- Absurdly great looks
- Massive capability
- A worthy segment-advancing rival to the Jeep Wrangler
- Poor build quality
- Poor ride quality
- No manual transmission for the big engine
The all-new Ford Bronco did not win the 2022 MotorTrend SUV of the Year award. If you asked us going into this year’s competition—and several people did—we would have told you: The Bronco is great in many ways, but it’s by no means perfect. Our OTY winners are judged against our six key criteria, and the Bronco fell short in one specific area.
It’s also worth mentioning that our technical director, Frank Markus, repeatedly questioned whether we should even consider bestowing our SUVOTY crown upon a vehicle undergoing a recall for its hardtop roof, and there’s also the fact Ford has repeatedly paused Bronco production. Ultimately, we decided the Bronco was too important not to bring along as a finalist. But our winner? Spoiler alert: No.
Let’s start with where the Bronco did extremely well, and that’s in advancement of design. The Bronco is without a doubt a grand slam in terms of looks; Ford absolutely nailed the exterior design, especially dressed up for the Sasquatch trim, which is mostly why the model is sold out for at least the next two years even though very few people have driven one. The interior is also well designed, with cool touches like MOLLE straps on the seat backs and ignition-button trim that mimics one of the Ford’s headlamps. The exterior design even works from inside the Bronco; nearly every judge mentioned how cool the trail sights at the hood’s corners look, and how useful they are.
The Bronco does well in terms of performance of intended function. It is a fun-to-drive and extremely capable convertible off-roader with removable doors. Associate editor Alex Leanse described it as “a theme park you can drive.”
He’s right. We all loved the manual in the four-cylinder, two-door version, with editorial director Ed Loh saying, “I can’t remember when I’ve driven a better manual transmission in a real 4×4.” Markus added: “I engaged low and the creeper gear and released the clutch, and it climbed the big hill at less than 1 mph at about 800 rpm. And 4 mph required 4,000 rpm!” Now that’s low-speed fun. Ford, pair the manual with the V-6, please!
So why didn’t it win? The Bronco struggled when it came to engineering excellence. Specifically, it felt underbaked and low in terms of quality. “It’s just not ready for mainstream consumers yet,” guest judge Gordon Dickie said. Buyer’s guide director Zach Gale added dryly, “That’s not confidence inspiring,” after observing the side-window glass wobbling back and forth when he opened the doors. “Is that built Ford tough?”
The Bronco is also noisier at 75 mph than the Jeep Wrangler. How much of it is poor engineering and how much is the faulty, gonna-be-replaced roof panels? Hard to tell. We do know we didn’t like all the additional flaws we observed, such as cheap interior bits and exposed box-frame pieces that will fill with mud, snow, and dirt. Once you factor in value and efficiency—other categories where the Bronco stumbles—it’s obvious this Ford isn’t yet as good as it can be.
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