Ford Bronco Everglades
Ford has taken a page from the F-150 playbook, offering the Bronco in myriad trim levels that mix-and-match everything from door number to any of five tire sizes. Residing about 2/3 up this ladder is the Everglades, which is a 4-door, 4-cylinder with automatic. Only.
It certainly looks the part, almost as blocky as the original small Bronco yet larger than the ‘full-size’ Bronco a former football player made famous. Bumpers will fend off more than shopping carts, the rock rails are txGarage tested, and the industrialized wheels may look cool but cleaning them’s a pain. Optional bags store removed roof panels and doors but with a snorkel, temperatures in the 30s (F) and plenty of recent precipitation, even the guy named Whale left them on.
Everglades is a Black Diamond Bronco with a winch, snorkel, roof rack, fewer options and some contradiction. Named for a southeast, wet National Park, it has the Pacific Northwest Sasquatch on the fender wallpaper, it’s the only one to offer Desert Sand paint, the voice in the dash has a UK accent (I wasn’t listening to BBC on satellite) and despite Everglades being arguably the most hardcore four-wheeler and semi-submersible, it’s the only one with a 12-inch touchscreen as standard. What. Ever.
Regardless of paint and wallpaper the conundrums disappear once you drive it.
The 2.3-liter turbo makes 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque running on Buc-ees’ good stuff, and the marriage to the ten-speed automatic a fine one. With 35-inch tires this heaviest Bronco is the least-speedy, yet it’s more than capable on pavement or off, and while fuel economy will rarely exceed the teens the small-displacement engine will save some gas just putting along on low-speed trails. The turbo is unfazed by altitude—you’ll hear it depending on how you’ve set the reversible plates in the snorkel, and it’s rated for a 3500-pound trailer.
Steering is relatively precise and feelsome, given its independent front suspension it handles fine for its bulk, and like all things on deep-tread 35-inch tires it won’t stop like a car. There are two primary detriments to highway cruising, one being the noisy hardtop, the other sharp impacts from the big tires at their specified pressure. They’re going to sing at speed no matter what, and marginal pavement at highway speeds made me think this is what it’s like inside my dryer.
The snorkel (and extended vent tubes for everything with gears in it) allows three inches more traversable water depth than other Broncos or the competition; more important is the difference between a clean bow wave and a hey-y’all-watch-this moment. If the river bottom is stickier than you think the winch or it’s stout tow loops will help you get out.
One trick this pony doesn’t have is the disconnecting front antiroll bar from the Badlands or Raptor. With locking differentials at both ends and seven drive modes you’d have to be well into a black-diamond trail or rock garden to need it, but the feature would soften side-to-side motion on slower slogs for a better ride with no detriment to capability. Perhaps this a packaging issue, a weight issue or simply maintaining the understeer budget with the winch, but it’s the only piece of kit you might argue is missing.
Since you have four doors and marine-grade vinyl upholstery, bring friends. A spotter will be helpful—the trail sights on the hood show where the hood is, not the fenders. The winch negates a front camera, and winching is usually easier with more than one person. Those trail sights are more effective as tie-down points rated at 150 pounds per, to better secure your roof tent, kayaks, extra spares or whatever.
It feels roomier than the competition, no surprise given it’s taller, wider and heavier. Toss unnecessary carpet mats in the attic and the cabin’s ready-to-go with heated front seats and decent comfort despite all the manual controls. The big touchscreen and SYNC 4 worked well, though I mostly stuck to CarPlay and wondered how the screen will hold up to muddy dirty fingers. There are tie-down points (and threaded inserts in the roll cage) to secure cargo, and the optional slide-out tailgate makes a damn handy, non-combustible camp stove shelf. Only two things nagged at me: You must think of the semi-vertical console switches as horizontal, otherwise you push the mirror switch down to angle it up, and the digital tachometer consisting of a slight bar and color change with a big white number is less legible than it could be.
At this writing Ford had no base price or EPA numbers posted for the 2023, but I’d expect $55,000-57,000 to start, and maybe 18/18 for mileage. None of those may be real-world values.
The Everglades is arguably the most fun, hardcore, low-lux Bronco if you plan on using it as Ford designed it. I would much rather drive one through a mall and up the grand staircase than drive it to a mall, and it’s got the equipment to get far away from too much humanity with ease. Just remember the sand anchor and tree strap if you go solo, and jerry cans if you’re 100 miles+ out.