2023 Ford Bronco Outer Banks REVIEW with 2.7 l V6
The idea is basically bigger, more masculine, and rugged, and off-road ready. I'm really quite a fan of that concept when it comes to US car designs. I think for too long, we paid too much attention to trying to make everything homogenous and acceptable the world over. If America does one thing better than anything else in the car sector, this is it.
Trucks, SUV, off-road. Never mind the environment. Never mind sustainability. Can I take a car and drive it through a river and up the side of a mountain? That's what I want to know. This car seeks to answer that question.
Originally, the Broncos were produced in Michigan. If you spent much time out there, there's an awful lot of outdoors to drive around. This is being constructed in Michigan. So that has its DNA baked right into it. That rugged exterior appearance starts right down at the front. Now if you're not familiar with this concept from the get-go, I think the best way I could describe it to you would be think If Ford were to say, 'We like Jeeps.
We think we could do it better.' Now, you might find that a bit controversial but that's really what I get. Not only from the overall experience of the car right from the get-go, but also from this styling. Everything here is big, bold, and bulky.
This is supposed to give you the impression that not only can this car go off-road, but that really is where it lives. Now if you spend a lot of time driving around American parking lots, you'll be familiar with a lot of people buying and owning these that are never taking them anywhere more dramatic than a Walmart parking lot. But that's a crying shame! Because an awful lot of work and effort has gone into this thing to make sure you really can and should be able to drive it more or less, anywhere. The front, of course, is where you start off getting that feeling. This is nice, sturdy plastic. It's not going anywhere.
And take a look at these two mounted toe hooks in the front. You really do get the feeling that whatever the heck it is you want to attach to that, it is ready to go. I just changed one of the tires on my car, and I'm pretty certain I could have bought four new ones for the cost of what one of these is likely to be setting you back. Come on, isn't it kind of a 'Go big or go home' sort of situation? These are available in 16, up to 18 inch.
What you're looking at right now, these are the 18 inches. I really can't see why you would want anything but the biggest and the best for this kind of car. Everything about it is all about space, style, power. So you're really going to want that when you put it into the configurator.
Almost 30 centimeters or almost one-foot ground clearance. So they really aren't kidding when they tell you that you should have the capacity to take this thing literally anywhere you want to go. And talking about taking this car almost anywhere you want to take it, that foot of ground clearance also allows up to 33.5 inches or 85 centimeters of wading depth.
37.2-degree departure angle. When you put all of that together, not only does it tie into meaning that you're really capable of taking this to places you simply wouldn't take other cars. But in case you haven't already thought it, this is starting to sound an awful lot like a really viable competitor for the new Land Rover Defender. Now that's interesting because that obviously also just went through a radical redesign. But I'll tell you what I know, and that's when you compare these cars on sticker price alone, you're going to be able to get an awful lot more of one of these than you are with a Defender. And not only that, but come on, it's a bit more visually interesting, isn't it? I mean where I live in the UK, if you rock up with a Land Rover Defender, everybody thinks 'Yeah, of course, you got a Defender.'
But if you turn up with one of these, that's gonna look a little bit more special, I think. Okay, it might not quite have the standard but it does have the heritage. After all, this is the bread and butter of what Ford does. In much the same way that the Defender for years has been the bread and butter of what Land Rover did. So I'm really excited for this styling.
Ordinarily, when I look at the back of an SUV, it kind of just makes me feel a bit sad because it's pretending to be something that it isn't. This car is absolutely everything that it should be. So this rugged, solid feeling that you get right throughout the design, this massive space at the rear... Look at this! I feel like I could picnic underneath this thing if it got too hot. Look at the industrial way in which everything is finished off here. It just looks so ready to use.
And that for me is a clear win. Now it's not just the Land Rover Defender that Ford are going after clearly. They have a big focus on Jeep, especially in America. And I really like the way Ford have integrated a lot of their thinking about what this car can and should be by taking, to my way of thinking, some of the best features of a Jeep but doing it in Ford's way, in such a way that it's still a viable competitor for things like the Defender.
So everything here is, more or less, detachable and changeable. This solid top comes off completely. You can replace it with a cloth top that can store. Everything is designed to be taken apart and assembled in much the same way that Jeep lovers really enjoy. Now, look at this feature for example. This is a nice bit of thinking.
This wing mirror is attached to the car. Not so amazing, you might say, but that's actually quite helpful if you're going to completely detach this door, put it in the available storage bag. Oh, yes, the doors have available storage bags, And turn this into a really exciting off-road experience. Well, good news.
You can still see what's going on behind you. Now as we come further back, you can also see the modular way in which this can be appreciated. So this rear section, of course, completely comes away.
Everything's supposed to be really utilitarian, easy to clean. If you want to get in the back and have a look, now clearly, this is not one of the biggest of Ford's off-road offerings but it does present a real opportunity for the best of a car and the best of the truck. Look at this. Now if you're not from the States, you may not have heard of tailgating before. And it might come as a bit of a disappointment to you to learn that it's not exactly what you might think that it is. What it is, is basically hanging out with your friends in a parking lot, or at a ballgame, or just spending time being in the middle of nature.
Look at this. That's not only a massively convenient workbench if you're actually using this for something that makes you money, but it's also a really nice convenient way to hang out in this car. I just really enjoy the way that it's put together. So the boot, well, it's not the biggest thing you've ever seen in your life. But again, if size and space are really that important to you, there are many other bigger cars to choose from.
I like utility and versatility. And that means that I can take this anywhere I want, but still not feel completely hideous about the idea of taking it into a supermarket car park. And once you start looking at this, you must be thinking the same thing I am.
I just want to take all of the bits off, stick them all in bags, and drive around like I'm in the middle of a 70s 'Let's go crazy!' outdoors adventure. Sounds good? You want to come? Come on! Let's see what we can do. Let's take a look and see what's powering this behemoth. Well, I know it's supposed to be agricultural but I must admit to being a little disappointed that they didn't put any automatic struts on this thing. But who cares anyway? I need to be able to get in this to give it a good spray down after I've finished taking it through a swamp.
So, the Bronco comes standardly with the lowest engine being 2.3L four-cylinder 270 BHP. Next one up, 2.7L six-cylinder 310 BHP. So now I have a chance to show you a styling detail I really wanted to point out.
we have the 'Outer Banks' styling level. And because of that, we have these wheels that I've shown you. Those are going to be pretty comfortable for road use. Well as you can see from the ground, we're not on the road. And if I get Jonas to come with me over here, this one...
is the Badlands trim level. Now the disadvantage with this is it's not going to be quite so comfortable on the roads. But take a look at those tires.
Now if Jonah swings round to the front, you can see what I was describing earlier, just how prominent they are of those wheel arches. That's for delivering the full off-road experience. So, let's be real. Day-to-day use, you're not even going to want that.
It's not going to be the most comfortable thing in the world. But if you happen to live and work on a quarry like the one that we're standing on right now, that's the trim level for you. Well, the keys a bit of a lackluster affair. Do you really care? You're not buying this car to look at the key after all.
Well, you may remember me mentioning these doors are detachable. So they're also frameless, And that means that I'm very interested to see what the build quality sounds like when you give one a good hard shove. Let's find out. That's actually quite pleasingly nicely put together. Not what you'd expect from a detachable door at all.
Although that lovely auto close on this window, you do have to wonder just how many 1000s of times that's going to work well after you've abused the car a little bit. But look at this, given that's detachable, and storable, and needs to be very easy to clean, yes, there's an awful lot of plastic there. But what I really like is, it is hard plastic. That means it's going to wear really well, take scuffs and dirt really well, and be super easy to keep clean. Now because this door is detachable, you might immediately notice that the only features you have on here are a lock and unlock for the car. The window controls are kept in the center console for the obvious reason that you're not really going to want any extra electronics fitted to this door if you're going to be taking it off.
Just take a look at that. Now sadly, we don't have the time or the option of stripping this car down to its bare bones. But we do have our imagination.
If Jonas comes a little bit further back, just imagine the scene. There is no door there. There is no roof.
There's nothing on the car that you don't need. And because this is such a significant car, I've got short legs, I actually have to hop up to it. So thank you, Ford. They've obviously thought about that.
Just imagine being able to leap in and out. I mean, it's kind of exciting just thinking about it, right? But at the end of the day, you're not going to use the car like that for 90% of the time that you own it. So does it still manage to live up to his expectations as an everyday-use car? Well, a lot of that comes down to the styling and your experience of being in this car's interior for day-to-day use. So the seats, well, they're available in three standard trim levels Lowest or base entrance level is fabric.
Then you get this leatherette finish. And at the top of all the trim levels, leather seats. Well, I think although I prefer the styling on the cloth seat best, I like leatherette for anything that's going to be industrial because it's just easy to keep clean.
Does its job, it's rugged, hardwearing, simple to keep clean. And best of all, it takes well to mens. So if you get nicks and tears and it's your equipment that you're lugging, it's fairly easy to take care of. So the interior, although being fairly sparse and rugged, is actually quite techie for an off-roader.
Come on, have a closer look. Ford have come on leaps and bounds in terms of their tech integration into their vehicles. It wasn't very long ago that I was thinking they were being dramatically left behind by Volkswagen. But now, some of the ideas that they're coming up with can even rival them quite effectively. Let's see if I can stop that noise.
There we go. So if you have a look at this center display here, this is 12 inches. That is the top infotainment system that's available for this car. You can also get it down to eight. But you know what? Everything about this car has to be bigger. So I'm going to say that that is well worth spending the money on.
As far as the screen goes itself, well, it's okay. It's not particularly going to win any awards for being the best infotainment system that you've ever used. But what I do like is the rugged way in which it's integrated in here. And of course, you can see that you have all of the standard features you- -Search for your vehicle on your device and select the- expect and love. So, I don't think you're going to spend too much time worrying about that. As I said, the Ford system is much, much better and more usable than it used to be.
We're not interested in that. We're driving this car to some extraordinary places. So let's take a look and see what the driver actually engages with.
Well, here, I guess I would have liked something a bit more evolved. This is okay. You can see that they've done a really great job with the integration into the steering wheel here. These are all soft touch buttons. So even though it looks as if there's some kind of passive nonsense that actually push buttons, but they present this flat surface again because it makes it really, really easy to clean. And I appreciate that.
So cycling through the options here, you can see that the software behind the driver's display really hasn't radically changed all that much. It's still very menu based. It doesn't feel quite as intuitive as you might like. But with every iteration, Ford gets a little bit closer to giving you something that actually gives you what you want. Now, I think if there's one thing I would have liked to have seen integrated here, it would have been a head-up display. Because there's an awful lot of stuff within this menu system that bluntly, I just don't know how much you're ever going to realistically care about.
We'll obviously find out a lot more about that once we actually start the driving part of the review. But for now, it's much the same as the infotainment system. As long as it does its job well enough, I just don't think I'm going to care that much.
This car should be all about the driving experience. Now that said, as I come slightly lower down here, I'm really grateful and happy for the fact we still have these nice, rubber-ringed dials which allow me to adjust the heating and cooling controls. So simple, so straightforward. But I don't really want to have to think about it or look at it. Same goes for this volume knob and the tuning knob for the infotainment.
And I really like visually, the way they've actually integrated these into the design. It's clean, it's uncluttered, it's straightforward. Who would have thought that an off-road SUV would be leading the field in terms of telling manufacturers how drivers need this information presented to them.
That's all very simply laid out, easy to access, and it looks great. That continues slightly further down. A very thoughtful USB-C and standard USB-A charge point.
A nice storage bay here which has more than enough room for a standard phone. And take a look at this. Again, I'm really happy that Ford understands their customer base. You don't need to put a gear stick that big on any car these days because it's all picked on electronically. You want the reason that anything's particularly happening.
But look at this. If you're going to drive a car like this, my god you should feel as if you've really got all of it. Look at that. I've not got big hands. I can't even wrap my hand around this.
It feels exactly like the kind of a control stick I would expect to find on a starship. Bang! Look at that. It looks and feels rugged and it's just great. Exactly what you want for this car.
That feeling continues back here. I don't know if I'm asking too much of Jonas now, here you can see both the driving mode selector and the different modes of drive available to you. So standardly for day-to-day use, two-wheel drive. If you experienced slightly challenging conditions on the road, four-wheel high. And then four-wheel low for when you've stuck yourself into a situation you're really not completely convinced about. Again, super easy to access.
Super easy to keep clean. It just works. But not only that, it also looks good too. This bit here's a very small gripe from me.
I guess it's a bit unfair, but you do touch the window controls an awful lot. And this just feels a bit baseline Toyota to me. Very hard. Not nice to feel tactile plastic. But again, very practical, very easy to clean.
And then again over here, this nice soft-touch rubber for the mirror controls which is great. More of that hard plastic right here in the center compartment. But again, if there's one vehicle I can forgive for having acres of the stuff as long as it's well-made and put together, it's this one.
So rugged, tough, everything you need to do the job. That thoughtful area of touches continues right through the passenger side as well. A nice rugged, strong handle on the midsection to pull yourself in from. That's echoed with this center dash styling here. Look at the way that that's chiseled into the dash. That looks really good and solid.
And then another lovely solid practical handle right at the edge of the dash. Well, you've probably already figured out that I would quite like to have one of these just to tear around in. But in order to sell that into a partner, you're going to need to be able to convince them that the car is at least somewhat practical. And that means you can stick kids in the back of it well. I am 5'10 or 178 centimeters.
And as you can see from here, there's not quite as much headroom as you might expect with a car of this profile. But I have very, very short legs and a long torso which means you can compare me seated to somebody who's about 6'1 or 6'2. As far as legroom goes, it's kind of the same story as the headroom. This seat is set for Jonas who is over six feet in front. And as you can see, although I have enough legroom, I do have those short legs. And I have to say, there's not as much space back here as I would have expected or have liked.
However, short wheelbase's always going to be a compromise. If you really need that extra room, you clearly should be looking at something a bit bigger. I don't think this is the off-road SUV for you if you consistently drive around with five people. Who cares? It's all clean, easy to wipe down. If you're taking guys to a job or you're just shooting around in it, you're not going to have a problem at all. And as is always the case, it's all about the utility.
Just take a look at this action. Now watch the way the seat pivots here. It looks and feels industrial.
Like you could do this 10,000 times and you're never going to have a problem. Bang, I can immediately get straight into the back. Why does that matter? Well picture the scene, it's raining cats and dogs, you're covered from head to toe in mud. You need to access your equipment in the rear. Or even better than that, provide your kids a space to get changed after the Sports day that they just made you attend in -4 weather. Well, here it is simple.
Straightforward, practical. No bells, no whistles. It just works. Easy to keep clean, comfortable enough. Yeah, I know.
There are other cars that are more comfortable, but you can't drive those through the middle of a river. And that's exactly what I want to do with this. Rear seat comfort nowadays is all about making sure that your passengers have power supply. As with the front, you've got USB C and USB A ports, also a standard full power port for anything a bit more meaty you want to hook up. And of course, read window controls as well.
Lot of the off-road functionality is controlled right up here. I really liked the way they've kept those controls separate. So you're not going to engage them accidentally while you're in standard driving. But it's worth noting that as with that wheel that I just showed you, some of those features are only available on some of the trim lines. First of all, let's take a look at a nice steep incline. So, this hopefully is not what driving conditions where you live look like.
That's pretty steep Jonas! Well, there you go. That felt effortless. If there's one reason to put a V6 in a car, that would be it. That really just disappeared as if it wasn't even there. Well now this is a little bit more like England. I've lived in houses that have driveways like this before so I can imagine that this would come in often a bit handy.
Here you can see, exactly how it feels to take this thing up on a nice steep incline sideways. Again, the car feels perfectly poised, perfectly in control, and no effort at all. I'm not getting any creeks, any groans, nothing. Just poise, control, and power.
Nice. Back on the regular highway, well, if you're not familiar with Austria, I can tell you there is an awful lot of not driving terribly fast. So not the most exhilarating driving in the world but it's a good place to test out the day-to-day practical use of this vehicle. First thing I'm going to want to do is switch my driving mode back. Again, loving this big tactile knob.
I'm not the world's biggest fan of Ford's approach to this. On top of the slightly humorous Sports mode, is an even more humorous ECO mode. I really don't know where you would buy one of these if you felt ECO mode was a thing that you liked, unless you were just going to switch it to that for when you lent your car to other people.
This is all about power and rugged usability after all. Well, the first thing that's worth mentioning is that because I have that long torso, I always set car seats down as low as they can possibly go. That beds me down into the middle of a vehicle where I like to be and it really gives me a sense of how everything works on the car.
And in this one, the really pleasing thing about that is you don't feel like you're immediately and obviously sitting within a truck/SUV platform because you are bedded right down into it and it's a lot more comfortable than you might think. The suspension is nicely finished. So although it is clearly a very big proposition, it doesn't feel as unresponsive as you might expect.
Now, that's the positive. The negative is there is simply nothing you can do about the fact you're very high up off the floor and it is quite a large platform. So it does feel a little bit like driving a bus in terms of its dimensions. I always like to get an immediate sense of where are car's corners are. That takes a bit longer than instantaneous in this thing. It is not just big, but it feels very big.
And if you live somewhere with smaller roads, well, you're just not going to immediately feel that you can whip around them confidently knowing where each bit of your car is at any given time. Handling then, more akin to trying to imagine what would happen if you put a lot of power in a boat immediately than what would happen if you were driving, say, a sports car. But of course, that's only to be expected. And once you take that into account, what you're left with is actually a very comfortable drive indeed. I guess if I was going to be picky, and after all, that is my job, I would say I think they went a bit too large on the steering wheel. Now I understand that because the largest target market is going to be the States.
And there in so many things, bigger is considered to be better. If you put a tight sporty wheel on this, I don't know if that would go down as well but it's what I would like. This is just a bit too big and rangy for me.
But the steering again, given the size and profile of both the wheels, the tires, and the car overall, it's surprisingly precise and actually very comfortable indeed. Jonas, how do you find the car as a passenger? Comfortable? Yes. Yes, the ever-eloquent Jonas has spoken. But I think that's really the only words you need to describe it. Suspension is good. And bearing in mind that it's all talled up for you driving through a riverbed, it's very polite on a regular road.
Those road tires that I was less than impressed with while I was thinking about driving it through a quarry, do a fantastic job of eating up this tarmac without making me feel that I'm putting 1000s of extra knocks and bumps onto my spine. So, driving modes nicely delivered if a little bit overblown and slightly pointless. But effective nonetheless. Power performance, great.
Overall, usability of the car, well, the sun's setting right now. So I put my visor down and it won't come as a massive surprise to you to learn that that killed almost all of my visibility. It's always going to be a problem in a crossover where you can remove everything that you're going to have a significant negative effect on your all-around visibility. But taking that into account, I have less conflict with this B pillar here than I do in an awful lot of standard fixed-roof SUVs. So I would have to take my hat off to Ford and say, given that it's a large vehicle, I feel very capable of knowing what's happening all around it at all times. And if I wasn't, the camera on the infotainment system when I have to do a parking maneuver is actually really nice as you may have picked up earlier on when we were doing the off-road section.
Steering, great. Brakes... You know, I think given the profile of the car, as reasonable as you could have an expectation of. You're not going to get the kind of precision out of the drive here that you would expect from a really high-end SUV. If you put this up against a G-Wagon, well, come on. You really not going to have the same life experience.
But at price point, it's much more realistic to compare this at other vehicles. And to be honest, I think it sits very well indeed. This car puts a big smile on my face. The only place that I'm a bit disappointed so far is one, you've tried really hard Ford to address some of those infotainment woes and the end finished result is nice, but why am I still looking at the menu system in the execution that I found on Fiestas six years ago? It really hasn't radically changed.
And you could say if it isn't broken, don't fix it, but it was just never that great and it still isn't that great now. So the execution in terms of what the driver experience is, is okay. I wouldn't go further than that.
At the end of the day, it gives me the information I need. The menu system allows me to scroll through endless possibilities of what I might want and different ways in which I can interact with it. And it's all okay.
It's just a little lackluster. And given how exciting this car is, that's just a bit disappointing. But I stressed the word 'bit' because overall, this car lives and breathes outside on a field. Now I get it. There are lots of people that buy Jeeps or Defenders or Broncos who are never going to leave their urban environment where they live.
And they're welcome to do it, but they are missing the point. The only reason to buy one of these cars is if you're going to get to take it off-road. Or if the weather where you live is so appallingly bad for at least two months of the year, you really need the functionality that one of these can offer.
And if that applies to you, I really think you should check this out. The styling feels unique. It's really retro, but it's kind of special.
It doesn't look like every other SUV. For me, it's plenty big enough but not too big. I can still park it somewhere without feeling like I have a train behind me. And the driving usability means I can use it for day-to-day life just as comfortably as I can, when my buddies want to go and discover the middle of nowhere through a load of brush. Well true to form of doing things in cars you're not really supposed to, we did manage to find some nice windy roads.
And I think it's well worthwhile giving this a little bit of a push just to see how it handles some slightly more dynamic driving. Clearly, this is not what the car is designed to do and it's not really the right environment to do it in. But it tells us at least whether you're going to be able to get anything out of this car when you push it a little bit more.
Now what's really interesting actually, right from the get-go, is that center of gravity. It doesn't have nearly the rollover you'd expect on these bends. So I have to say, overall, I really like the way it handles a couple of bends.
I think what's worth remembering here is that if you look at the roads that we're on right now, we're only at the start of December. So there's not that much snowfall. But this is actually an ideal environment to own one of these things. Because if you live in one of these houses and you have four feet of snow overnight, which is certainly not unusual, maybe not at this time of year, then you do need to know how it is you're going to manage to get the kids out to school and yourself to work. And the nice thing is if you own one of these, it's simply not going to be an issue for you.
Whatever the conditions. You can throw some snow chains on this and off you go. It's not going to stop your day at all. So it's good enough and comfortable enough to work for everyday standard use. It's rugged enough and smart enough to be able to take through some slightly more challenging conditions. It's comfortable, it's easy to clean, and it's not going to set you back the same amount as a G-Wagon.
So, might be worth your while considering one after all.