Ford Bronco Badlands Review: Road Trip And Off-Roading In Sedona

Off Road Xtreme recently ran a road test and review of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport. We promised an upcoming feature on our experience with the all new full size Bronco, and here we have it. I received a 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands to test out for a few days. We ran it through the paces during a lengthy road trip and also took it on some challenging off-road trail adventures. The Bronco proved its merit and thanks to my colleague and co-dawg, Vinny Costa from Street Muscle Magazine, we have a video highlight to bring you along with us. 

Like most, I was a bit skeptical after learning about the new Bronco’s independent front suspension. But after pouring over the technical briefings and hearing all about the developmental process for this particular vehicle launch, I became more and more confident. Actually, Ford was quite informed and very methodical about what they were doing. It was evident that they had done their homework, listened to the enthusiast, and checked all the boxes about what the new Bronco was supposed to be.

We were super excited to see these new rigs being customized in the concept collaborations like the Riptide, and Vaughn Gittin Jr’s RTR Bronco. It stoked us even more to see hundreds of vehicle specific aftermarket parts being made available for further personalization. After taking our Bronco Badlands on a 1,300 mile road trip from Southern California to Sedona, Arizona and back, we are happy to bring you an overall positive report. 

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First Impressions Of The New Ford Bronco Badlands

The Bronco Badlands sits in the upper tier of the available trim packages. Ford is offering the full size Bronco in six different trims with the Wildtrak and First Edition as the only other options beyond the Badlands. The equipment features on this model can be directly comparable to what you might find on a Jeep Wrangler JL Rubicon with front and rear steel bumpers, a full vehicle protective skid plate system, steel rock rails, a front stabilizer bar disconnect, front and rear electronic locking differentials, and an advanced 4×4 system. 

Bronco BadLands compared to a WildTrak Sasquatch edition.

Our four-door Badlands was delivered in the deep shade of AntiMatter Blue Metallic and was decked out with the leather trim  and vinyl black interior. I found the bright orange trim and stitching to be rather pleasing and offset the dark interior purposefully. We can note that blue trim and stitching may be found on other packaged vehicles. Ford nailed down appropriate and available storage with useful net compartments, MOLLE strap system, a large center console, and glove box. 

I will say, as a very large adult male that stands nearly 6’5” tall and weighing in at 240 pounds, this truck is well suited to haul people of my stature. In the front, I could position myself in the large and prestigious feeling seat exactly where I wanted. In fact, the four-door vehicle’s 117.1-inch wheelbase left me with plenty of room in the back seats as well. 

Ford Bronco Badlands Interior Comforts

This truck had the Lux Package upgrade which meant a 12-inch touch screen, 360 degree camera view, connected navigation, adaptive cruise control, heated steering wheel & seat, 10 speaker & subwoofer B&O sound system, evasive steering, wireless charging pad, and a host of other modern technology comforts that you would only expect in a premium SUV.

Built as a 4×4 trail ready off-roader, the new Bronco is built with rugged and durable materials inside and out. Large grab handles are found conveniently for both driver and passengers all around the vehicle. The placement in the front seats was a little low and somewhat physically awkward for my liking. Anywhere in the vehicle where you might find a composed vehicle function, besides the luxuriously feeling steering wheel and shift knob, presented a rubberized grip or a textured surface to help with operation.

The Bronco has many intricate “easter egg” features an owner will enjoy. From the bucking bronco icon embossed on the steering wheel and bucket seats, to the Bronco logo typed all around the vehicle and the official looking Bronco tag mounted into the console. It is all very cool and authentic, especially the startup presentation featured on the monitor. One will, no doubt, soak it all up after getting the keys to their new pride and joy. 

To say this Bronco Badlands was loaded would be an understatement. With the four-door configuration and the hardtop, we had the perfect vehicle setup for an extended road trip. Speaking of that, I need to share just one problem I had. I tend to overpack.

Loading Up For A 1,300 Mile Road Trip

With just me and one other passenger, I knew we would have plenty of room in this full size SUV to haul all the gear we would need for the off-road adventure. However, there was one thing I had not counted on. The day before we departed, I went and picked up a Shiftpod XL space tent from a good friend and fellow off-road enthusiast. This particular heavy duty tent features a rapid deployment system and is totally insulated. Collapsed down it measures seven feet long, and I could have hauled it outside on the roof racks, but in the interest of conserving fuel we arranged to store all of our gear inside.

The cargo area nearly doubled after folding down the rear 60/40 split bench.

With the rear seat folded down and stored away, this opened all available cargo space which was quickly filled up first by a large Pelican ​​70QT Elite Cooler, the Shiftpod, some chairs, some fold up tables, some rifle cases, laptop computers, photography equipment, and our gear bags. We really filled it up, but mostly were constrained by the large Shiftpod and cooler. 

New Ford Bronco Open Road Handling Characteristics

Out on the open road, the full size Bronco proved that it truly was a modern SUV. You knew and felt like you were driving a real capable 4×4, but it did not feel like a Jeep at all. At speed, I felt totally in control. It was not bouncing around, and felt totally planted like a modern truck should. The Bilstein position-sensitive monotube shocks had the thing totally planted. It was comfortably impressive as a driver, easy to maneuver, and super responsive. 

2021 Ford Bronco

The turbocharged direct injection 2.3 liter Ecoboost I-4 engine mated to the 7-speed manual transmission was perfectly situated to haul-ass. Rated with 270 horsepower and 310 ft-lb of torque this thing raced through the gears up to highway speeds and gave me enough power to cruise without constantly shifting gears. I found it was gutsy enough to overtake other vehicles without having to downshift. The new Bronco is also available with a 10-speed automatic transmission and a larger 300 horsepower 2.7 liter Ecoboost. 

2021 Ford Bronco

For our 436 mile journey out to our camping destination, we averaged an estimated 17.4 miles per gallon. I probably could have done much better, but my preferred driving style does not conform to best fuel mileage characteristics.  

It should be noted that this new Bronco exterior profile and construction presented significant wind noise. I will say it was not obnoxious or any louder than a Jeep JL Wrangler or JT Gladiator. But, even with the optional sound deadening headliner added on this particular vehicle, it was apparent we were driving a configurable topless 4×4. It is a worthy trade off and one I will gladly accept. 

The Ford Bronco Badlands Is A Show Stopper!

Driving the full size Bronco got us a lot of attention. I have driven a lot of new vehicles and there is always some degree of excitement. This experience with the 2021 Bronco was totally unique with a constant flow of enthusiastic outreach. Every time we stopped, everywhere we went, there was a magnetic draw of attraction from bystanders to look, listen, and touch. It was pretty cool when we found different model Broncos around and set them up for a direct comparison.

I did my best to share and educate with anyone that was interested. We had more people getting in the driver’s seat, sticking their head in the wheel wells, and peaking under the hood than I want to admit. You could say it almost felt like we were driving a supercar.  It became clear to me that the Bronco is an iconic vehicle that has the heart of a diverse multitude of Americans for generations. 

Coming Into The Zone

During our trip, we ventured out on the Broken Arrow Trail located in the Sedona, Arizona region. Rated 8 out of 10 and moderately difficult by AZOffRoad.net, we found it to be a fun run with few challenging obstacles. The scenery in Sedona was absolutely breathtaking with many iconic landmarks. I would highly recommend spending several days to experience this amazing town and unique wilderness. 

The Broken Arrow Trail Head Featured informative singage

Our group consisted of twenty or so vehicles that were mostly all moderately to highly built for serious off-roading. Having never been to the area, I had no idea what to expect and was somewhat nervous for our bone stock Bronco. Either way I had no intentions to hold back. The group aired down and prepped up in the staging area. I opted to run 15 psi. in each of the Bronco’s all-terrain tires to give a little extra footprint, but was really aiming to put up a stress test.

The group pic!

Before I dive into the features, I will present the off-road ready stance. This thing sits up high like my preferred 4×4 would. I felt in command and had good visuals of the vehicle’s four corners. The Bronco Badlands is trail ready off the showroom floor with front and rear lockers, the swaybar disconnect, a low gear crawl control, downhill assist, Bilstein Shock Absorbers, and 33-inch all-terrain BFGoodrich Tires mounted to 17-inch machined wheels painted dark gray. As mentioned earlier, the bumpers, skid plates, and rock rails provided all the protection it needed.

How Does The New Ford Bronco Handle Serious Off-Road Obstacles?

Approach angle on the front is measured at 35.5 degrees, with a 20 degree breakover between the tires. Along with the rear 29.7 degree departure angle, meant the Bronco was mostly traversing over each trail without any contact. In fact, the front and rear bumpers were totally unscathed minus one driver error. I hit a deep gap head on when I should have dipped in one tire at a time. On the other hand, and by choosing to run the difficult and optional obstacles, we found a lack of ground clearance and were impacting the skid plates on occasion. It should be noted all of these approach, breakover, and departure numbers improve with the Sasquatch package. I believe most serious off-road enthusiasts will likely be upgrading to 35-inch tires or even 37-inch for my preferred sweet spot.

Ford’s engineers implemented a suite of modern off-road technology while making it conveniently simple to use as possible. The main functions included the Terrain Management with a G.O.A.T. mode dial selector. This is basically some pre-programmed presets that optimizes the vehicle performance through certain terrains. The swaybar disconnect and front & rear locker buttons were centered over the dash and were usefully uncomplicated to access. The Trail Turn Assist function was another gem that tightens the steering radius and uses the ABS to drag the inside rear wheel. It was an interesting feature that could be of great assistance in tight switchbacks and other precarious scenarios.

I played around with the different setups to see how they influenced the vehicle performance and capabilities. The trail seemed rather tame and the Bronco Badlands made easy work of it all. When we came across any obstacles, I went for it and found myself continually impressed and looking for another challenge.

Do Not Get Overwhelmed, Just Get Educated

At the end of the day, with all of the technology and advanced vehicle controls, it was a little overwhelming as I just had not had much time to familiarize myself. I did find that Ford put out a load of information to explain it all and help owners walk through it. 

Does The New Ford Bronco Badlands Make The Cut?

One thing I was not used to, and felt awkward to operate was the electronic parking e-brake. This caused me a bit of trouble after we came off the trail. Back in the staging area, I had parked the vehicle while airing up the tires. I engaged the parking brake and left the vehicle running in neutral with the air conditioning on, since it was warm out. 

After refilling all the tires up to proper PSI, I came back to the vehicle to see an error or warning indicating the e-brake had a malfunction or overheated. This seemed to resolve itself when I placed the vehicle in gear, but the concern was if I had disengaged it or not. The warning error popped up intermittently for the remainder of the trip. Perhaps this was a pre-production issue, but we shall see. For serious off-roading in steep terrain, I would feel an old fashioned mechanical parking brake is in order. Our only other issue with the vehicle was the flimsy twang that the pillar-less windows present when opening and closing the doors. 

Besides that, the new Bronco is impressive and seems to measure up to the hype. Our Bronco Badlands was super refined inside and trail ready on the outside. As a lifelong off-road enthusiast, and after putting the Bronco through the ringer as best we could, I can appreciate what Ford has accomplished with this new vehicle. Off Road Xtreme gives our thumbs up and appreciates that the new Bronco does more than adequate justice to honor the nameplate. 

2021 Bronco Badlands

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About the author

Micah Anderson

Micah is a 20 year authority in the off-road industry with extensive experience founded on marketing, events, and racing. Professionally skilled in all things creative, Micah is passionate about faith, freedom, and anything powered by adventure.
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