Is The 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak Killing The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon?

Is The 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak Killing The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon?

Everyone has a story or a memory about the Ford Bronco. Sure there is OJ running from the cops down the 405 changing live news and courtroom dramas forever. Maybe you remember Arnold in Terminator 2 or Keanu in Speed both driving one. But usually there was someone in high school, at work, or down the street, who had a Bronco. They were the coolest person in a 100-mile radius.


The history of the Ford Bronco is fascinating. It had a solid run from 1965 to 1996, then went away. But like pop music, movies, tv, and fashion, the thirst for nostalgia forced Ford to bring it back. And when the 2021 Bronco finally hit, people rejoiced. The Bronco nameplate not only grabbed attention but the various off-road capable trims even had Jeep Wrangler diehards stopping their scroll. The 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak is squarely aimed at the current King of the mountain, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. But does this blast from the past have what it takes to compete in the world of SUVs that demand a mix of off-road adventure and daily driver comfort? We had to find out for ourselves.

Key Features

  • 2.7-Liter 330-hp Turbo V6
  • 35″ Tires
  • Special Bilstein Shocks
  • 12″ Infotainment Screen With Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
  • Removable Roof And Doors
  • Upgraded B&O Sound System
Specifications

  • Model: Bronco
  • Engine/Motor: 2.3-Liter Inline-Four EcoBoost, 2.7-Liter V6 EcoBoost,
  • Horsepower: 300 Hp, 330 Hp
  • Torque: 325 Lb-Ft, 415 Lb-Ft
  • Drivetrain: Front-Engine, Four-Wheel Drive
  • Transmission: 7-Speed Manual, 10-Speed Automatic
Pros

  • Ready To Rumble On Any Adventure
  • Pre-Wired With Aux Inputs For Accessories
  • Very Strong Engine
  • Two-Door Is A Short Wheelbase
Cons

  • Thirsty Engine/Poor MPGs
  • Favors Off-Road Driving To On-Road Comfort

The Exterior is Blocky, Boxy, and Beautiful

First thing to know about the Bronco is that Ford offers a full stable of iterations with lots of different costs, facts, and figures. You have the smaller Bronco Sport for $28K, 2-door base Bronco for about $32K and then all the way up to the dedicated desert-racer Raptor at $73,780. Ford knows tastes, and capabilities vary for today’s drivers, so they offer ten different trims. They start with the Base, then move up to adventure-themed names like Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Heritage, Badlands, Wildtrak, Everglades, Heritage Limited, and finally the Raptor. All (other than Everglades and Raptor) are available as either two or four-door.

When we first saw our 2022 two-door Hot Pepper Red Metallic Ford Bronco Wildtrak ($57,915 as-tested) rolling up, we felt shamed that we weren’t already packed for some extreme canyon-crossing camping trip. The two-door version (extra $2500 for two extra doors and longer wheelbase) is an instant classic as a throwback to the original Bronco. We wished for the convenience of the two extra doors. But at the expense of this classic silhouette? Ooof. Tough decision.

Of course, Ford made the Bronco for outdoor enthusiasts who want to go anywhere, or at least looking like it. The Wildtrak pushes those capabilities and looks even further. It comes standard with the Sasquatch package which brings 35″ tires wrapped around 17″ bead lock-capable wheels, Bilstein shocks, and both front and rear-locking differentials. The black wheels, black grill, stand-out white “Bronco” lettering, and hood graphics also set this trail menace apart.

The 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak should be “wide-track” because it gains an extra 2″ of width. That makes the Bronco more stable but sacrifices the size of trails it could traverse. With no running boards and the longer travel Bilsteins, it offers 11.5″ of ground clearance. Underneath the truck there are skid plates covering all the important moving pieces. The characteristic hood tie downs, front tow hooks, “Wildtrak” graphics near the A-pillars, and the removable black hardtop (doors can come off too!) all add to the chunky, woodsy look. Certainly all the style pieces are functional, but the “I-don’t-do-grocery-runs” look of the two-door Ford Bronco Wildktrak is a statement. It’s like the kid in high school who kept all the lift tickets on their jacket zipper from the various ski slopes they went to over winter break. The Bronco Wildtrak is a humble brag.

Let’s address the Elephant in the room, the 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak belongs on the top of a nearly vertical sandy dune which it climbed after wading through five feet of water at the base of a rocky cliff. It’s not as balls-to-the-walls as the Bronco Raptor (Braptor) but it belongs on dirt. We did not have access to such proving grounds so we can only speak to the light muddy ruts and gravel we found around south Atlanta and the Bronco’s on-road demeanor.

In terms of the mountain-munching abilities, Ford loaded the Wildtrak to the brim. The short wheel-base, 35″ tires, and pre-wired aux switches are the things of off-roaders’ dreams. We found some muddy hills on the edge of the woods; that would have to do. We shifted into “Mud/Ruts” mode which locked the rear diff and turned the front camera on the 12″ display screen. This allowed us to see what was ahead. Having a short wheel-base, the Ford Bronco Wildtrak was able to maneuver through higher mounds that would have left longer, bigger vehicles stuck. We crossed the mounds, flung up some mud, splashed through water, and never for a second worried about getting stuck. That’s confidence.

Also aiding the performance are buttons on the dash to engage an electronic-locking front and rear diffs as well as a smart Trail Turn Assist. The latter feature can lock one of the rear wheels to help the Bronco make a tighter turn. There are various drive modes to boost performance as well. Just twist the center control knob near the shifter to enter the various drive modes. The “Goes Over Any Type of Terrain” (G.O.A.T.) shifter has seven selectable modes such as Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, and Baja, Mud/Ruts, and Rock Crawl primarily for off-roading.

On the road, the 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak was much more tame than we expected. Of course, with larger tires and a lifted suspension, we thought the Bronco would be floaty around corners and loose in the steering. Impressively, that was not the case. We’ve driven plenty of other off-road oriented trail vehicles (Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, for instance) that felt unsafe at higher speeds simply because they weren’t intended for that purpose. The Bronco, however, was totally manageable.

Equally impressive was the 330 horsepower 2.7-liter EcoBoost (turbo) V6. Whoa. Paired with the 10-speed automatic, this thing absolutely tore up the road. We got wheel chirps just for the fun of it. After rounding a corner, we would slam the gas to get a full rumble from the exhaust and let the 415 lb-ft of torque push us along while we laughed at this stocky rocket. Note: this engine is under investigation by NHTSA based on reports of engine failure.

Unfortunately, when it comes to fun engines and great fuel economy, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Just as shocking as the engine umph, was how poor the MPGs were. As a 10-speed, mostly running around 1,500 RPM, we were still only able to average about 15 MPG. Clearly, Ford built this setup with the intention of having a follow truck full of gas cans behind it. Not for trying to cram people in the back (more on that shortly) to run errands…and get more gas.

RELATED: Watch The Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler Drag Race In The Dirt

The Interior Is A Nice Balance Of Old School OJ And New School Tech

Ford made the original Bronco an icon still loved by enthusiasts, but at a time when cup holders counted as an advancement. A lot has changed since that 1965-1996 run and rebooting any vehicle is a tall task for designers. They have to make sure it has a vintage, nostalgic feel, while at the same time incorporating modern conveniences and tech that customers have come to expect. We think Ford pulled this off brilliantly. The interior is simple with a touch of the past and an infusion of the present…and a really cool animation on the center screen when you get in.

Once getting in, the Bronco greets the diver with a clean dash, rectangular A/C vents, lower center-mounted plaque displaying “Bronco” with assembly information, and multiple grab handles. The Bronco is a great example of a what a modern off-roader should look like. The dash features an eight-inch LCD display, and there is center-mounted standard eight-inch infotainment screen. It runs Ford’s SYNC 4 infotainment system which includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Our 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak had the upgraded 12″ screen which we loved. Crisp, responsive and matte (vs. the almost mirror-shiny finishes on other brands), it was the centerpiece of the truck. Thankfully, Ford still kept the important controls for climate and audio as hard buttons below the screen. Our upgraded Wildtrak package also brought a 360-degree camera system, Adaptive Cruise, a glorious 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, and heated steering wheel.

For another $2195, we also got the leather-trimmed seats. Ford knows the adventurer in all of us still needs to charge things up like camera batteries, cell phones, and large Bluetooth speakers for your camp site. They have plenty of charge ports from an AC outlet to USB. They even placed a USB charge point on top of the dash in case you need an additional navigational device mounted on the windshield and don’t want a messy wire running from the center console all the way up to the dash. Along those same lines of thoughtful design, there is a mode on the truck where you can select various lighting zones to illuminate the area around the truck. This is great for seeing where you are at night or if you left something on the trail. We loved that thoughtfulness of design.

The downsides to our 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak were few but powerful. Aside from the head-scratching fuel economy, the bigger tires paired with the blocky design made it louder than a traditional SUV. We loved the flexibility of being able to take the roof and the doors off, but even the sound-deadening headliner couldn’t do much to stop the road noise. The two-door, especially, turned heads but also turned our necks as we tried to climb in the back, load in travel bags (the trunk space is quite small), or even car seats. The front seats slid forward but getting in and out was a real trick.

Our takeaway from our week with the 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak is best summed up by Ford’s own website, “Due to high demand, the current model year is no longer available for retail order.” So there you go. Despite the downsides to our specific Wildtrak spec, the Ford Bronco is unquestionably a hit. Maybe it’s owning a vehicle with a certain level nostalgia. Or maybe people want something that can get them to the top of Everest and back home again while enjoying wireless Apple CarPlay. The Bronco does what very few reboots do, it’s actually better than the original. To truly get the best of both worlds, make sure you get in line for the just announced Heritage Editions. Either way, the 2022 Ford Bronco is buckin’ awesome.