Mountain Wheels: Versatile Bronco Wildtrak is worth the wait
After a considerable wait, we finally got a chance to test out the Ford Bronco on Summit County trails. And … yes, it’s entirely worth the anticipation and the buzz, with off-roading attributes that will make it a popular choice — once Ford can actually get them to customers in bigger numbers.
The model in question was a two-door Wildtrak edition, further updated with the Sasquatch off-road package. Our Bronco was affixed with a (not easily) removable hard top, massive 35-inch all-terrain tires and among the highest range of trail-specific parts, among the eight-model Bronco range. The base price, minus any special bonus mark-up from out-of-state dealers, was $49,780.
For those of you still waiting for your own Bronco to arrive, it’s certainly a cool vehicle— largely as it’s a welcome antidote to the Jeep Wrangler-ization of America.
Designed to out-Jeep a Jeep in both its uber-blocky form and its mix of functionality, it’s also able to easily outrun any Jeep product not packing a Hemi — its 2.7-liter Ecoboost V-6 generates 330 horsepower and 415 pound-feet, and it will absolutely go like hell, even straight up Floyd Hill.
That’s not exactly the stated purpose of this short-statured, tallish box on ungodly gigantic mud tires, but it’s good to know. More importantly, even with those ridiculous tires, it’s actually pretty comfortable on pavement, eating up even the most awful potholes, and certainly getting big air on the Eisenhower Tunnel ruts.
Like Wrangler, the idea here is a rudimentary, highly capable automobile repackaged in a million variations, none of them straying too far really from the $30,800 base model.
This is most notable in aspects such as the chintzy-feeling hard plastic on the center console, which contains the window controls and hard-to-reach mirror controls. Those controls are placed there, a la Wrangler, as you can pull the doors off, get four friends to help you unbolt and remove the roof, and then have an outdoor jamboree with the heavily padded roll cage and its built-in speakers.
The higher-edition Wildtrak does not get King Ranch-looking leather — that’s another build — but it is nicely outfitted with a more comfortable grade of leather, lots of badging and a bunch of unique grab handles that look like the back end of a handsaw. They’re quite helpful, as those 35-inch tires on 17-inch beadlock wheels mean it’s a big, big step up into the cap, especially if you’re parked at a weird angle on a trail and need to get out and cut down a tree to keep going.
We actually got pretty close to that during a drive with Summit Daily News editor Andrew Maciejewski, heading up Tiger Road and much of the way up Georgia Pass Road. Actual power saws are an option the Wildtrak did not have, so we had to turn around — which I realize could have been easier with the trail turn assist feature, which locks up a wheel to allow the Bronco to basically pivot around itself.
On a real mountain trail, Bronco proves its worth immediately. The Sasquatch package upgrades you not only to giant tires but front-and-rear electrically locking differentials, the HOSS 2.0 Bilstein damping system and those rugged-looking fender flares.
The Bronco’s Go Over Any Terrain multi-mode system is a spinning wheel with almost too many options, the most robust of which disable the stability control and turn on the front-view monitor in the navigation screen, providing potentially nauseating live video of the obstacles in front of you. There’s also full trail speed control and even a one-pedal driving mode for more precise work over rocks and obstacles.
Bronco is robust enough, and powerful enough, that the absolutely normal setting was just fine for most trail work, with automatic, high and low 4×4 settings.
I would love to try out the mysterious seven-speed manual transmission, but my 10-speed automatic worked pretty well, and was easily thumb-shifted to allow a little speed control while heading down the passes.
The front panels of the Bronco’s hard top come off fairly easily but, in this short two-door version, there’s really nowhere to put them. There’s only 22 cubic feet of storage behind the partially fold-down second-row seats, so pack lightly, unless you add an accessory roof rack.
Watch also to not wack yourself in the eye with those no-pane front windows, or the fold-out/flop-up rear glass in the back, with a ginormous rear-mounted spare tire.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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