Highs: A playful and spirited engine, an open roof in minutes and true, out-of-the-box off-road capability.
Lows: Noisy at highway speeds, average sound, fuel efficiency leaves something to be desired.
Verdict: The reasonable starting price, removable roof, and myriad of driving modes make the Bronco deeply adaptable and deeply fun.
First Impressions of the 2021 Ford Bronco Black Diamond 2-Door
In the Jeep Wrangler-infested streets of the New Jersey shore towns where we took the Bronco for Memorial Day Weekend, the Bronco was a refreshing sight for many eyes. With its minimal (but not quite retro) styling, interesting Cyber Orange color and roof-free possibilities, the Bronco got plenty of stares, waves, and comments. After a 25-year hiatus, the Bronco now evokes fond memories for the earlier generations and pure curiosity for the younger ones. Even in its most ideal contexts- on the summer-wise byways of a coast or amid the rugged forests or deserts of America- the Ford Bronco stands out.
In the two-door Black Diamond Sasquatch Package variant we tested, the Bronco indulges in its historic silhouette on all sides while offering turn-key off road driving and looks to match. A high, uninterrupted beltline runs along the sides with boxy, frameless windows and a mildly-raked windscreen helping define the boxy geometry. A pair of circular headlights are framed in the wide grin of a front grille. From the back, a full size spare tire centers the view with a swing gate opening to the right. Removing the roof entirely reveals the body-colored frame of the Bronco- two structural beams that curve downward into the chassis and inspire a sense of confidence and stability.
The shapes and proportions of the Bronco give it a toy-like essence, especially with substantial ground clearance (enhanced by the optional Sasquatch Package and its 35” tires), the long windowed greenhouse, and circular fender flares pushed to the extremities of the SUV. It’s a spring-loaded truck waiting to climb over absolutely anything. The Bronco looks and feels most potent and original in its two-door form, with the four-door offering only some additional practicality.
Ford employees probably need to prepare for an exam to remember all the model versions for the Bronco. These include the Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Everglades, and Wildtrak trims. Each model is meant to have a slightly different personality, suited to different terrains. Ford also revealed a new and very potent Raptor variant with 418 horsepower coming from a 3.0L V6.
2021 Ford Bronco Black Diamond Two-Door Interior and Storage Space
The story of the Bronco’s interior is mostly one of practicality. Thankfully, Ford has avoided committing entirely to a screen-dominated interior. Instead, they’ve opted to combine analog buttons and dials with digital displays for a health mix that feels both meaningful and modern. The screen at the instrument panel is quite dynamic, including some very amusing animations when the mode selector is changed along with critical details like fuel gauges and RPM.
The dashboard itself is fairly upright with a variety of grab bars for support during toss-and-turn off roading. The drive position is commanding, and can be altered by way of adjustable seats. Seat material ranges from supportive cloth to lux leather-trim or marine-grade vinyl. The single-zone climate control generally went unused due to our keeping the roof and windows open most of the time, but blows a powerful cool.
There’s a reasonable amount of space around the Bronco, with many storage spots dotted around the cabin. In terms of overall space in the rear, we were able to squeeze a 63” television into the backseat, with about half-an-inch to spare. With the two rear seats in the upright position, the storage space is fairly square at 23.6 cubic feet.
The rear seats do fold down, but do not offer a completely flat surface. However, the total cargo space grows to 52.3 cubic feet. We were able to get all of our weekend luggage in the back without needing to fold the seats down. The storage area includes a variety of hooks to secure items as well as a 12V port. There is also a built-in drain in the front and rear in the event of some extra water sloshing around.
The Removable Roof: 2021 Ford Bronco Black Diamond Two-Door
The Ford Bronco has a variety of roof options, with the molded-in-color removable hardtop being standard but an optional retractable twill soft top on offer. Within twenty minutes of receiving the Ford Bronco, the roof was off- it’s that easy. Divided into three parts- a large unified rear roof and two smaller portions covering the front- it was important for the roof to be easily removable in those certain moments when the conditions are just right- a day turning sunny or the breeze being just right. The front two elements, when removed, create a single, large swath of open air. Removal of these two pieces is so easy you might think the designers made it so they could be removed in a matter of minutes, a quick pause on the side of the road and you’re back in business. They require no hand tools and are held in place by a series of levers and pivoting mechanisms. When I’d remove them, I’d effectively toss them in the back seat until I needed them again. Ford also offers a cloth bag and secure rope to properly store them on the go. I had some worry about the weather, but seals on all of the roof elements were truly watertight, proven after going through a few afternoon storms.
Removing the large, rear portion of the roof is a different story which involves at least two people to lumber the 83-pound element off the car, and not before someone removes over 10 screws that secure it. Fortunately, Ford provides the full suite of tools to remove this element, and even has places to plug the windscreen fluid line and electricity port in the base of the truck.
Removing this piece was a one-and-done deal because it’s a bit of workout. We kept it as a convertible and parked it under cover for the rest of the weekend. We also tried to put the front roof covers on without the rear roof element, which is not approved by Ford, for good reason. They stayed in place and did not cave in, but weren’t truly secured as there is no cross bar at the B-pillar. Any pressure at the center could bring them down. We were able to remove and reinstall the roof entirely in less than 30 minutes, total. The flexibility of the front panels is a true benefit and among my favorite features of the truck.
Driving Experience: 2021 Ford Bronco Black Diamond Two-Door
As with every automotive test, we took the Bronco around three environments: the urban heart of New York City, the more rural areas for some light offroading, and finally the highway. The Bronco behaved differently in each area, but always with a fun spirit. With a variety of driving settings altered by way of the amusingly-named G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Terrain) Mode selector, we were able to move the Bronco into settings we thought best suited the environments. One of the most satisfying sounds is the Bronco’s beefy chug of an idle thanks to the 2.7-liter, 6-cylinder engine. It’s a generally fun SUV with a lot of personality.
Driving the Ford Bronco in the City
It’s not until you’re behind the wheel of a truck with 35” knobby tires do you realize how similar the potholes and construction projects of the five boroughs are to the rare dirt roads of midcountry Connecticut. While I certainly wasn’t darting through traffic with a truck that’s nearly seven feet wide (I was quite shy about slipping through holes in traffic that I’d normally zoom through), and parallel parking generally required a little bit of sidewalk-climbing, I wasn’t nearly as upset about rolling through the potholes and barely-constructed avenues of New York City as I usually am.
In fact, with the forgiving tires and generous suspension, the drive was lively but not bumpy. With an elevated driving position, you feel a bit more empowered than usual. That said, clocking in with about 14 MPG around town, the Bronco isn’t exactly efficient, even in Eco Mode. The auto on/off ignition reacted to changes quickly, never leaving us scrambling. The acceleration is very punchy and the brakes responsive, so stop-and-go traffic was a bit go-kart like, in a good way. The swing gate becomes quite impractical in the tight parking situation of the city. The rear window does lift up, but only once the swing gate is open due to the obstruction of the spare tire.
Off Road in the Ford Bronco Black Diamond Two-Door
We took the Bronco to the curvy, wooded backroads of midcountry Connecticut to sample its off-road capabilities in a friendly setting (no rock crawling, for example). The G.O.A.T. Mode selector has a variety of settings for off-road driving specifically, including available Mud/Ruts setting, which lock the four-wheel drive, and available Rock Crawl, which locks the rear differential in addition to the four-wheel drive. There is also an array of buttons along the dashboard that allows for locking units separately. The Bronco is likely the only vehicle of this class to offer an independently locking front differential. It does not need to have the rear differential lock engaged to utilize the front differential lock. The feature is elaborated upon even further with Ford’s new Trail Turn Assist. Trail Turn Assist utilizes the vehicle’s brake system to hold the rear inside wheel, allowing the Bronco to turn sharply around trail obstacles. Worth noting is some modes do engage different degrees of four-wheel drive, so changing those settings can change fuel efficiency more dramatically than others.
Highway driving in the Ford Bronco
The first thing you’ll notice when driving the Ford Bronco on the highway is the road noise. The 35” knobby tires that come with the Sasquatch Package share their disagreement with high speeds and smooth surfaces with a small roar. Ford has obviously done its best to conceal this with insulation around the cabin but you’ll absolutely notice it when you’re at speed and trying to have a conversation.
Sound aside, the Bronco is rather agile on the freeway. The V6 and ten-speed transmission offers a refinement that you might not expect from its rugged appearance. This is especially evident when one switches into Sport Mode, with a detectable change to steering and acceleration- the transmission holds onto lower gears longer, making overtaking a breeze and a bit amusing as people don’t exactly expect a truck of this proportion to move so quickly. On the highway with Eco Mode engaged, fuel efficiency climbs exponentially with an average of 18 MPG on the undulating parkways of New Jersey.
Tech, Safety, and Sound in the 2021 Ford Bronco
The Bronco isn’t the most technologically-forward vehicle in Ford’s lineup, but it’s not without capabilities either. As standard, the Bronco is outfitted with wireless Apple and Android car systems on its standard 8-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen, along with a six-speaker set up that includes two cleverly-placed overhead speakers for the rear passengers. The sound can seem a little narrow, given the lack of speakers in the removable doors, but it certainly gets loud and clear enough for cruising down the boardwalk.
Ford’s very good Co-Pilot 360 system is standard and includes pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, forward-collision warning, dynamic brake support, post-collision braking, hill start assist, rear view camera, and auto high-beam headlamps. Big Bend models add lane-keeping assist, a driver attention monitor, and a blind spot-information system with cross-traffic alert.
In respect to tech-assisted driving, Ford has again perfected the mix of active and passive behaviors from the system. The Bronco is absolutely a truck meant to be driven, so the chimes and warnings are kept to a minimum by default, offering an experience that generally requires your full attention. Unlike the Subaru Outback and Toyota RAV-4, both of which numbly reacted to almost anything in the near distance, the Bronco is much more selective (and intentional) in its warnings. All settings pertaining to the Co-Pilot 360 system can be adjusted in settings to be more or less impactful.
A 12-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi hotspot, navigation system with more than 1,000 curated trail maps and a Bang & Olufsen sound system are available for the Bronco.
Final Notes: 2021 Ford Bronco Black Diamond Two-Door
Backed by an impressive legacy and instant street credibility (seeing another Bronco driver feels very exciting, every time), the Bronco’s secret weapon is its accessible price. Starting at $32,000, the Bronco is that “fun car” choice that isn’t going to drain your savings.
While it can climb in price with increasingly sophisticated and specialized variants, our test model clocked in at under $48,000 and offered a truly capable and eye-catching vehicle that I was sad to return so soon. It’s one of the rare vehicles where the cheaper option doesn’t feel inferior to the top-of-the-line editions. Having one is the statement, and a very satisfying one at that.
Learn more and build your own Ford Bronco at www.ford.com.