Test Driving the Ford Bronco Lifestyle

Certain vehicles encapsulate a specific lifestyle which develops into a reputation over generations. These vehicles allow owners to associate themselves with that reputation regardless of whether or not they live the lifestyle. Lifted diesel trucks with scratch-free cargo beds, Jeeps with spotless all-terrain wheels, and sports cars with less than 1,000 miles are typical examples of people buying a specific vehicle to promote a particular image. The point I’m getting at is the new 2021 Ford Bronco, a new vehicle with an established reputation that projects a specific lifestyle for owners to fantasize about during morning rush hour.

The Ford Bronco is too young to remember World War II, and it can’t fall back on its military pedigree like other off-road SUVs to market its capability. Instead, the Bronco relies on a reputation similar to the belief that everyone looks good in western wear. Clever marketing ads painted the Ford Bronco as a handsome, rugged 4×4 truck with a go-anywhere spirit and FoMoCo muscle to get it there. You don’t have to be a cowboy to tame a (Ford) Bronco. It’s a truck with the power of a wild horse that will endure like a trusty mule while being as soft and comfortable as a dairy cow. 

It’s safe to assume many new Ford Bronco owners will never use their 4×4 SUV in a challenging environment. However, the Bronco Off-Roadeo offers people a chance to experience the Ford Bronco without signing a lease or damaging their vehicle. This motorized dude ranch is not limited to city slickers but to anyone who wants to spend a day learning the art of off-road driving in the comfort of a 2021 Ford Bronco overlooking a scenic landscape. It’s an off-road driving course that “will welcome you into the world of Bronco, celebrate the great outdoors and adventure-seeking lifestyle that comes with it, and ultimately inspire you to Learn It, Love It and Live It,” according to the Off-Roadeo website. 

The Bronco Off-Roadeo is available in four different locations across the United States: Moab, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Texas. Each site offers Bronco owners and guests the experience of learning the art of traversing through photogenic landscapes while riding Ford’s latest thoroughbred. The Texas-based Bronco Off-Roadeo is located at the Grey Wolf Ranch near Horseshoe Bay, TX. This venue opened in the spring of 2021 as an exclusive for Ford Bronco owners. However, this summer, the Bronco Off-Roadeo opened its online registration to anyone wanting to sign-up for the 10-hour, one-day adventure course (meals provided). 

My First Roadeo 

GPS guided me through the twisty maze of Texas’ farm road network to arrive at the Grey Wolf Ranch early in the morning. The entrance was hard to miss, thanks to a Bronco arch welcoming guests to the ranch. Once parked, I walked down the hill to the newly constructed Bronco Off-Roadeo welcome center. The day was a cloudless August in Texas. The morning breeze chilled the beads of sweat starting to form on my head as I walked towards the welcome center. 

The staff and instructors provided five-star hospitality as they walked us through the day’s events. Once everyone was signed in, Bronco instructor Corey Rice gave a brief but informative lecture on the basics of off-road driving and how to set up a Ford Bronco for specific terrain. This lecture covered how to use the Broncos G.O.A.T modes, Hero Switches, and explained its Trail Turn Assist and Trail Control settings. 

Next came an exciting decision to make, choosing our horse for the dusty trail. At the start of the course was a small herd of 2021 Ford Broncos for us to pick. The selection of vehicles offered a party platter of trim levels, colors, and equipped options ranging in both two-doors to four-door Broncos. Everyone spread out to find the Bronco that spoke to them. The one that I gravitated to was a Carbonized Grey two-door hardtop Bronco Base sitting on 35-inch wheels. “That’s the one I would buy,” I thought to myself while making a bee-line towards the driver-side door handle. 

This particular 2021 Ford Bronco Base was optioned with the 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 producing 310-hp and 400 lb.-ft of torque, a welcomed upgrade from the standard single turbocharged 2.3-liter I4 producing 300-hp and 325 lb.-ft of torque. It also had the Sasquatch Off-Road Package, a $4,995 add-on. For your money, you get a Bronco with 17-inch high-gloss black aluminum wheels wrapped in 35-inch all-terrain tires. In addition, Ford’s Advanced 4×4 terrain management system offers front and rear locking differentials with Trail Turn Assist. 

The well-equipped Bronco base model’s interior included satellite radio, an infotainment screen, power windows, and the hardtop is fitted with a sound-deadening headliner. The Dark Space Gray with Black Onyx cloth seats did remind me of an airport shuttle but offered manual lumbar support with plenty of cushion for comfort. The key features in the cabin were the row of “Hero Switches” located in the center of the dash and the G.O.A.T mode selector dial resting just below the ten-speed automatic gear shift. According to Ford.com, a Bronco optioned similarly to this one would retail around $39,920. 

Off-Road Convoy in the 2021 Ford Bronco

The Bronco Off-Rodaeo experience takes you through a set course that’ll test your knowledge of maneuvering through rugged terrain. Driving instructors lead the way as you follow in your Bronco in convoy. Each vehicle had a radio to listen to the instructor and communicate back with questions or concerns. The whole trip feels like an expedition as you traverse over dry river beds littered with slick rocks, up and down dusty hills with jagged stones, and through thick Texas brush. It is challenging, fun, and comfortable because you get to do this with the A/C set to arctic.

The varied terrain gave us plenty of opportunities to try out the 2021 Ford Bronco’s G.O.A.T modes. These modes differ depending on trim level, with higher-end models offering up to seven drive modes. For example, the base Bronco I was driving does not offer a Baja mode. However, it does have a Sport mode with a two-wheel-drive setting (close enough). In one section of the course, we were allowed to feel the Bronco’s torque and acceleration on a Baja-inspired trail with red sand straight-aways and rooster tail sprouting turns. 

Long-time fans of the Ford Bronco may miss the V8 sound, but the twin-turbo 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 makes up for that with speed and turbo spooling. The Bronco is agile for its boxy size and sprints to a full gallop when you kick the throttle making quick use of its 310-hp and 10-speed automatic to blaze a trail leaving nothing but dust clouds behind it.

Ford Bronco Hero Switches  

Located at the top center of the dashboard, the 2021 Ford Bronco’s Hero Switches provide the driver with Trail Turn Assist, the option to lock front and rear differentials, traction control, and hazard lights. Locking the front and rear differentials on the fly adds a level of luxury and convenience to off-roading. In one particular example, I was struggling to drive up a hill. Failing to keep steady throttle control meant the Bronco was losing traction and slipping. While stopped on a steep incline near the hill’s summit, the instructor suggested I lock the front differential and try again. 

Once the front differential was locked at the push of a button, the Bronco pulled itself up and over the hill like a mountain goat with my mouth full-ajar in genuine amazement. After a few hours, fatigue started to set in, and I switched on the Bronco Trail Control feature, a low-speed all-terrain cruise control. Once engaged, drivers set the desired speed limit, usually under ten mph, and focus only on steering while the Bronco handles the rest.

My Favorite Feature of the new Ford Bronco is its class-exclusive Trail Turn Assist, used for making tight turns on narrow trails. Trail Turn Assist works by locking the rear inside wheel while turning. You can hear the wheel lock-up with a mechanical spring noise, similar to the sound of pulling a handbrake, as you begin turning. The sensation is smiling-inducing as the Bronco whips itself around tight bends like a barrel racing horse. 

Experience the Bronco Lifestyle  

True love sometimes means overlooking specific details. While there is no questioning that the 2021 Ford Bronco performs excellent off-road, no vehicle is perfect. New Bronco owners may discover a learning curve in getting used to certain things on this truck. For example, the Bronco’s electronic steering feels numb, offering next to no road feel. One has to guess what the front wheels are doing, and leaning out the driver-side door to look is also a challenge because the chunky square side mirror is in your line of sight. The Bronco’s A-pillars also take some getting used to, as the first few minutes driving the Bronco felt as if I was watching a widescreen movie. The good news is that these minor annoyances will dull over time as you get used to driving the Ford Bronco. 

The Bronco Off-Roadeo driving course is an excellent, hands-on, weekend adventure for anyone looking to learn more about their new Ford Bronco, waiting for their pre-ordered Bronco to arrive, or still on the fence on whether or not to buy one. It’s an opportunity to experience Ford’s latest horse while exercising proper off-road driving techniques. It provides a real-world taste of the lifestyle and environment the new Bronco was designed to thrive in – a test-drive opportunity that goes above and beyond circling the block.