There is hardly a more talked-about new 4x4 on the market today than the Ford Bronco (apologies to the Land Rover Defender). Absent from Ford’s lineup since 1996, enthusiasts have been clamoring for a new version of the venerable nameplate ever since. The used market bears this out with first and second generation Broncos going for big dollars at auction. In fact, it’s the original 1966 model that Ford took its inspiration from to launch the sixth generation Bronco in 2021.
With retro good looks and a wide range of options, trims, and equipment, the new Bronco ticks the box for lots of different drivers. From the family-hauler set to the hard-core desert runners, you can configure Ford’s new Bronco in a myriad of ways to fit your lifestyle. But what about the overland life? Let’s take a look at how the kicking horse can be a great overlander.
2023 Ford Bronco Wildtrak Specifications
The Wildtrak is a popular trim with buyers who intend to see more off-road driving than the average buyer. With a torquey twin-turbo V6 and upgraded M/T tires and suspension it also hits near the top of the price range for the model - not nearly as expensive as the all-conquering Bronco Raptor, but a sight more than the base Bronco, which starts at $33,000. Of course, for the overlander, the higher payload and larger interior storage space of the four-door version is preferable to the two-door.
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base Price: $54,320
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6
Fuel Economy Combined
~ 350 miles
F/R: control arms/live axle
Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT
LT315/70R-17 113/110S M+S
2023 Ford Bronco Off-Road
There is a lot to recommend for the off-roader when it comes to the new Bronco. Straight out of the box, the Wildtrak comes with 35-inch 315-section mud terrain tires and beefed up suspension components, which yield a substantial 11.5 inches of ground clearance, 30.8 degrees of breakover angle, 47.2 degrees of approach angle, and a departure angle of 40.5 degrees.
Those are impressive numbers, and combined with the 10 speed transmission, high and low range transfer case, and Ford’s Terrain Management system (an electronic traction control program that lets you adjust the way the truck behaves in certain road conditions), there’s hardly any place you won’t be able to go. In addition, the Wildtrak comes standard with independently actuated front and rear locking differentials for when the trail gets really gnarly. Underbody protection is fairly robust on this trim package as well.
Ford Bronco Fuel Economy
Off-road is not the only road, however, and as most of us know, overlanding often means spending a far higher percentage of our time on the highway than tackling remote trails. Overlanders demand a degree of versatility in our vehicles that rock-crawlers don’t necessarily need. It’s great to have that capability when you need it, but living with the truck day-to-day for long periods of time is often a more pressing consideration, especially range.
One of the drawbacks of the Wildtrak is fuel economy. There is, as yet, no diesel or hybrid option for the Bronco (unlike its primary competitor, the Jeep Wrangler). The combined fuel economy of the four-cam turbo V6 rings in at an EPA-measured 17 mpg, and that’s under ideal conditions. Throw in a bunch of camping gear and supplies and a family of four, plus a roof rack and roof tent, and you’re bound to see that number tumble closer to 12 or 13 mpg. Demanding terrain, like heavy sand, or lots of time spent in low range will drag it down even further. Pushing the heavy and inefficient 35-inch tires doesn’t help, either.
This is true of every overland vehicle, but the lower the starting point for fuel economy, the more pressing the situation can get. In comparison, the Wrangler 4xe hybrid returns 20 mpg and 49 MPGe, and the diesel model rings in at 25 mpg combined, including 29 mpg on the highway. The Wildtrak only hits 18 mpg in highway driving. It may be worth throwing a couple of jerry cans on your Bronco's roof rack or bumper carrier.
Ford Bronco for Overlanding
There are a handful of other metrics the overlander should pay close attention to - payload, storage space, and towing capacity. The Bronco falls in the middle of the pack in all these categories for these types of vehicles. Thirty-six cubic feet of storage is highly useful, and the side-swinging tailgate opens 150 degrees, which makes loading and unloading gear extremely easy. Ford even offers a factory-option tailgate table for the Bronco. Payload is also about average at 1370 pounds, and the Wildtrak should have no problem towing a well-equipped overland trailer with its 3500 pounds of towing capacity. Up top, the Bronco can carry a dynamic roof load of up to 110 pounds, and carry a static roof load of up to 450 pounds.
There are many other touches in the Bronco that make living out of the vehicle that much more enjoyable, including many 12 volt and 110 volt power outlets, an easy-to-clean interior, and quality materials throughout the cabin. The myriad of roof options for the Bronco are also appealing - from the removable hard top, to the highly configurable soft top, you can outfit your Wildtrak for all kinds of conditions. Ford also offers a wide range of factory accessories to make your camping and off-roading life that much better - from roof racks, to bumper upgrades, to cargo area organizers. You can also customize your Bronco with plenty of color combinations, wheel options, and appearance packages, so yours can stand out from the crowd. In fact, I find Ford’s color palette for the Bronco to be one of the best in the industry. And, don’t forget that the off-road and overlanding aftermarket has embraced Ford’s flagship off-roader fully. However you want to upgrade your Bronco, you’ll find a solution. While the aftermarket isn’t quite as robust yet as that for the Jeep Wrangler, it’s definitely catching up.
Ford Bronco - Final Thoughts
The biggest challenge to making a Bronco your overland platform of choice may just be tracking one down. Models on the dealership floor are scarce (and often have huge dealer mark-ups) as Ford continues to grapple with production set-backs, and ordering one direct from the factory may require a many-months wait. Second-hand Broncos are commanding a serious price premium on the used market. Like with all new, clean-sheet vehicles, early models suffered from some front-of-line production problems (especially with the soft-top). If you’re patient, you’ll eventually find yourself behind the wheel of one, but you’ve been warned.
As for the overland question - is it the ultimate overland rig? I would argue that’s a firm… maybe? Is it comfortable, capable, and versatile? Definitely. Can it take you pretty much wherever you want to go? For sure. Is it a worthy competitor to the Wrangler, which has dominated this segment for decades? No question. Should you choose a Bronco over the Jeep? That’s only a question you can answer.
Images: Ford and CBI/Prinsu