What does it take to make something unique in the car world these days? Well, in a scene full of all-in-one automotive solutions, it’s refreshing to see the simple concept of specialization pushed across the finish line. There’s a reason people love Miatas so much. The same is true with Corvettes. When something is designed to do one thing particularly well, people notice. Add in some nostalgia and you have a winner in the market — and the makings for a product that brings in orders well beyond production capacity.
With that, I give you the 2021 Ford Bronco Black Diamond Edition.
This new Bronco hit the scene at just the right time. Classic Bronco pricing is at an all-time high, and those prices have spread out to other vintage utility vehicles as well. There has been a lot of demand out there for classic Broncos for nearly a decade now, and Ford has been paying attention to that market and its die-hard group of Bronco enthusiasts.
The result of their efforts is a well-built and basic SUV that has just the right things to accomplish the goal of going anywhere, anytime.
The Bronco is both small and large at the same time. If you’ve ever been around an original Mini Cooper, you’ll get what I mean. The Mini is somehow bigger on the inside that it is on the outside, and the Bronco is a lot like that, only the opposite is true. The wide tires and decent length makes it seem big and beefy, until you climb inside and look around. It’s not tiny in any sense, but it’s also not the F-150-based Bronco of the 1980s, either.
My wife, who drives a fifth-gen 4Runner, thought it was too small. But I thought was just right, even with kids in the back. Your mileage may vary.
Big or small, there’s no missing the styling cues. The flat hood screams original Bronco, as does the grille and headlight configuration. The target market is clear: My tester came with a row of AUX switches above the windshield, for all those aftermarket pieces that we’re all so used to seeing on every Jeep Rubicon on the road today. You can expect Broncos to be just as popular as those Jeeps, if not more so. Compared to a Wrangler, this is more civilized and easier to live with — especially in terms of steering feel — but it has the same or better off-road chops and appeal. A Ford Escape may very well be easier to live with on a daily basis, but Bronco buyers won’t care.
As equipped, my tester came with a basic 2.3-L four cylinder and a 7-speed manual transmission with a crawler gear. It also had an electronic locking rear differential and a 4.46 gear ratio, which combined with the crawler gear allow it to climb up and over pretty much anything I put in front of it. I would’t call it quick, but neither is a flat-fender Willys. And you can actually fit in this thing and bring your kids, too.
In fact, considering the Willys, the one button this Bronco seemed to hit for me was the same one a Tonka truck did when I was 4, and maybe that’s why it spoke to me and didn’t speak to my wife. The Bronco is growly and it’s mechanical. It has a beefy stance and is designed to play in the dirt, but it’s civilized enough to use on a daily basis. If you’ve ever sat in traffic and watched a guy on a dual-sport bike get around you by riding up a grassy embankment, you’ll see the appeal. No, I shouldn’t do that. But I could…
The interior seems well suited to the elements, and there are plugs in the floor that you can remove to hose it out. Yes, the top comes off in sections, and the doors do, too — all of which can be done using the Ford-branded toolkit that comes in the glovebox. Making that all possible also meant Ford had to design side windows for the Bronco without doorframes, and the result of that is rattly glass when you open or shut any of the doors. That’s a pretty significant gripe — and something every owner will feel every time he or she uses the truck. Then again, it won’t take long for the aftermarket to design a solution.
The base price as tested here for the 4-door version with the Advanced package is $39,340. The Black Diamond options, which include things such as floor mats, the hard top, keyless entry keypad and roof rails, take the price to $42,125. But of course, that’s if you can find one without a huge dealer markup. There are still more orders than completed examples, and I personally know of a couple of early adopters who are still waiting for delivery of their Broncos, well on a year past their orders.
But I think it’s worth the wait. This is the antithesis of a crossover, and that makes it unique — and a worthy successor to the original.
High Point: Basic, well-built and capable without too many cupholders
Low Point: Availability, rattly doors
Final Word: Bronco originally set out to build a better Jeep, and they might have finally done it.
Fun factor/appearance: *****
(***** is best)