Ford’s Bronco Sasquatch
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
In 1966 Ford Motor Company was 63 years old, selling Mustangs like nobody’s business, winning for the first time at Le Mans and targeting the Boomer billfold – sounds like ‘Bill Ford’ – like no other domestic automaker. With its Mustang embracing the urban/suburban adventure, Ford’s product team considered the thousands of unpaved miles – many of them in Michigan – and correctly decided there was a need (both real and perceived) for a vehicle capable of navigating those miles. (Ford’s Country Squire, of course, sounded capable – but wasn’t.) The answer to the question few automakers in 1966 had asked was the all-new Bronco. And if memory serves, Tom McCahill – writing for Mechanix Illustrated, billed as the Dean of American Autowriters – was excited, and would have done backflips if, of course, McCahill could have done a backflip.
As a more livable take on Jeep’s CJ (and more available, via Ford’s broader dealer network, than the International Scout), the all-new Bronco struck a chord with its relatively compact footprint, all-road/all-season capability, and accessible price point. And there was personalization; buyers could configure Ford’s new 4X4 for a Montana ranch or Manhattan Beach. (Hell, Barbie may have had a Bronco!) In that first gen it was two doors only, but you didn’t have to do the doors – and the roof was removable. Of course, the Bronco eventually grew up in both size and price, and as these things go, forgot its original audience. And then it had no audience.
That was then, and of course, this is now. To feverish acclaim – you’ll remember Covid – the newest Bronco was introduced for the 2021 model year. And while production delays limited sales in that first year, the off-roader has been going gangbusters ever since. Our test Bronco, a Heritage Limited finished in a decidedly retro Robin’s Egg Blue and sporting the Sasquatch (we’re not kidding…) trim, made for quite the presentation in the ‘hood, even bigger than the $1500 Chevy van owned by our neighbor/contractor.
As you’d guess if you’ve been seeing them on the road, the Bronco – in either 2-door or our test vehicle’s 4-door variant – makes quite the impression. Sitting on a wheelbase of 116 inches and stretching almost 17 feet, the Bronco visually conveys every one of its 5,300 pounds. (For comparison, the Bronco 2-door stretches 200 inches on a wheelbase of just over 8 feet, and weighs 1,000 pounds less.) And the Bronco 4-door seems sized to do just what it’s intended to do: Provide an offroad package more accommodating than today’s 4-door Wrangler, and more rugged than Jeep’s Grand Cherokee.
Inside, even with the upscale touches embedded in the Heritage Limited edition (which includes perforated leather-trimmed seats in brown), there remains a truckish, no-nonsense vibe attached to this edition of the Bronco. And that’s good, as the last thing I need when romping amongst the boulders is an interior that not only shows the inevitable dirt, but highlights it. And while the step-in is very much a step-up, and not really helped by the hand holds located at the end of the dash rather than the A-pillar, it can be gracefully negotiated if your inseam is on that side of 30 inches. Regrettably, mine is not…
Once behind the wheel, you’ll enjoy what is essentially unrestricted visibility for a full 360 degrees. In fact, the last time I enjoyed such a wide-open view was when traveling via Greyhound’s SceniCruiser. The rear-mounted, fullsize spare impedes your rear view slightly, but doesn’t impede the rearview camera. Once you get accustomed to the Bronco’s almost 80-inch width, maneuvering at the mall is straightforward, although I’m less sure about negotiating what the mountain bike people call singletrack. Maybe you should order a double.
On the road, I found the Bronco’s bulk weighed heavily (pun intended) in slow, intown driving, while at freeway speeds the Bronco’s 2.7 liter twin-turbo V6, boasting 330 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque, moved on down the road. For a V8-equipped Bronco you need to step up to the Bronco Raptor, or – you know – wait for OJ Simpson’s to come up on Bring-a-Trailer.
The Bronco’s Sasquatch package, available as an $8K option, offers an advanced 4X4 system with automatic on-demand engagement, 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, a 4.7:1 final drive, enhanced ground clearance and fender flares attempting to enclose 35-inch mud terrain rubber. Oh, and Bilstein shocks.
If I were Bronco shopping, I’d pop for a 2-door closer to base spec, and be out-the-door for something around $45K. But if you have a need for this level of capability and are venturing out where you need to take a lot of cargo with you, there are few better alternatives at any price, perhaps none better at under $70K.
Were it not for the Bronco’s Robin’s Egg blue, I could take this Bronco very seriously. And (maybe) attempt a back flip.