The ford bronco is a big deal, with the drama and delays about getting it to owners only adding to the collective hunger for all things Bronco. That’s why we’re getting our hands on every variation we can and testing each one. We started with a 2021 ford bronco Outer Banks, a four-door model equipped with the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 and 10-speed automatic—and notably not equipped with the Sasquatch package—which was not a bad introduction to Ford’s highly anticipated SUV. But we want more, and so do you. That’s why we snagged the sort of Bronco an enthusiast on a budget might be slobbering over: a more basic two-door equipped with the seven-speed manual transmission.
The 2.3-liter turbo-four (or EcoBoost in Ford lingo) saves $1,895 and the manual $1,595, so whether these powertrain options delivered adequate performance is a question of interest, as well as dollars and cents. We all like the V-6—it sounds good, makes good power, is a good match for the four-door’s mass—but how does the I-4 do hauling around two fewer doors? Let’s find out.
How the Two-Door ford bronco Badlands Stacks Up
Before diving into the numbers, let’s get the Bronco on the scale. The four-door is a big boy—4,828 pounds on our scales in Outer Banks trim, including the heavier V-6. So the entire question of performance centers around how much mass the two-door drops and whether the 2.3 can pick up enough slack. On our scales, our two-door Badlands Bronco weighed in at 4,732 pounds—only 96 pounds lighter.
That means the 2.3 has its work cut out for it. With 275 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque on tap, it makes 40 fewer ponies and 95 fewer lb-ft of twist. This is reflected in acceleration testing. The two-door Bronco managed a 0-60 run of 7.7 seconds and made it through the quarter mile in 15.8 seconds at 86.4 mph. (That is, respectively, 1.1 seconds and 0.6 second slower than the four-door we tested.)
But the turbocharged I-4 has some moxy. It’s a “strong and peppy engine,” test editor Erick Ayapana said. And it sounds good, though our resident engineer Frank Markus thinks some of the appeal stems from noise enhancement riffing on the burly tones of a V-8 engine. The four-pot EcoBoost is no V-6, but no one who drove it felt that it was an inadequate engine, even if it lacked standout charm.
The manual deserves some attention, not least of which because Ford is kind enough to still offer one (and expects a relatively large take rate, too). The I-4 is the only way to get the seven-speed box (basically a six-speed with an extra ultra-short “crawler” first gear), and boy is it a good one. The shifts are short and precise—”slick and snappy,” as our own Ed Loh quipped. Too bad, then, the clutch didn’t match up; that component was universally dinged for its unacceptably vague action, a serious enough flaw that many of us would have opted instead for the quick-shifting, competent 10-speed automatic. The crawler gear, though, got high marks for ease of use and how much it helped the I-4 Bronco creep up an incline with very little drama.
The two-door Bronco surprised us with its playful character, showing a willingness to rotate on the figure-eight course with an application of throttle. This is no sports car—ultimate grip is limited, as evidenced by the modest lateral acceleration limit of 0.67 g—slightly behind your average contemporary Wrangler but right on par with the otherwise remarkable V-8-powered, wide-axle Wrangler Rubicon 392. Figure-eight numbers were also a bit behind some recent Wranglers we’ve tested, but here the numbers shouldn’t guide you as much as the fun we had on the test track prodding the Bronco to step out. This is an off-roader, after all. On the test track and on a winding road, the important question is: Is it fun? Surprisingly so, maybe even more than the four-door.
And it’s all enhanced by the strong controls. The brakes feel excellent with great feedback, and they offer a stopping distance of 132 feet—on par for the class. Steering feel is a strong point, and the two-door’s shorter wheelbase doesn’t seem to make the Bronco more nervous on-road. “Light years ahead of the Wrangler,” associate editor Alex Leanse said, and it proves out driving both back to back. The independent front suspension is palpably more direct than the Wrangler’s old-school live axle setup, making the Bronco a much more willing partner on the long freeway transits getting to the destination. In a Wrangler, vague steering and barn-door aerodynamics mean side winds or high speeds can be a white-knuckle affair. The Bronco’s quite the opposite—even a two-door Sasquatch, which we also drove on-road, feels solid and inspires confidence at freeway speeds.
Off the test track and in the real world, though, there are some notable ride compromises in this short-wheelbase vehicle engineered to be capable off-road. Under braking, there’s significant front-end dive; under acceleration (particularly with the V-6’s extra grunt), there’s significant squat, and the front end can get light enough to skitter around. Certain combinations of inputs at low speed can lead to some wiggling and jiggling. For the most part, in normal driving, the ride isn’t likely to make anyone seasick, and body roll is surprisingly minimal for such a soft suspension setup.
Can You Live With a Two-Door Bronco?
Wondering whether the two-door Bronco is a livable proposition if you have more than one or two people in the picture? We crammed a couple of front-facing child seats in the back and evaluated how the two-door Bronco handled a pair of toddlers on a short road trip.
Entry to the back seat area requires a bit of agility, but once there, the two rear seats are acceptable, if sparsely trimmed, with reasonable legroom and modest comfort. With the front seat pushed forward, there’s a generous space to hunker down to tighten car seat straps and look for tossed toys. Stepping back down to unload a kid or just to unload yourself is more awkward, but with practice, it becomes routine if not graceful. More important, the stadium-style rear seat elevation, the large side windows, and the relatively well-controlled ride all prevented undue toddler agitation.
Behind the seat, there’s a surprisingly spacious cargo area with power outlets and lasso-adorned tie-down points. You’ll need it all because there’s little room to store gear up front, but a week’s worth of gear managed to fit with careful stacking. The tailgate, as several of those who had time with the Bronco have noted, requires a lot of effort to open and close, and it needs to be open a certain amount not to chew up a dangling seal when the rear glass goes up. And, of course, the rear glass can’t be opened to access piled-up gear without opening the lower tailgate, causing the occasional duffel bag avalanche.
It only takes one careless slam to realize the clattery frameless side glass is a questionable choice and the doors should be closed gently, especially when the window is down slightly. And no amount of fiddling with and reseating the front roof panels could fix a persistent wind whistle at freeway speeds from the top. Perhaps this is an issue that’ll be ironed out as production continues (and the more significant Webasto top issues are resolved), but for now, the Bronco is not a place to be if you’re averse to interior noise—just like any current Wrangler.
In our previous First Test of the four-door, we didn’t think the Bronco’s obvious and frustrating flaws were deal-breakers. And nothing about our time in this two-door with its smaller engine changes our mind. Ask any of the MotorTrend editors who spent any time in it, and the overall impression is one of pleasant surprise. You expect a vehicle like this, an arch-competitor to the Wrangler, to behave a certain way. Decades with the Wrangler’s charms and foibles will condition you to that mindset. But the Bronco subverts your expectations, offering not just the increased precision you’d expect from its independent front and its rack-and-pinion steering but also an overall more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts sense of fun.
Our testers peppered their notes with words like “peppy,” “enjoyable,” and “playful.” And whether you’re arcing it around a figure-eight course or a suburban roundabout, it’s hard to disagree that the I-4 and the manual transmission are up to the task—poor clutch action notwithstanding. Nor does the shorter wheelbase and reduced door count introduce any significant gripes. It’s the same Bronco we’re falling in love with (with the same obnoxious issues we’re hoping Ford addresses ASAP), just in a tidier package.
Source: Read Full Article