I am not an experienced off-roader, nor are there very difficult trails within a day’s distance of my home in Washington, DC. I generally prefer my convertibles to be sporty and look for lowering springs instead of lift kits. Vehicles like Ford’s Bronco and its archrival Jeep Wrangler aren’t really… my thing. But I love a car with personality, and the 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak has that in spades. It’s also a supremely strong contender in a segment of few. I spent a week with a Bronco Wildtrak to see what’s what – and yes, I did take it off road.
What Is It?
This is a 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak. Well, actually, the one I drove is a 2021 Bronco Wildtrak, but differences between model years are miniscule, so this review applies to both model years. The Bronco was all-new for 2021 and is a platform-mate of Ford’s Ranger pickup truck. Ford offers a dizzying number of trim levels on the Bronco, so while I drove a 2021 Bronco Black Diamond last fall for a few minutes, it felt nothing like this Wildtrak.
The 2022 Ford Bronco can be had with two or four doors, soft or hard roofs, four or six cylinders, and manual or automatic transmissions. Ford bills the Bronco Wildtrak as one of the most capable off-road variants, save for the Everglades and upcoming Bronco Raptor, and thus your hand is forced on a few options.
So then, the Bronco Wildtrak includes the bigger 2.7 liter V6, first seen in the F-150 and producing 330 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque on premium gasoline. Ford approves 87 octane, though it’ll cost you 15 horsepower and 5 lb-ft. The 10-speed is your only transmission offering, and it sends power to all four wheels through a four-wheel drive system with automatic engagement – you can still pick 2 High, 4 High, 4 Low – and locking front and rear differentials.
Every Bronco Wildtrak includes the Sasquatch package, which gives you those lockers alongside giant 35-inch mud-terrain tires, 4.7:1 axle gearing, Bilstein “position sensitive” dampers, fender flares, and auxiliary accessory switches on the windshield header. Broncos start around $30,000 and my test truck stickered around $61,000.
Street Driving the 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak
Even for 6’1″ me, it was a climb in to the driver’s seat of the Wildtrak, thanks to two extra inches of ground clearance afforded by those big 35s. But once inside, the Bronco Wildtrak was comfortable, with all the “luxo-ish” touches you’d expect from a loaded-up anything these days. Seats were covered in Ford’s ActiveX material – nice vinyl – and appeared durable yet were comfortable all day, with some of the best heaters I’ve experienced to date. There’s a 12-inch touchscreen running Sync 4, sending sound to a Bang & Olufsen system with speakers everywhere but the doors. Because, of course, those come off and you still need your tunes.
Now look, I hate comparing the Bronco and Jeep Wrangler, because it’s just so obvious. But the comparison has to last for another paragraph or two, because Ford’s got Jeep beat in both cleverness and drivability.
My Bronco Wildtrak featured Ford’s multi-piece hardtop, which is a neat unit. Like the Wrangler, two panels over the front seats can be easily removed to provide a sort of “targa top” experience for the front two seats. Unlike the Wrangler, the Bronco has a panel above the second row that can also be removed, turning the hardtop Bronco into 80% of a convertible.
The second row’s panel is one full-width piece, and despite being relatively light, it’s unwieldy for a tall and long-armed person to handle on their own. Bring a friend to make life easier, and plan your storage of that panel. While the front row panels fit in the cargo space using provided bags, the second row panel must either be left at home or placed in the cargo area with second row seats folded. No matter, it’s clever. And that B&O sound system? It bumps, even with the roof removed at highway speed. Here volume is more important than overall sound quality, and there is plenty of one and more than enough of the other.
On the move, the Bronco Wildtrak surprised me with its steering – it tracked straight ahead on the highway with none of the on-center vagueness I’m used to with *ahem* competitors. Highway driving was a bit of a raucous affair given the tires and expected noise from pushing a brick with 11.5 inches of ground clearance and Lego pieces for a roof through the air at 70 miles per hour, but despite that, it was relatively relaxed overall.
Acceleration was sprightly enough given, again, everything going on for better off-road performance. The Wildtrak was happy around 70 and felt less happy as speeds crept toward 80 on the interstate. Blame the tires, a “regular” Bronco would be a bit punchier on smaller highway rubber.
Off-Road in the 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak
While my local off-road trails aren’t the most challenging for something as purpose-built as the Bronco Wildtrak, that didn’t stop me from calling a friend and spending a Sunday sampling Ford’s work. The Bronco Wildtrak made easy work of the trail’s entrance, thanks in part to its front-facing camera sending a high-resolution video feed to the gigantic infotainment screen.
As we approached the first clearing, I took the Bronco over an optional obstacle that tests angles – you need a lift and the right bumpers to clear this with most off-roaders. Not so with the Wildtrak. Nearly a foot of clearance and the approach, breakover, and departure angles that come with it (43.2°, 26.3° and 37.0° respectively) made it too easy.
At the next clearing, I gave Trail Turn Assist a shot. The system drags the inside rear wheel in a slow-speed turn, allowing you to rotate the truck in a space smaller than normal. It worked just fine and I can see where it’d be useful on tighter trails than where we drove.
Perhaps the best part of being off-road in the Bronco Wildtrak was the ride quality. Tires impact ride quite a bit, as do dampers. The position-sensitive dampers Ford chose on the Wildtrak provided a comfortable ride on the rocky trail. Bilstein says the dampers basically work less at low speeds, letting the Bronco float over uneven surfaces, then provide more and more control toward the ends of their travel (compression or rebound) to help soak up bigger bumps and jolts.
Nothing on the trail we chose was particularly difficult for the Bronco Wildtrak, but having so much excess capability was part of the fun. Of course, a more challenging route would have tested the truck more, putting the lockers, tires, and drive modes to work quite a bit harder. We’ll venture farther away next time.
Despite the 2022 Ford Bronco Wildtrak not being “my kind of car,” I ultimately had a ton of fun with it. It’s got personality, it looks like a big toy rolling down the road, and you can’t help but crack a smile behind the wheel, no matter what kind of day you’ve had. Is the Wildtrak trim the one for most people? No, not unless you’re spending a large portion of your ownership experience away from asphalt. But the Bronco itself, at its core, is good. There are only so many ways to do “the Jeep thing” – and Ford has put their own unique spin on it, in a way that works very well.