely because of its lack of perfection - perfect for such a car. After pressing the gas pedal, only sound follows for a few tenths of a second: the fat slurping of the air intake and the swelling rumble of the combustion. Only then does the turbo, which has grown to full pressure, really release and the up to 542 Nm of power and 314 hp (330 with higher octane fuel) pull the nose of the Bronco up and persistently push towards the horizon. If the driver didn't know better, he would have guessed a V8. At least at full throttle; V6 just can't bubble. In addition, the 10-speed automatic developed jointly by GM and Ford quickly and almost gently follows up the gears.

View like in a truck, but shorter than a compact station wagon

The view when cruising the highway is spectacular. Through the almost vertical windscreen, the driver not only sees the powerful front hood with its brackets at the front and the national park on the right, but also the sheer vehicle height of 1.90 m down on the traffic as if from one of the mighty American trucks. The dashboard is divided into a classic analogue speedometer and a digital everything-you-want-to-know-or-not-digital fraction. Next to it is a 12-inch touchscreen with pleasantly large control panels. How easy and clear is the handling of the Bronco with the mixture of touch-sensitive screen and large buttons. Especially off-road, but we haven't arrived there yet, although the powerful handles on the dashboard and the center console are already looking at you greedily. Everything in the Bronco looks solid and pleasingly un-delicate. If you then touch it, you can feel a lot of easy-to-clean hard plastic and slight lability in some places. Nevertheless, the ambience is harmonious and also very cozy thanks to the comfortable leather seats.,

A few miles before the off-road park, the Bronco heads for a small mall to get gas and drinks.The topic of fuel is dealt with briefly: Can an angular, large off-roader on all-mountain tires with coarse tread be economical with a V6 turbo? No, the combined intake manifold direct injection doesn't help either. Our consumption is just within limits at 12 to 13 liters per 100 km. But he surprises when parking. The Bronco looks powerful, but as a 2-door it is only 4.41 m long and therefore shorter than a Golf variant. It is two meters wide, but extremely clear and the ends are clearly assessable. In any case, it ranks like a compact car in American parking lots. Unfortunately, also with their space: It is cozy on the back seat and in the trunk you will look in vain for the more than 600 liters of the factory specification. It's probably less than 400 liters when the rear gate and the fifth wheel swivel far to the right. For a moment one wonders what the British do with their left-hand traffic when the car is to be loaded at the side of the road. But the British don't want us Europeans to worry about their problems. Incidentally, the trailer load is only 1.6 tons.

Unstoppable off-road, but easy to drive

The Bronco has arrived at Rowher Flats. Huge, almost treeless hills are waiting to be climbed on sandy-rocky paths. But the Bronco has the full rooting program on board: a decoupling anti-roll bar for more twisting at the front, lockable differentials for more traction at the front and rear, plus various off-road programs and an additional 3:06:1 off-road gear reduction. Whereby this is noticeably stockier in the handset with its six-plus-crawler-gear.,

But the modern Bronco is no longer the ultra-rough guy where everything has to be done and inserted by hand, but a tough survival smartphone on wheels. The off-road technology is activated with a brief press of a button on the top-positioned rubberized buttons on top of the dashboard. The second button from the right activates the trail-turn mode, in which the turning circle becomes significantly smaller by individually braking the inside wheel and accelerating the outside wheel in slow drift. Very useful, very fun, very dusty. There is also a kind of trail ESP and a one-pedal drive for automatic downhill braking. Together with the excellent approach angle of 43 degrees at the front and 37 degrees at the rear, as well as a top ramp angle of 29 degrees - thanks to the short wheelbase of 2.55 m - the result is a true off-road monster.

Even the Jeep driver takes his hat off

Nevertheless, our photographer Jens remains skeptical as to whether the Bronco can keep up with his Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with additional off-road tuning (39-inch wheels etc.). Eight Jeep trail medals on the side are a testament to its off-road exploits. Let's make it short: He can.In the middle passages, the Bronco impresses with its almost arrogant lack of traction and impresses with its precise maneuverability. On the more difficult test at Lookout Pass, the jeep has to reverse briefly while the Bronco simply pulls through the ruts in the rocks. "Wow, that's good" Jens greets the Bronco with a thumbs up at the summit. We think so too. Too bad it doesn't officially exist in Germany.,


With the Bronco, the retro design is more than a show - its off-road capabilities are impressive with the Sasquatch package, the V6 inspires with its spectacle. Handling, on-road qualities and operation, on the other hand, are contemporary. The consumption does not - no wonder with the shape and the frontal area. It is therefore perhaps bearable that the Bronco is only intended for the USA, especially since in Europe there is not an off-road park on every second highway. In this country, the wild horse would probably not get enough exercise - the Bronco is certainly overqualified for simply climbing curbs.


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