ArticleJournal2022 Ford Bronco Outer Banks: Reviving an icon

2022 Ford Bronco Outer Banks: Reviving an icon

When Ford announced it was planning on resurrecting the Bronco, I was really excited. I’ve always been a fan of the model, with pretty much every generation always looking cool and rugged. The Jeep Wrangler had essentially been alone in its segment for years, and the possibility of actual competition was definitely exciting. It’s not the first time that Ford had talked about reviving the legendary off-roader, with some prototypes, including the famous 2004 NY Auto Show prototype. All of this to say, the world was hyped, and it would have been easy for Ford to mess it up, but it didn’t. 2020 was the year of the unveil and I remember how happy I was with the result, in my opinion, the design was a perfect mix of modern and retro, and after seeing it in the flesh, I thought it was even cooler. If you go on Ford’s website to build a Bronco, you will discover that there are nine different trim levels to choose from, the truck I had is an “Outer Banks” model, which appears to be somewhat of a middle trim not really made with serious off-roading in mind.  

Starting in the looks department, and as I said, I think the Bronco simply looks fantastic. It is one of the best examples of a retro-inspired design I’ve seen in a long time. It doesn’t take much to see the resemblance with the original ’60s and ’70s models, and yet, it still looks very modern. The front end, very upright and distinctive, interestingly only says Bronco, not Ford, actually, the only Ford logo on the exterior is a small one on the lower portion of the tailgate, every other logo is the Bronco logo, which is a horse, precisely a Bronco. They’ve been out for a couple of years now and I still look at every single one of them, especially the 2-door models, which I think are the coolest. To compete with the Wrangler, Ford knew it had to offer something that Jeep owners love more than anything else, personalization. That’s why the Bronco is offered in so many different trim levels and colours, with a choice between two and four doors, with a removable roof and doors. You cannot fold the windshield down, though, but I’ve never seen anyone do it anyway.

As I said, you can remove the doors on the brand-new Bronco, but unlike the Wrangler, the doors are frameless, which means, with the windows rolled down, you can fit the doors in the cargo area. This is a pretty cool improvement over the Jeep’s design where you need to keep the doors somewhere, like a garage or something. Another improvement that Ford did is to move the mirrors to the front fenders, which means they stay put when the doors are removed—not the case with the Wrangler. Another page that Ford took from Jeep’s book is the use of cool details, gimmicks, and easter eggs throughout the vehicle. The arrows pointing accessory-ready areas, the silhouettes of first-generation Broncos behind the fuel door, the built-in bottle opener, and, located on the roll cage over the front passenger, a piece of plastic trim with a mountain range and some coordinates that lead to Johnson Valley, California, home of the King of the Hammers race, which Ford sponsors and has tested the Bronco at. All of that to say, Ford nailed it with both the design and the overall delivery.

Sitting inside the Bronco and you will notice two things; firstly, there is no Ford logo on the steering wheel either, instead, there’s the Bronco logo. The second thing you will notice is the awful mix of colours. The Bronco I reviewed is painted in “Hot Pepper Red Metallic,” which is a shade between red and orange, and yet, it is combined with a “Roast” interior, which is primarily brown. Orange and brown, already not the best, but it gets way worse. Along with the light brown upholstery on the seats, there is also black upholstery and, on top of the dashboard, more brown, but a completely different shade, and it’s not all. You also get silver in the cabin, on the door panel, and pretty much the entire face of the dashboard, so in terms of colours, we have orange, brown, black, another shade of brown, and silver, but you also get light blue. Because this is an “Outer Banks” model and the logos on the front fenders include a very fine strip of blue and a wave, that same shade of blue is carried inside the cabin, mainly on some of the stitching, the AC vents, as well as the grab handles. Why? No idea, but I truly dislike it. Frankly, it’s what I hated the most about the vehicle. It might seem intense, but you know, if a very weird mix of colours is my biggest turnoff, that means there is not much to complain about and that it’s a pretty solid truck. Looking around inside the Bronco and I quickly realized that the focus was not on luxury, but on durability, which makes complete sense. Most of the buttons are rubberized, and thus easier to clean. It is not focused on luxury, but that doesn’t mean it looks cheap, sure there are some hard plastics that don’t look too good, but in general, the cabin presents very well. I like the flat, upright look of the dashboard, it matches well with the rugged look of the Bronco, very “trucky.” Driving down the road and it feels well put together and comfortable, but I quickly discovered a big downside of the frameless doors. I couldn’t lower my window only halfway because it shook and made worrying sounds with every bump so it was either completely opened or completely closed. 

Playing around with some of the controls and I ended up turning on the rear glass washer sprayer, which my press vehicle didn’t have since it was equipped with the soft top, and yet, the pump was still activated and was just pumping nothing, just an odd quirk. Sitting in the rear and the Bronco offers a decent amount of room for both the legs and the head. It’s not extremely spacious, but it’s very adequate for average-sized adults. Speaking of the rear seat, it can be folded 60/40 and makes the very large cargo area even larger. Thanks to a very boxy design, the Bronco offers up to 1,085 L of cargo space behind the second row of seats, and up to 2,349.5 L behind the first row, which is massive. Note that these specifications only apply to the 4-door model equipped with the soft top, the numbers are slightly lower with the hard top. 

Going back in front—and centre—and you discover the Outer Banks’s standard massive 14-inch infotainment screen. It was my first time experiencing Ford’s Sync 4 system and it truly is great. It allows you to see more than one thing at once, like the radio on one side and the navigation on the other, I love it. Easy to use, incredibly responsive, and highly intuitive, it really is one of the best infotainment systems in the car industry. There is also a second screen, which is the 8-inch LCD instrument panel in the instrument cluster, and frankly, it is not as great. It shows the information clearly, but since it is not a fully digital cluster, it is quite small. On top of that, there is only a small portion of it that is configurable. It is not a bad screen, but I would much prefer a fully digital instrument cluster that allows for more configuration. 

The Bronco Outer Banks is available with two engines, a 2.3 L EcoBoost 4 cylinder developing up to 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque and a 2.7 EcoBoost V6 developing 330 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, the Bronco I was driving was equipped with the later. Whereas the smaller engine is available with a 7-speed manual transmission, the V6 is only offered with a 10-speed automatic, and even though I would have loved to try a stick Bronco, I was happily surprised with what I got. The engine is powerful and torquey but it gets fairly loud in the cabin, and it is not an enjoyable sound like you would get in the Raptor version. As the engine, the 10-speed transmission is superb, it shifts very quickly and seamlessly—truly a great powertrain. I think it would benefit from a hybrid version because I literally can’t go outside without seeing several Wrangler 4xes, hopefully, this is in the works.

In the centre console, just over the gear selector, is where you will find a dial with the four-wheel drive modes as well as the G.O.A.T modes. 4WD modes is straight forward, you get to select between 2H, 4H, 4A, and 4L using buttons on top of the dial, the real fun begins when you twist the dial to choose between your driving modes, which in this case are called G.O.A.T modes, Goes Over All Terrains. Depending on the trim level, there can be as many as 7 modes, but the Outer Banks comes standard with 6; Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Sand/Snow, and Mud/Ruts. Due to the weather and the fact the Bronco was not equipped with aggressive tires, I didn’t want to risk my luck taking it off-roading, especially alone, and so most of the driving I did was on paved roads, which is where most buyers are going to drive them most of the time, anyway. Having driven comparable vehicles, my expectations were low for everyday driving, but I was surprised in a good way. The Bronco was comfortable and behaved very well in city driving as well as on the highway, and most importantly, it felt safe taking curves at highway speeds, which isn’t always the case with these off-roaders.

Overall, I am happy with the time I spent with the new Bronco, I had expectations and they were met. I would have liked to get behind the wheel of a model with more off-road features like a Badland or a Wildtrak, but middle-trim models such as the Outer Banks are the volume sellers and so it makes sense to test the more popular model. It looks great, performs very well in all situations and it offers one of the best infotainment systems I’ve tested, what’s not to like? If you are in the market for a cool SUV that you can drive to work during the week and take in some trails when the weekend arrives, the brand-new Bronco should definitely be on top of your list. Now, if someone could put me in a Bronco Raptor, I would greatly appreciate it, please, and thanks. 

Vehicle provided by Ford Canada

Photography by Olivier Lessard