Test Drive: Ford Capitalizes On Bronco Brand Success

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For older millennials, Gen X or baby boomers, one association with the Ford Bronco brand might be that legendary slow-speed chase in 1994 featuring O.J. Simpson and a white 1993 Bronco.

That Bronco, driven by Simpson’s friend Al Cowlings, traveled on Los Angeles freeways with several police cars and over 20 helicopters in pursuit. Simpson was being chased after he failed to turn himself in for questioning about the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

Almost 100 million people worldwide watched the two-hour chase on TV, while media outlets offered minute-by-minute live coverage.



Ford paused the then-30-year-old brand after the 1996 model year. The discontinuation had nothing to do with O.J., but instead was due to a decline in demand for large two-door SUVs. Ford turned its attention to the four-door Ford Expedition, followed by the larger Ford Excursion. 

Fast-forward to 2021, when a sixth generation of the model line was introduced as a mid-size two-door SUV for the first time. It is also is offered as a full-size four-door SUV. Styling recalls many elements from the 1966–1977 series.

Public anticipation of the vehicle’s return was great, and the vehicle is now offered in a multitude of trim levels including the Wildtrak, which I had the opportunity to test drive last week. The off-road-oriented Bronco is available as either a two-door or a four-door model; I had the four-door. 

Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to do any serious off-roading while test driving the vehicle (unless you count the many potholed roads of Detroit). But even on paved roads, the vehicle gives the feeling of going off-road, for better or worse. The noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) are considerable. While that’s normally not a good thing, it’s what you are signing up for with this badass machine. 

I was planning to take the roof panels out, but my mechanic did it for me. I had stopped to see him about another matter and he came out to admire the Bronco. He snapped them out in seconds without reviewing any instructions for doing so, it was pretty intuitive. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed driving home in the open air. It definitely gives the same smile-inducing feelings of a convertible. 

Putting the two roof panels back on once I got home took me a few minutes. They were kind of heavy and I struggled a bit with the first one. It took seven minutes to finally get it snapped back in correctly. Again, I did this without reviewing any instructions -- because what fun would that be? The second one went back on much more quickly, taking only a minute. 

I know I’ll get bashed for saying this, but I might be more of a power sunroof type of vehicle owner. Despite a sound-deadening headliner, I never did get used to the Wildtrak’s interior noise, I kept checking to make sure the windows were all the way up. Fortunately, the vehicle has an amazing stereo system with 10 speakers, so my solution was just to play music a bit louder than I normally would. I really appreciated the wireless Apple CarPlay. 

This vehicle is a head-turner. If you don’t want attention, it’s not the one for you. I think I probably sold at least a few of them to strangers in parking lots who asked me questions and asked to check out the interior.  

The backseat is huge, and the attention to detail on the seat gives a luxurious feel. The startup welcome screen animation video is noteworthy -- it shows boulders that morph into a Bronco. 

The Wildtrak trim level starts at $58,025, but the vehicle I test drove had extra items, so its MSRP was $64,830. The mileage is about what you would expect in a vehicle this size: 19 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.

If this isn’t the right Bronco for you, there are many other options from the base Bronco starting at $34,890 up to the Bronco Raptor, starting at $86,080. In between are the Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Heritage and Heritage Limited.  

Ford definitely knows how to capitalize on a brand’s popularity. 

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