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30 Minutes With: The 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands front 3/4 view

Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical. Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days. Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Day in Half Moon Bay, California.

Needless to say, these are quick drives and brief impressions that we hope to be able to flesh out with a full review of the vehicle at some point in the near future.

Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at our host hotel, the Aristocrat, down Highway 1 to Highway 84, onto Stage Road (named for the former stagecoach stop still---but barely---standing on the corner), past the historic (since 1889), socially-aware and only-in-Northern-California funky San Gregorio General Store, through some marvelous twists and turns that lead back to Highway 1 and ultimately back to the hotel.

At the hotel, support teams from Page One Automotive and DriveShop sanitize the vehicles as they return while journalists choose their next vehicle from a total of 27 cars, trucks and SUVs provided by their manufacturers. This goes on for eight hours on day one, minus a 90-minute lunch break, and for three hours on day two. For me, that was enough time to drive 11 vehicles that I hadn't driven yet.

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands front 3/4 view

My fifth drive on the first day was in the 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands.

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands rear 3/4 view

It is hard to describe just how much presence the new Bronco has. It's easier to go unnoticed driving the Rolls-Royce Ghost---and only part of that is because of the Cyber Orange paint.

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands fender badge

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands fender sights

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands windshield logo

Is it really the resemblance to the original 1966 Ford Bronco that makes this vehicle so compelling? Or is it that primal thing that lives inside us that never outgrows our desire to actually drive one of the Tonka toys we had as kids? Beats me. All I know is the people at Jeep must be working 24-7 to figure out how to blunt the sales impact and leapfrog the new Bronco with an improved Wrangler ASAP.

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands hood up

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands engine

Some Broncos come with a 2.3-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder engine making 300 horsepower with 325 pounds per foot of torque. Others come with a 2.7-liter Ecoboost V6 with 330 horsepower and 415 pounds per foot of torque. Our tester had that, and the required 10-speed automatic. Some trim levels with the four can be ordered with a seven-speed manual.

Set up like ours, zero to 60 times in the mid 6-second range are being reported. That's quick for this class. And, driving the Bronco just minutes after driving the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4XE on the same roads, the difference in road manners was immediately apparent. There's a certain Jeep bounce that your brain immediately filters out because---you're in a Jeep. It's absent in the Bronco. It feels composed and at ease.

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands rear cargo door open

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands rear cargo area

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands rear seat

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands front seats

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands instrument panel

The Bronco Badlands is 2.5 inches wider than the Jeep Wrangler. The payoff in interior room is noticeable. The cabin is also more contemporary, but then Ford had a clean sheet of paper to work with while Jeep's recent refresh of the Wrangler had to deal with the added pressures of not screwing up an icon.

The window sticker at the end of the review will give you an idea of what equipment was on our tester, but it was a unit not intended for sale, so it doesn't have prices. Turning to the Ford online configurator, the base price for a four-door 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands two-door is $42,095.

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands steering wheel and gauge cluster

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands gauge cluster

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands auxilary switches

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands infotainment and HVAC

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands right side instrument panel

The Cyber Orange paint is $595, the Ecoboost V6 is $1,895. The molded-in color hardtop is $695, the keyless entry keypad $110, and the Lux Package, with essentially every available option, including a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, adds $5,085.

Consumer-level online configurators aren't always right, and a window sticker's contents not always complete, but assuming neither Ford nor I have screwed anything up, the 2021 Bronco Badlands as-tested price with $1,495 destination charges is $53,565.

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands front view

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands side view

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands rear view

Half an hour and 20 minutes with any vehicle isn't enough to draw firm conclusions. We're looking forward to our usual weeklong evaluations of all the trim levels of the new Bronco. But at first blush, I can see why it's a big deal and why the gotta-have-it factor has hit the point where people are gladly paying well beyond sticker price to be the first in their neighborhood to own one.


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