2023 Ford Bronco Review: Covering them all from Big Bend to Raptor

2023 Ford Bronco Review: Covering them all from Big Bend to Raptor

Ford’s vintage revival lives up to the hype. Nicer to drive than the Wrangler on-road and just as capable off, the Bronco checks every box you’d expect from a modern off-roader.

Pros: Go-anywhere capability; unique style; trim level variety; two- and four-door options; strong engines; it’s a convertible!

Cons: LOUD!; strange digital instruments; interior materials quality; wonky cloth roof fitment; parking the ultra-wide Raptor

There are a lot of 2023 Ford Bronco variations, which means there is a lot to cover in this review. That variety is definitely part of the Bronco’s appeal, though, as offering two- and four-door body styles, two transmissions, three engines, soft- and hardtop roofs, and a multitude of trim levels (including the new-for-2023 Ford Bronco Raptor) should provide just the right combination of capability and style for any would-be Bronco owner.

It’s honestly not that different in that way from the Jeep Wrangler, but the Bronco certainly isn’t just a Jeep knockoff. It has key advantages: It’s more pleasant to drive on-road, has more cargo space, and there’s no denying the appeal of having the new kid on the block. Jeep counters with more fuel-efficient diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains, plus greater availability than the hard-to-come-by Bronco. Both are pretty rough around the edges, though, especially in terms of interior noise, so you definitely have to be aware that you’re in for a much different experience than you’d find in a more civilized crossover SUV. Even a more rugged one like the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

For more in-depth thoughts on all those different Bronco variations, read on!

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it’s like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Levels   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What’s new for 2023?

There are new trim levels for the 2023 Bronco: the Heritage Edition and the mighty Bronco Raptor, which you can read all about in our first drive review. This is also the first full model year for the Bronco Everglades, which you can read all about in this first drive review. Beyond that, there are no changes besides the Desert Sand and Cyber Orange paint colors being replaced by Azure Gray and Robin’s Egg Blue.

Ford Bronco 4-Door Black Diamond interior
Image Credit: James Riswick

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What are the Bronco interior and in-car technology like?

The Ford Bronco interior delivers a suitably rugged and retro-inspired design that goes well with its exterior. Those models that get an extra splash of color here are there are standouts, but in general, it’s appropriately one of the more characterful cabins out there. There are also a number of thoughtful details well-suited for the Bronco’s rugged use: rubber-lined grips that help you climb aboard (and keep you in place), rubber-encased buttons, roof-mounted auxiliary switches, a lockable center console bin, MOLLE strap connectors on the front seatbacks and storage bags for the doors and roof panels with diagrams that explain how you properly Tetris them inside the cargo area.

There’s also no shortage of modern features available, most notably those associated with Ford’s latest Sync 4 infotainment system. Although the general user interface is the same, there are standard 8-inch (pictured) and optional 12-inch screens available. We still prefer the Jeep Wrangler’s Uconnect system, but Sync 4 is perfectly agreeable and easy to use. We’re not fans of the digital instrument cluster, though. There’s a too-small digital speedometer that parrots a redundant too-small analog speedometer at the left, and worst of all, a strange tachometer that consists of a vertical bar graph and the number of your revs divided by 1,000. While this isn’t an issue in an automatic-equipped Bronco, it requires too much mental recalibration when using the manual transmission and worse, the display washes out in direct sunlight – which isn’t infrequent in a convertible. There’s also no way to change this design despite it being digital. Thankfully, the Bronco Raptor has a fully digital display with a more conventional gauge design.

The biggest downside of the Bronco interior, however, is the disappointing materials quality throughout. Most of the plastics are hard and seem likely to be scratched (those in the cargo area of our low-miles test Bronco were already a bit rough). This will likely be a bigger deal in pricier Bronco trim levels. While we’re not expecting Land Rover ambiance in the Bronco, what’s present is nevertheless of a lower ilk than what you’d find in the Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner. It should also be noted that the available cloth roof and plastic windows often look a bit haphazard and not as well-executed as those on the Wrangler.

How big is the Bronco?

We had a number of people come up to us and ask whether the Bronco 4-Door was in fact the baby Bronco Sport – they were expecting it to be bigger, perhaps more like the F-150-based Bronco of O.J. infamy. It’s not quite that big, but the 4-Door is still a midsize SUV with a family-friendly back seat (a Britax rear-facing child seat easily fit without moving the front seat too much) and a cargo area that betters the Wrangler Unlimited’s. You can get an idea of how much both can carry, plus the Land Rover Defender and Toyota 4Runner, in our Bronco luggage test comparison. 

The new Bronco Raptor is only available as a 4-Door, but its track and overall width are about 9 inches more. That’s wide enough to require government mandated yellow marker lights in the grille. While that may not matter in the wide-open stretches of desert where the Raptor is meant to devour at high speeds, on tighter trails or, more realistically, parking lots … well, good luck.

As for the Bronco 2-Door, it loses a lot more than just a pair of doors. Its wheelbase and length are both 15.7 inches shorter, which is a significant amount. While the back seat only loses 0.6 of an inch of legroom, the cargo area implodes from 35.6 cubic-feet to 22.4 cubic-feet. That’s the difference between a midsize SUV and a subcompact one, and indeed, we could only fit five of our standard luggage test suitcases into the 2-Door – an amount comparable to a subcompact SUV. Of course, its smaller dimensions are a boon when driving off-road, they result in some enjoyably unusual driving dynamics on-road, and there will always be a certain coolness associated with opting for two doors rather than four. 

What are the Bronco fuel economy and performance specs?

For the 2023, there are three available engines thanks to the new Bronco Raptor. More on that in a minute.

The standard 2.3-liter inline-four produces a stout 275 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with a seven-speed manual transmission, which is really just a six-speed with a crawler gear offering a crawl ratio of 94.75:1 with the shortest available axle ratio; the optional 10-speed automatic can best achieve a ratio of 67.8:1, again with the optional axle. Fuel economy is the same 20 mpg city, 21 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined regardless of transmission, but opting for the fat all-terrain tires of the Black Diamond, Badlands and Wildtrak trim levels or Sasquatch package will significantly drop efficiency down into the 17-18 mpg combined range. We saw 20 mpg in 258 miles of mostly highway driving with a manual-equipped Black Diamond. 

The 2.7-liter turbo V6 is good for 315 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. The 10-speed automatic is mandatory with the V6. Fuel economy is the same 20 mpg combined with standard tires, but drops down to 17 or 18 mpg combined with the fat tire options. And yes, you’re reading that right, the V6 gets basically the same fuel economy as the four-banger.

Four-wheel drive is standard on every Bronco, but like Jeep, Ford offers different grades. The standard system features a two-speed, electronic, shift-on-the-fly transfer case with a 2.72:1 low ratio, while the optional system has a 3:06:1 low ratio and adds a 4A mode that automatically goes between 2H and 4H when needed. The differentials are produced by Dana, with the rear being a Dana 44, with standard AdvanTEK units and available Spicer Performa-TraK electronic locking units.

Now, the Bronco Raptor. It has a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 good for 418 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque, plus a 10-speed automatic, a 67.7:1 crawl ratio, and locking front and rear differentials. Expect a 0-60-mph time in the low 6-second range, which is very quick, but it doesn’t blow you away. Fuel economy drops to 15 mpg city, 16 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined. We were seeing about 16 mpg during a weeklong test, including a 280-mile highway drive that returned about 18 mpg.

2022 Ford Bronco Everglades

2022 Ford Bronco Everglades
Image Credit: Ford

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What’s the Bronco like to drive?

With two body styles and multiple engine, transmission, trim level, tire and roof choices, it’s impossible to come up with one specific answer to how the Bronco drives. The 2-Door Badlands with a manual we tested is a much different creature than the 4-Door Raptor tested two weeks prior. We’d love to say “go try out as many as you can at a dealership,” but given supply issues, that’s just not realistic. Here at least is what we’ve discovered with the Broncos we’ve driven.

The Bronco’s independent front suspension pays huge dividends when driving on-road. A Jeep Wrangler, which has solid axles front and rear, feels sloppy and disconnected by comparison. Keeping the Bronco straight on the highway is easier, while the rack-and-pinion steering is significantly tighter and more precise. This is especially appreciated in the 2-Door, whose unusual dimensions and resulting roly-poly chassis dynamics definitely benefit from more communicative controls. In general, the Bronco is more comfortable and inspires more confidence.

The same can generally be said when in comparison to a Toyota 4Runner, but don’t expect the Bronco to be rivaling midsize crossovers for civility. For starters, it’s extremely loud – louder in fact than the 4Runner and potentially even the Wrangler – with booming, omnipresent wind noise. Yes, even with the hard top, and yes, even with the optional sound-deadening roof panels. The fat tire options or a soft top only turn up the volume further. The ride is also quite firm, and “better than a Wrangler” is hardly a ringing endorsement for any vehicle’s handling. 

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor

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Off-road? There’s only so much we can fit in here, so for the most thorough looks possible, check out our various specific reviews of specific versions where we drove them off road. We tested multiple versions at Ford’s Off-Roadeo park in Texas. We went even deeper into a 2-Door with the manual and its crawler gear there. We got the Everglades very muddy in Michigan (what, were you expecting Florida?) and the Raptor very airborne and sandy near Palm Springs.

As for the engines, the standard 2.3-liter gets the job done. It sounds pretty buzzy at low revs, but there’s sufficient highway passing power and diesel-like low-end grunt. The manual is a treat to use and we’d happily put up with the 2.3-liter buzz to row our own gears every day. It especially adds to the already elevated driver involvement and back-to-basics charm of the 2-Door (this author actually had more fun driving a 2-Door Badlands with the manual than I did with the Raptor). That said, the 10-speed auto is just as capable here as it is in other Fords – we just wish there were manual paddle shifters for situations when you want to stick with a specific gear. We’ve only had a chance to drive the 2.7-liter off-road, so apart from saying that it’s not a necessity given the perfectly capable 2.3, we also can fully appreciate what having all that extra power would mean, especially on the highway.

The Raptor obviously has even more, but we wouldn’t say it’s a particularly indulgent or absurd amount of thrust on hand. We were frankly expecting it to be a bit nuttier. There’s no denying its talents when driving in the very specific environment of high-speed desert driving where its ultra-wide track, enhanced structure and long-travel suspension allow you to do silly things and venture rugged places. That long-travel suspension is also a benefit on road where it delivers a surprisingly plush ride. The ultra-wide track is less helpful, though as it makes parking and maneuvering in a general a pain.

What other Ford Bronco reviews can I read?

2023 Ford Bronco Raptor First Drive Review: King of the Hill and the Hammers

Read all about how the Raptor differs from other Broncos and how it performs off-road.

 

2022 Ford Bronco Everglades First Drive Review: Half Bronco, half boat

Detailing how the Everglades differs from other Broncos, or rather, what bits and pieces it takes from other Broncos and what’s unique. 

 

2021 Ford Bronco First Drive Review

Our first and most comprehensive review of the Bronco, including drives of as many variations as we could manage: two-door, four-door, base trim level, fancy Outer Banks, and of course, the mighty Sasquatch package.

 

2021 Ford Bronco Manual Review | Creeping off-road with the crawler gear

We were one of the few outlets to drive a Bronco with the seven-speed manual, and specifically, we got to try out its crawler gear off-road. 

 

Ford Bronco Black Diamond Interior Review

A deep dive into the Black Diamond’s interior, which is comparable to the Big Bend as well. 

 

Luggage Test Comparison: Ford Bronco vs Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner and Land Rover Defender

We see how the Bronco 4-Door’s cargo area compares with the luggage-carrying capabilities of the Wrangler Unlimited, 4Runner TRD Pro and Land Rover Defender 110. 

 

Ford Bronco Suspension (Speculative) Deep Dive 

Contributing engineer/writer Dan Edmunds does his usual thing by diving deeply into the new Bronco’s underpinnings … albeit from afar using pictures rather than crawling under the thing while it’s parked in his driveway. 

2021 Ford Bronco

What is the 2023 Bronco price?

It’s been well-documented that Bronco prices are frequently inflated by dealer markups (especially the Raptor), so take these prices with the grain of salt. All prices below include the $1,595 destination charge.

Now some notes on the below trim levels. Both body styles are available in the same trim levels with two exceptions: the Everglades and Raptor are 4-door-only. As you’d expect, the Base is the bare-bones, back-to-basics Bronco. The Big Bend adds features and offers more options. The Black Diamond has similar comfort/convenience features, but gets extra off-road-oriented upgrades. The low-volume Heritage Edition (pictured below) also builds off the Big Bend, but comes standard with the Sasquatch package (more on that below) and unique, retro-inspired styling. The Outer Banks keeps the same standard mechanical setup and add more on-road-oriented and vaguely luxurious equipment. The Badlands gets a lot of those creature comforts, but is the extreme rock-crawler of the group. The Wildtrak is similarly equipped, but goes in a different off-road direction as a higher-speed desert runner with the standard V6. The Bronco Raptor is an even more extreme desert runner with even more power and significantly enhanced chassis and body. The Everglades is basically a Black Diamond with the Sasquatch package and unique appearance elements.  The Sasquatch package, available on most non-Raptor trims,  includes 17-inch alloy wheels (beadlock capable), 35-inch tires, high-clearance suspension and fender flares, and a 4.7:1 final drive ratio with electronic-locking front and rear axles.

2-Door

Base: $33,890
Big Bend: $37,880
Black Diamond: $40,545
Outer Banks: $43,450
Heritage Edition: $45,900
Badlands: $46,690
Wildtrak: $54,375

4-Door

Base: $36,445
Big Bend: $39,870
Black Diamond: $42,535
Outer Banks: $46,040
Heritage Edition: $47,890
Badlands: $48,980
Wildtrak: $55,915
Everglades: $55,490
Raptor: $75,375

What are the Bronco safety ratings and driver assistance features?

Every 2023 Ford Bronco includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking. It also comes standard with side curtain airbags, which may be totally normal for an SUV, but not for a convertible. The Wrangler doesn’t have them. It should also be noted that the side mirrors are attached to the body rather than the removable front doors, as on the Wrangler. 

Available on most trims is the Co-Pilot360 package that adds blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, plus lane-keeping assist. Adaptive cruise control is added with the Lux package offered on the Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak, Heritage and Raptor. 

The Bronco received a perfect five stars for overall, frontal and side crash protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Even its four-star rollover score is commendable. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the best-possible scores of “Good” in all crash tests and for its front crash-prevention system for vehicle-to-vehicle crashes. It got a slightly good score for vehicle-to-pedestrian crashes, plus a Marginal headlight score that prevented it from being named a Top Safety Pick.

Ford Bronco Information

Ford Bronco