Ford’s new Bronco is a winner of a design. It’s a specialized SUV built with equal parts modern usability and throwback style, and it’s already caused a backlog of buyers, some of whom have waited nearly two years now to take delivery of their rigs.
So what happens when Ford Performance gets hold of the platform?
With that, I give you the Bronco Raptor — a wide-stance twin-turbocharged monster that’s designed to tear through the desert or climb up the side of a rock face.
Yeah, it can do all that. But it will also introduce you to every car person in your neighborhood.
Turning it Up
The Raptor’s design is basic Bronco underneath — but beyond the body, it’s nothing like the original. There’s a Jekyll-and-Hyde 3.0L EcoBoost V6 that makes up to 416 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque, with adjustable exhaust modes to belt out the snarl and adjustable G.O.A.T. (goes over any terrain) drive modes to get you anywhere. The 10-speed auto keeps it in boost, and quick shifts, including rev-matching downshifts in sport mode, make it feel a lot more nimble than the rig’s height and width might make you believe. It’s quick in standard tuning and an animal when turned up, at least in terms of wide and tall SUVs. The frame is also a lot more rigid overall than a standard model. “Does it have a V8?” asked a friend. Nope. And it doesn’t need one.
It has a massive track width — just look at those flares — but still maintains the stock Bronco’s great turning radius for trail switchback control. Steering effort is adjustable, and the track width and tire size helps to plant the rig to the ground in the corners. This doesn’t handle like the tall off-road SUV you might assume it is.
Under those flares are factory 37-inch tall tires on 17-inch alloys, coupled to a HOSS 4.0 suspension system from FOX. Much like the Raptor truck, the Bronco’s shocks have a position-sensitive damping design, now upgraded with a larger diameter and the ability to monitor the terrain independently at each corner. Wheel travel is impressive, too: 13 inches up front and 14 inches in the rear, thanks in part to unique control arms designed by Ford Performance. This thing is clearly designed to run fast over varied terrain and to fly when required. With that angry V6 and quick-shifting paddle-operated 10-speed auto, you’d better believe it will.
Exclusivity and Popularity
On the trail, all that that makes this a serious performer, and on the street, you’ll fear no speed bump or curb. You’ll also draw the attention of every car person within audible range of the Baja-tuned exhaust note. Broncos turn heads in basic configuration, but this is another level. In my week with this Raptor, two different people followed me home to ask about it, and every other stop was filled with cell phone cameras and questions. The public gets it — and those who don’t are curious. Even my wife wanted to buy one after riding in it.
All that makes sense, too — the Bronco is still in the sweet spot right now, thanks to its utilitarian nature and specialized design in a market filled with crossover-does-everything thinking. This one’s edgy look and clear capability just make it that much more appealing in all the right ways. This is clearly a performance tool — and Ford’s made it exclusive, which just makes it more interesting.
So what about buying one? Well, good luck. Those in the know already figure that it’ll be hard to get — most of these have already been snapped up by current Bronco order holders who were given a golden ticket to upgrade before their initial Bronco orders could be filled. Dealers have taken note of the demand as well — IF you can find one for sale, expect significant additional dealer markup on the already hefty $68k base price. Forums note some dealers charging upwards of $40k beyond MSRP for the privilege to buy, but that’s not stopping sales.
While that base price may seem steep at first, the capability here justifies it — especially considering you can use it every day without really giving up comfort or convenience. The only downside is the width, which is admittedly excessive, and attention you’ll get — which isn’t much of a downside if you’re a car person.
Ford’s built a better Bronco with the Raptor. Now they just need to build more of them.
High Point: High profile and fun to drive — a great combo.
Low Point: Cost. Availability.
Final Word: A Bronco deserving of the Raptor name, and an instant collectible if there ever was one.
Fun factor/appearance: *****
(***** is best)