There’s something about a convertible that improves the driving experience. It’s ironic that so many of the earliest car models were either convertibles or simply didn’t have a top at all (presumably making them terrible to drive in bad weather!). Throughout my life, however, I’ve only ever had one vehicle that came close, my Toyota Supra with its wonderful targa top. I rarely had the top installed, much preferring to have the open air above me, and a leisurely drive through the Redwood Forest with the top off remains one of my favorite driving memories. Even SUV owners and off-roaders aren’t immune to the appeal of the convertible, though with the requirement for tougher and safer vehicles – in case of rollover, ‘natch – they tend to be more “frames” than a completely roofless vehicle. Jeep has certainly sold a lot of its Rubicon 4×4 that people drive sans doors and roof, and no wonder, they’re really fun to drive!
Ford relaunched the Bronco line a few years ago and since then has also been exploring different trim kits and design extensions to its O.G. 3-door sports ute. In fact, the Bronco has gone through five generations of design, starting as a two-door + hatch that included a CB radio and had a base price of $2,195. Ford stopped making Broncos as people kept migrating to the Explorer back in 1997 and it reappeared with a completely new five-door design in 2021. The new Bronco, of course, also sports all the latest SUV safety and design features. The Bronco definitely has much more history than just about any other SUV on the road today.
When Ford offered me a chance to spend some time behind the wheel of a 2022 Ford Bronco 4-door Advanced 4×4 with the Everglades trim package, I was psyched. It’s fun to drive and a real head-turner of a design (including a snorkel on the passenger side for deep water fording, as needed):
It’s also pretty rough around the edges, something that I encountered again and again as I drove throughout Colorado during my Bronco week. Wireless Apple CarPlay, for example, worked great until it didn’t, at which point I couldn’t get the vehicle to recognize my iPhone 14 Pro, whether I plugged it directly in via a wire or even just wanted to use it via Bluetooth. I had to delete the phone from the infotainment system and the Bronco from the phone and re-pair it.
More intriguingly, like many modern cars, the Bronco features an AI-powered camera system behind the rear-view mirror that recognizes speed limit signs. Except when it doesn’t: Signs in my neighborhood that have a speed limit and a radar display below that shows your current speed confused it, with the display often showing my current speed as the speed limit rather than the actual posted speed limit. I have a picture of one of these signs to the right.
As every Telsa owner knows, having the latest tech and having the latest tech work exactly to spec aren’t always the same thing (is that an unfair bit of snark? Maybe) and neither of these were show-stoppers with the Bronco, but when you’re driving a vehicle from a company that prides itself on its technological capabilities, it is a bit of a surprise.
Then there’s the extraordinary complexity of actually popping off the roof panels, but… let’s talk about some of the good features, because there really are a lot, starting with a rugged dashboard design:
There’s a lot to like about the vehicle design, though certain design constraints do lead to surprising choices in functionality. For example, look at the driver’s door and how few controls there are. Why? Because you can pop off the door, so less electronics = better from a reliability perspective. Missing on the door are window controls, which is a bit disconcerting when first entering the vehicle. Those controls are in the center console, as I’ll show momentarily.
Wondering about the presence of the mustang on the steering wheel, rather than the usual Ford logo? Turns out that the original Bronco was designed by Donald N. Frey, the Ford designer who also gave us the Mustang, so I presume it’s an homage. It appears a number of times, including on the wheels. The Everglades package also includes a big “Everglades” sticker on the sides that features the mythic cryptid Sasquatch. In fact, at least one person asked me if I was driving the “Sasquatch” edition. That, however, is probably not an homage to Mr. Frey.
While most modern vehicle dashboards seek to integrate a long, narrow infotainment display, I appreciated that the Bronco offered a solid, square screen that offered just as many square inches of display, but in a more utilitarian manner. The main gauge area was where the designers had their most fun, offering a startingly modern information display:
No tachometer – it’s a 10-speed automatic! – and a display that could be straight out of a Playstation-5 driving game. Notice the fuel economy too; I ultimately averaged 18.0 mpg across my few hundred miles of driving, which is nothing great, but for a big, heavy SUV with 3,500 pounds of towing capacity, it’s not bad either. Now, did you look closely? Turns out that there is a tachometer display, it’s just radically different than anything you’ve seen: it’s the bar graph to the right of speed, currently showing 1.3 [thousand] RPM. I really, really liked that display!
The center console offered the various 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive modes, the so-called G.O.A.T. modes:
G.O.A.T. stands for Goes Over Any Terrain, not Greatest Of All Time, just so we’re clear. Notice that behind the control are the window controls, all centrally located. It’s a bit disconcerting to have them there not on the individual doors, but I think this was decided based on minimizing problems post door removal. This also means that the side mirror controls are on this central armrest area too, something that it probably takes new owners a while to figure out.
One standout design touch that a lot of other vehicles that are commonly tricked out could borrow is the row of AUX switches on the top of the windshield frame:
These might look like toggle switches out of a Boeing 747 but they’re actually unassigned buttons that you can connect to specific third-party accessories like lights to customize your own Bronco. A very cool idea, though I was a bit anxious to touch them until I’d done a bit more research!
While we’re looking at the roof, I have to admit I was eager to pop off the top (though the weather was pretty mediocre) until I watched this video about how to accomplish the task: How to Remove the Top. It’s a two-person job and requires special tools and about 30 minutes to complete. My old Supra targa? One person and maybe 90 seconds total. In any case, the roof visibly is broken into panels and they have rather heavy-duty locks:
More importantly, what you don’t see is any sort of roof insulation (which makes sense given that you can pop the top off). This means that the vehicle is loud and the road noise is quite noticeable even at modest speeds. At highway speed it was difficult to have a conversation with people in the back of the vehicle due to this road noise. Since we had a great sound system, this just meant we cranked the ‘tunes, but it’s worth noting you can’t both have a removable top and a quiet drive in the Bronco lineup.
This also meant that the rear cargo area with its retro side-hinged lower door had most of its space consumed by storage units for those panels:
At one point I need to haul some pretty big items which I ended up putting on the back seat due to the rear compartment already being full of these bags. If I owned the Bronco, these would probably be on a shelf in my garage unless I was planning on popping the top. Also notice that the spare tire is on the rear door, not stashed underneath the cargo mat or vehicle, as with most SUVs.
Legroom? Adequate unless you’re going to have a tall driver and adults in the back seats, in which case it might feel a bit too much like the passengers are flying coach for a comfortable multi-hour drive. On the other hand, at least they’d be traveling in style…
Did I mention that the seats are all manually adjusted too? Bit of a pain for the driver’s seat and something that might well surprise you on a vehicle with a $56,000+ price tag.
Ultimately, there was so much to like about the 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades, it’s easy to forget the design quirks, noisy drive and tech hiccups. With its 2.3L EcoBoost engine, it’s powerful and fun to drive, gets lots of compliments (and waves from friendly fellow Bronco drivers) and is a vehicle with a history, unlike most of the SUVs on the road today. If you can live with its personality, this is definitely a sports utility vehicle to check out closer when you’re next in the market.
2022 Ford Bronco 4×4 Everglades Edition in Cactus Gray with Onyx Vinyl Seats, powered by a 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 Engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. MSRP: $53,000, Options Included: Connected Built-In Nav, On-Vehicle Storage Top & Door Bags, Towing Kit, Slide-Out Tailgate. AS DRIVEN: $56,835.00.
Disclosure: Ford loaned me the Bronco for a week in return for this candid writeup. Thanks, Ford!