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Faced with the choice of which of the many trim levels to pilot on the paved-road portion of our much-anticipated first drive in the new Ford Bronco, we went straight for one with the knobby, 35-inch mud-terrain tires that come as part of the optional Sasquatch package. While that might seem counterintuitive, we had full faith that the Bronco would be plenty capable off-road. What we really wanted to know is just how compromised it is on the road, so we figured we might as well start with the variant that makes the most sacrifices for street use.

18 Easter Eggs on the 2021 Ford Bronco
If you’ve somehow missed the news or aren’t among the nearly 200,000 in line to take delivery, the Bronco is back after a quarter century in two-door and, for the first time, four-door variants. Two-door models come only with a hard top, while four-doors also have a soft-top option. Either way, the top, as well as the doors, fender flares, and even the fenders are easily removable. Propulsion is provided by familiar Ford powertrains: a 300-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder or a 330-hp twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6. Both are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, but only the four can be had with a new seven-speed Getrag manual. There are six trim levels that span base prices of $29,995 to $62,605, plus five outdoorsy trim names (Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, and Wildtrak) and a loaded First Edition model. Feature content and off-road capability generally increase as you climb the range, but it’s great that even the base version can be had with the hardcore Sasquatch package ($2495 and $4995, depending on trim), which adds locking front and rear differentials, a shorter final-drive ratio, and the big 35-inch rubber.

Between 65 and 70 mph, wind noise overpowers tire roar. Even with the optional layer of extra sound-deadening material on the two-door Wildtrak model’s hard top, we wouldn’t wager that the Bronco is any quieter at speed than its obvious competitor, the Jeep Wrangler, until we get a chance to measure it on our regular test surface.

However, the Bronco’s steering precision is miles ahead of the Wrangler’s—thanks largely to its more sophisticated independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering—even on squirmy off-road-oriented tires. And we say this after having done one of the most inappropriate things one could do with a Bronco outfitted with all of its off-road kit: We threw it down a twisty road at max-attack speed. We’re certain we were carrying velocities that would have put a Wrangler in a ditch, and surprisingly, the laughter that ensued wasn’t at the absurdly low limits and compromised handling. It was because the Bronco is actually enjoyable to hustle on the road. We were chuckling with the Bronco, not at it.

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