AUSTIN, Texas—Ford is on a roll right now. In the past few weeks, it debuted a $40,000 electric F-150 pickup truck and a $20,000 hybrid Maverick pickup, and both appear to be instant hits as they rack up tens of thousands of preorders each. But last July, the company took the wraps off an SUV that may prove even more popular than either of those trucks—”popular” to the tune of almost 200,000 deposits. I am, of course, referring to the newly resurrected Ford Bronco, and Ars just spent a day testing out the Bronco on- and off-road in Austin, Texas to find out if we should believe the hype.
The original Ford Bronco was introduced in 1966 and must surely count as one of the earliest SUVs to be offered by any automaker. The Bronco name continued in production through five generations until it was retired in 1996, ironically because the market had tired of big SUVs. But obviously, big is back in vogue now, and all those preorders show the wisdom in Ford’s decision to reprise the storied nameplate.
Purists will be pleased to know that the new Bronco, like its forebears, remains resolutely a body-on-frame vehicle. The design calls back to the original without looking too retro, and it is highly modular. The doors are removable with just a pair of screws and a disconnected electrical connection, and Ford supplies bags for the front doors that keep them from getting scratched up. The bagged doors fit snugly in the trunk so you don’t have to leave them by the side of the road or trail. (The bags also have graphics showing how to stack them all together, and there’s even a QR code that takes you to a video on how to remove the doors.) This attention to detail on small stuff is evident everywhere, with a plethora of mounting points and 12 V and USB ports for things like cameras, lights, and so on.
If you’re short, climbing up into a Bronco can be a challenge. The grab handle (which is coated in a high-grip plastic) is attached to the side of the dash rather than up on the roof where you might expect it. The interior has been designed with getting dirty in mind: passive drains abound, and in the case of some trim levels, even more drains can be unplugged when you want to wash everything out. Since the doors are removable, there are controls for the windows and mirrors on the center console, and the mirrors themselves are mounted just in front of the A pillars. I am told this setup caused a lot of extra work to balance the competing demands of good visibility without adding too much drag or wind noise.