We Finally Got Our Ford Bronco. Here are the 7 Things That Immediately Struck Us.

We reveal how long it takes to remove the doors, whether the Bronco drives better than the Jeep Wrangler, and where the Easter eggs are hidden

2021 Ford Bronco off-road at ATC Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports

Few vehicles have been more highly anticipated in recent years than the all-new Ford Bronco. Buyers have been waiting for more than a year and a half, including those of us at the CR Auto Test Center. Only in the past few months have versions of the rugged midsized SUV started trickling into dealers. 

The Bronco marks the resurrection of one of Ford’s most storied nameplates. The original Bronco launched for the 1966 model year as an alternative to the Jeep CJ-5, a crude off-roader with roots that date back to World War II.

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Our early impressions are that Ford has improved upon the off-road-oriented breed with the return of the Bronco. Even better, this fresh rival is certain to motivate developments in drivability to the Jeep Wrangler—the Bronco’s chief competitor—and consumers will reap the benefits down the road.  

We ordered a 2021 Bronco Outer Banks 4WD four-door hardtop with the optional 310-horsepower turbocharged V6 (a 270-hp, turbo four-cylinder comes standard) for the CR auto test program back in July 2020, and we’ve just now taken delivery.  

Ahead of our in-depth First Drive review coming soon, below we spotlight seven things any prospective buyer—or Bronco enthusiast—should know about this all-new vehicle.   

Find the Hidden Treats

2021 Ford Bronco socket wrench

Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports

Not to be outdone by the Wrangler, with its inconspicuous silhouettes of a classic Jeep sprinkled throughout the vehicle, Ford added a bunch of hidden Easter eggs to the Bronco. Some are in plain sight but easily missed, such as the engine-start button that looks like one of the Bronco’s headlights. Others are harder to spot. For example, the supplied toolkit (which you’ll need to remove the doors—more on that later) includes a ratchet that has “Bronco” engraved onto it, a nice detail. Open the fuel flap and if you look closely, you can see three generations of the Bronco depicted above the fuel filler. Other cool features include the lassos carved into the plastic that holds the cargo tie-downs; a plaque on the center console that looks like the front fascia, with screws as the headlights; and the “Est. 1966” on the windshield.

Cool Off-Road Features

2021 Ford Bronco trail camera on the ATC rock hill

Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports

Bronco models have a Terrain Management System with up to seven different driving modes that affect the vehicle’s steering, handling, and powertrain performance. Ford calls these “GOAT” modes, which in Bronco-speak stands for “Goes Over Any Type of Terrain.” 

For most people, a majority of driving will be done in the Normal mode, which the Bronco defaults to with each restart. It’s intended for everyday on-road driving. There’s also an Eco mode to help get maximum fuel efficiency; a Sport mode with better gas-pedal response, heavier steering effort, and altered transmission shift points; and Slippery mode for driving on snow-covered or icy roads, with a less-sensitive gas pedal and transmission shifting optimized for low-grip conditions. 

If you venture off the pavement, definitely take advantage of the off-road-specific modes. 

  • Sand: This mode is for driving on soft, dry sand, such as on a beach (only where permitted, of course). It engages four-wheel drive and the rear differential lock.
  • Mud/Ruts: This mode works with the rear differential lock to provide extra traction in more challenging off-road situations, such as muddy, sloppy, rutted-up trails. As with Sand, this mode is for off-road-use only.
  • Rock Crawl: This mode is self-explanatory and for very low-speed, off-road bouldering. It engages the four-wheel and the rear differential lock feature, and it activates the front trail camera.
  • Baja mode: This mode optimizes the suspension and other systems for improved performance on loose terrain and sand.
  • Front trail camera: This feature is possibly the coolest and most helpful. It shows a view of the trail ahead through the infotainment screen (when the Bronco is switched to the Mud/Ruts mode, in the case of our Outer Banks model). We found that it does a great job of showing drivers what they can’t see through the windshield. For example, if you’re about to crest an off-road hill but the angle is so steep that you can’t see what’s on the other side, the camera projects a clear view onto the center infotainment screen of what lies ahead. You can also cycle to a view that shows each front wheel, making it easier to place the tires exactly where you want them while off-roading.

Easy-to-Remove Doors

2021 Ford Bronco doors off

Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports

As with the Wrangler, you can take off the Bronco’s doors and roof. We found out that removing the doors is neither a difficult nor a long process; it’s a bit harder to put everything back on, though. 

Here’s all it takes: After undoing the easy-to-reach electrical connector, remove two bolts per door. (You can use the ratchet in the supplied toolkit.) It’s helpful that the doors stay resting on the hinges without the bolts in place. Then simply lift the doors off using the designated grab handles. They are pretty heavy, but they’re easier to manage than the Wrangler’s, due to the frameless-window design. 

It took us only 6 minutes and 40 seconds to remove all four doors on our first attempt. Of note, the Bronco owner’s manual states that door removal is “for off-road use only,” and there’s a decal in the doorjamb with the same message. 

Putting the doors back on is more of a challenge, taking more than 11 minutes on our first attempt. It can be tricky to line up each hinge while maneuvering the door, especially if you’re trying to avoid chipping or scratching any paint. We’re confident both procedures will become a little quicker with practice. The job doesn’t require two people, but the doors are heavy (close to 50 pounds) so having an extra spotter might be a good idea.

Taking the three roof panels off is also extremely easy, though the latch levers take some serious elbow grease to open or close. And while the two panels over the front occupants are quite light, removing the rear panel is definitely a two-person job.

Drives Better Than the Wrangler

2021 Ford Bronco driving at ATC

Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports

In our short time with the Bronco so far, we think it’s a much better daily driving vehicle than the Wrangler. As one of our testers put it, “The Bronco offers the rugged styling and 95 percent of the Wrangler’s off-road cred while being much more livable day-to-day.” 

We’ll go into more detail in our upcoming First Drive, but we can report that the Bronco has a considerably more comfortable ride and much more responsive handling than the Wrangler. Our test vehicle’s optional 310-horsepower, 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 delivers plenty of civilized giddyup, along with smooth shifts from the 10-speed automatic transmission.

Cumbersome Side-Hinged Tailgate

2021 Ford Bronco rear tailgate

Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports

The side-hinged tailgate swings open to the right-hand side of the Bronco. This brings several disadvantages over the upward-lifting tailgate of most SUVs. First, unloading curbside is a cumbersome affair, because you’ll have to carry your luggage around the door to bring it to the sidewalk. This becomes even more difficult if there’s another vehicle parked directly behind the Bronco. Second, the door needs to be swung out at least 90 degrees in order for the glass rear window to clear the spare tire when lifting it up and open. Finally, the tailgate’s gas strut feels like it’s working against you, making it harder and slower to open than most tailgates. The Wrangler has a similar setup but it’s easier to use.

Standard Active Safety Features

2021 Ford Bronco front grille

Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports

We’re happy to report that all Broncos, regardless of trim, come standard with forward collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection. This holds true for the seven-speed manual-transmission models. Blind spot warning (BSW), rear cross traffic warning (RCTW), lane departure warning (LDW), and lane keeping assistance (LKA) are optional. Much of this is in stark contrast to the Wrangler, which doesn’t come standard with any active safety features, and pedestrian detection, LDW, and LKA aren’t available at all.

Can You Buy a Bronco for a Fair Price?

2021 Ford Bronco at dealership

Photo: Jeff S. Bartlett / Consumer Reports Photo: Jeff S. Bartlett / Consumer Reports

As with many new vehicles these days, and thanks to a low supply of automotive parts and raw materials, dealer lots aren’t exactly brimming over with Broncos. To make matters worse, we’ve seen some ridiculously marked-up models, to the tune of close to $50,000 over the total MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price). 

But don’t be deterred by these local—and ludicrous—markups. Most people aren’t paying anywhere near what the dealers are advertising. Based on recent transactions, 2022 Ford Broncos are currently going for about 1 percent over MSRP, which isn’t terrible considering the hype and demand surrounding the Bronco, not to mention the extremely limited supply of new vehicles in general right now. Also, don’t forget that a car-buying service, like CR’s Build & Buy, can help get you a fair deal.


Mike Monticello

After my dad gave me a ride on his Yamaha two-stroke motorcycle when I was 3, I was hooked on anything with an engine. I got a master’s in journalism as a means to an end: To drive cars and get paid for it, which led me to jobs at Road & Track and Edmunds.com. My most thrilling moment so far has been hurtling down the autobahn at a GPS-timed 217.1 mph in a Ruf Rt12. On weekends you can find me churning dirt on my mountain bike or doing car or motorcycle track days. Follow me on Twitter. (@MikeMonticello)