2022 Ford Bronco Outer Banks Review - Mall Crawler or Blank Slate?
2022 Ford Bronco 2-Door Outer Banks
The popular image of Henry Ford must be rolling over in its gilded grave at the proliferation of option packages and customization choices available these days. Of course, I’m talking about his ode to speeding up mass production – “Any color, so long as it is black” being the supposed mantra to make the Model T line move more efficiently.
While most automakers don’t let you run quite as wild with the options list as one might have in the Sixties, some cars do offer a dazzling array of options packages and standalone features allowing you to “customize” your vehicle to your anticipated needs. The 2022 Ford Bronco seen here is one of the most prolific in that regard, offering (by my count) eight different trim levels taking the offroader from mild to Wild(trak) and beyond.
This two-door Outer Banks trim sits somewhere in the middle of the lineup – it offers more luxury and convenience features than the base trims while wearing a set of road-focused, somewhat low profile all-terrain tires and 18” wheels compared to the sixteen and seventeen inchers found on the more hardcore models. Could the Outer Banks be the Goldilocks package?
Some readers will recall that roughly a year ago, my wife and I purchased a Jeep Wrangler – and not the Rubicon package. No, ours is a Freedom edition, which is a decal package and a few lux features atop a midrange Sport S trim. So, I’m rather well versed in off-road vehicles that aren’t all that dirt-focused.
This Outer Banks trim eschews the usual flat-black fenders of most other trims and paints them body color. That paired with the heated and optionally leather-trimmed seats and the lower-profile all-terrain tires signal that this truck might not be the ideal first choice for those who want to get muddy. Indeed, I got stuck in some mud, requiring a tug out of a pit. These tires are rather quiet on the freeway and I’m sure would do fine when the trails are dry, but if I were to end up putting an Outer Banks Bronco in my driveway I’d be considering a more appropriate tire and wheel package very quickly.
The optional 2.7-liter turbo V6 found here is wonderful to drive, and I didn’t find a significant difference in fuel economy to the last four-cylinder Bronco I’ve driven, as I’ve averaged just under 20mpg in my time with both. The four does allow a manual transmission, while the six is two-pedal only for those who partake, but I was happy with the ten-speed automatic here, as the shifts feel quick and well-matched to road speed with minimal hunting for ratios while on the road.
In my experience driving recent generations of the Wrangler, as well as a couple of iterations of this latest Bronco, the independent front suspension certainly shines on road. I’ve found that the traditional solid axle on the Jeep likes to wander a bit on the freeway – and this tendency is amplified on the short-wheelbase two-door model. I’m not as bothered by the highway manners of the four-door Wrangler, but the two-door Jeep feels much less confident than this two-door Bronco while cruising.
I felt so comfortable in the two-door Bronco, in fact, that I’d often look down at the digital display and find myself twenty-plus MPH over the posted limit, which is an absolute no-no here in Ohio. Oops. Quickly enough, I adapted and began to recognize the seemingly exponential increase in wind noise as an auditory reminder to slack off the right foot, as even with the optional ($495) sound-deadening headliner fitted to the hardtop, it gets quite loud inside.
I was, however, surprised how well the kids (15 and 13 now) fit in the back seat, once the complaints of clambering over a folded front seat subsided. Ask me today, and I’d be picking a four-door Bronco – but in five years when the youngest is (crosses fingers and prays to the gods of financial aid) off to college, I think I could get by very nicely with this two-door.
The front seats here are miles better than those fitted to the Wrangler – as they have actual lumbar support. I could easily drive all day in a Bronco without complaint. It seems, however, that I never actually photographed the seats. Did I get them too muddy when I got stuck? Did I soil myself and the leather beyond all recognition? You’ll never know.
Controls are laid out nicely, though the nubbin for controlling the powered side mirrors isn’t the most intuitive if I’m nitpicking. Generally, unless you share the Bronco with someone of wildly different stature you won’t be adjusting mirrors that often — so I don’t see it as a huge downside.
Incidentally, I wonder about the culture that will develop around the new Bronco. After all, the clear competitor Wrangler has had decades with which to build a fraternity of owners, all raising a hand in acknowledgment of other Jeep drivers with the Jeep wave.
Will there be a similar brotherhood among Bronco owners? The cynic in me considers the single-finger salute as a possible substitution – after all, I know that every time I mention a Bronco to our own Adam Tonge, who (check my math) ordered a new Bronco sometime during the Reagan administration and still hasn’t seen it, is mentally flipping me off.
Let’s hope Adam gets his Bronco soon, because it’s a damned good truck. When our lease is up, you can be sure we will be looking at a Ford Bronco as a potential replacement. But I’m probably choosing something other than the Outer Banks trim.
[Images: © 2022 Chris Tonn]