First Drive Review: Five Reasons to be Wild About the 2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco Featured Image

This GOAT is back and ready to conquer the mountain.

As I drove a two-door 2021 Ford Bronco in Cyber Orange through the tiny town of Marble Falls, Texas, I saw more than one person snapping photos and taking video, and one lady in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon stopped me at a light to ask me about it. This vehicle is like the latest pop star and the paparazzi are waiting. 

Maybe it’s because people want to get out and find adventure like never before. And maybe it’s because until now, Jeep Wrangler has been the number one option for off roaders. So the excitement for the return of the Ford Bronco has been hanging heavy in the air all year. 

But with all of the hype surrounding the new Bronco, enhanced by a number of delays due to the supply chain and semiconductor chip shortages, is it all we hoped it would be? 

Yes. It really is. 

Related: The Ford Bronco Returns, More Ready Than Ever to Cater to Your Need for Adventure 

2021 Ford Bronco Featured Image

Get Ready Jeep Wrangler… Bronco is Coming For You

I won’t be surprised if Bronco snatches away some of those Jeep Wrangler customers. In fact, right now Ford says that 75 percent of its Bronco buyers are new to Ford, and that’s a big indicator that this is something special. 

The Bronco model line-up is designed to make your heart beat faster just by mulling over the model names, all intended to put you in the places Bronco will take you: From the Base model (starting at $28,500) to Big Bend ($33,385), Black Diamond ($36,050), Outer Banks ($38,995), Badlands ($42,095), Wild Track ($46,980) and First Edition ($56,915), each has lots of custom add-on options so buyers can further customize their adventures. (And, not to be confused with the Bronco Sport, Ford’s baby Bronco lineup that is more street friendly and comfort focused than the Bronco.)

I took a test drive through the country roads, across huge rocks and through water— yes through water— and here are five reasons to go wild for the return of the Ford Bronco.

Related: How Two Novice Moms Are Off-Roading Through The Rebelle Rally With The Ford Bronco Sport

The Heritage Ford Bronco And Its New Generation

The heritage Ford Bronco and its new generation. Photo: Kristin Shaw

  1. The Return of the Bronco Heritage

Between 1966 and 1996, the Ford Bronco had a good run as a two-door SUV, defining the SUV category and gradually growing larger and larger in size until it was discontinued. By then, the Explorer, Explorer Sport, and then the Expedition were gaining popularity as the family adventure SUVs of choice, nudging the Bronco out. 

Now the Bronco is back (yahoo!) and it has a slew of new features and a decidedly modern twist. In addition to the two-door model, a nod to the Bronco’s history (and the popularity of the Jeep Wrangler two-door version), there’s a four-door version with more room for you, your passengers, and your furry friends.

Naysayers are inevitably going to complain that it’s not as good as the old Bronco, which was solidly capable on the ranch or off road. Yes, the 2021 model looks different, but it’s more aerodynamic and smoothed out from the generation that died out in 1996. For 2021 Bronco has better technology, two different engine options (a 270 HP 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder or 310 HP 2.7L twin-turbo V6), a camera that lets you see all the angles around the car and improved capability. 

Related: A Compact, Hybrid, Sub $20,000 Five-Seater Truck? Meet the Ford Maverick

A Kid In A Candy Store Would Have Just As Much Trouble Picking One Favorite

A kid in a candy store would have just as much trouble picking a favorite. Photo: Kristin Shaw

  1. Bold Colors Make It Hard to Choose

I’m smitten with colorful paint options, and Ford offers a great variety for the Bronco. Starting with the base trim, Rapid Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, Velocity Blue, Shadow Black, Antimatter Blue, Iconic Silver, Carbonized Gray, and Oxford White are available on every model. Ford’s F-150 pickup also comes with Antimatter Blue as an option and it’s a deep velvety blue that looks almost black in the shadows and a brilliant navy in the sun.

Cactus Gray and Area 51 (which is a beautiful gray-blue) are added to the Big Bend trim on up, and you can get Cyber Orange (which looks more yellow than orange most of the time) on the other five trims. The limited-run First Edition Bronco can also be outfitted in Lightning Blue.

Related: 2020 Ford Explorer: With Hot New Features and a New Look, This is Not Your Daddy’s 7 Seater SUV

This Tail Gate Option Lets You Turn The Gate Into A Work Surface Or Table

This tail gate option lets you turn the gate into a work surface or table in the 2021 Ford Bronco. Photo: Kristin Shaw

  1. More than 200 factory accessories

You can choose from more than 200 accessories straight from the factory for your Bronco. This means that any factory-ordered accessory is under warranty with the rest of the vehicle, unlike many aftermarket options (some of which can actually void your vehicle warranty, too). 

The sheer number of combinations is endless. You might pick out a wheeling/off-road package with Yakima roof racks, recovery boards (for when you get stuck in the sand), first aid kit, and light bars. Lockable storage drawers for the back are handy for when you want to leave the Bronco’s roof and doors off but you want to keep your stuff safe. And there’s a tailgate package that includes a fold-out table and more.

The Ford Bronco Is Designed To Take On Uneven Turf And Take Off Its Outer Shell--Top And Windows, So You Can See It All

The 2021 Ford Bronco is designed to take on uneven turf and take off its outer shell–top and windows, so you can see it all. Photo: Kristin Shaw

  1. Not Your Grandaddy’s GOAT: The Bronco Masters Off-Road Adventuring

While the brand-new version of the Ford Bronco is certainly equipped to be a pick-up-the-kids-from-school kind of vehicle around town, where it really shines and shows its capabilities is off road. You could go camping on a sandy beach or way up in the mountains in this SUV and the Bronco is going to get you there capably.

The Bronco’s nickname is G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain), just like the very first Bronco. After testing it out on some gnarly rock crawls, camel-hump articulation testing and water crossings, I’m convinced it can live up to its name. Up to seven GOAT modes are at your fingertips with a twist of the knob, including normal, eco, sport, slippery and sand, Baja, mud/ruts and rock crawl. The base model Bronco comes with five drive modes and as you work your way up through Badlands and Wildtrak, you gain access to all seven. 

If you’re a serious off-roader (or want to learn), you’re going to want the optional Sasquatch package on top of a Badlands trim to give you all the tools you need. The optional 35-inch tires are a must-have for rough terrain, and the Bronco can ford up to 33.5 inches of water with those shoes installed. I also found the trail toolbox to be very easy to use with a selection of what Ford calls “hero buttons” up on the dash to quickly activate trail control cruise control to help you navigate low-speed trail driving, trail turn assist to help you make tight turns, and “one-pedal drive” that allows you to drive with just the accelerator as the brake holds for you.

Related: Is This the Ultimate Jeep? Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Adds HEMI Muscle to This Off Road Master

The Interior Of The Ford Bronco Includes Very Important Hand Grips On The Center Console; You'Ll Need Them

The interior of the 2021 Ford Bronco has a marine-grade option for easy cleaning and includes very important hand grips on the center console; you’ll need them. Photo: Kristin Shaw

  1. A Wash Out Interior For An Easy Road Back to Civilization 

Do you like to get your SUV dirty? Look for the wash out interior option with marine-grade vinyl seating. Basically, the upholstery looks and feels like boat seating and is very easy to wipe off or hose off quickly. In the floor, drain plugs can be twisted open with a flick of the wrist and all of the dirty water will wash out and away from the more delicate components on the dash. 

With so many options, from trim levels starting at affordable and topping out in the luxury range, and with so many of us antsy to get out into the wild, expect to see lots of Ford Broncos cresting hills, fording creeks and getting its photo snapped, like a rock star.

Disclosure: I was Ford’s guest for this test drive but all opinions are my own.

The Ford Bronco Completes The Campsite

The 2021 Ford Bronco in its natural environment, the campsite. Photo: Kristin Shaw

Writer. Car fanatic. Mom. Kristin is the co-owner of auto review site Drive Mode Show and a nationally-published writer... More about Kristin Shaw