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Ford Bronco Outer Banks review: what’s the sensible Bronco like in the UK?

Published: 07 Dec 2021

What’s a new Ford Bronco doing in the UK? Can you buy one in Limeyland now?

Not officially. Sorry. Ford has not yet elected to add the Bronco 4x4 to European price lists, like it did when the Mustang went right-hand drive and voyaged across The Pond.

While Brits have enough of a penchant for V8 muscle cars to make that worth Ford’s while, Ford seems sceptical that enough buyers would shrug off their Land Rovers and BMW X-things to clamber into a Blue Oval adventure truck. Maybe seeing a few on the road will change that.

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So how have you got one somewhere un-American?

Wales, to be exact. Well, just because Ford won’t go to the trouble of selling Broncos in the UK, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. 

So this example comes courtesy of Clive Sutton Cars. Yep, the London-based dealer which has previously concocted its own tuned Mustangs is now importing Broncos for curious Brits. We had to have a go. 

So this one’s for sale right now? Hope you got it clean.

Yes, one careful owner and all that. Anyway, what’s interesting here is the spec. This is a very different flavour of Bronco from the one we tried in its homeland back in the summer of 2021.

How so?

Well, Top Gear being Top Gear, our first impression of the Bronco was the monstrous Sasquatch spec, which rides on enormous 35-inch tyres that wouldn’t look out of place on a post-apocalyptic piece of farmyard machinery. Its jacked up suspension is supported by Bilstein shocks, while electronic locking front diffs appear front and rear.

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The Sasquatch pack is a near-$5,000 option across the range, and certainly produces the most outrageous, cartoonish-looking Bronco. The version we’ve borrowed here doesn’t have the Sasquatch box ticked. And instead of a V6, it’s packing the basic 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine. 

What does ‘Outer Banks’ mean?

That’s a trim level. A middling one. All the Bronco trim titles are fun: starting from the base spec, there’s Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands and the top-spec Wildtrack. Outer Banks costs just under $40,000 for a three-door and is billed as the one for ‘off-roading in style’. 

It looks rather subtle…

Yep, without the extended wheelarches and balloon tyres the Bronco is a much more discreet beast. In a dark colour with its tasteful two-tone alloys it blends into a chocolate-box Welsh hill village. Well, if it fits. This is a notably large machine. 

The ‘hood handles’ or trail sight ridges at the corners of the bonnet do help sight the car – they’re intended to be most useful on a tight off-road track but are most helpful in the Waitrose car park. 

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I must have one. How much?

This one’s for sale at Clive Sutton for £75,000, which is top-end Defender and Discovery money. Importing bargains from Stateside often erodes the value for money temptation, and it’s the same story here. 

Still, if you’re bored waiting for your non-existent Tesla Cybertruck (and who can blame you?) this is one way of getting some rare-groove, go-anywhere American tin on your driveway. You’re unlikely to see another one on the school run. 

How’s performance?

Adequate, but dispel any notions that because this is an American car, it’s got fourteen times more horsepower than it can strictly contain. The EcoBoost engine is rated at 300bhp and 325lb ft, but the smothering effect of the 10, yes ten-speed automatic gearbox rather muffles any sense of, well, boost. 

As standard, you get a seven-speed manual – first is a low-range crawler gear for climbing steep grades. The automatic gets the same claimed fuel economy of 21 miles per US gallon. 

You don’t get shift paddles, but there’s an up/down toggle on the gear selector itself. There’s no reason for the lever to feel like the thrust controller for a space station, but it does. 

Is the interior a bit of a joke?

Nope, it’s actually pleasingly fit for purpose. Everything has that tough, rubberised texture. It feels like you’re sitting in one of those indestructible mobile phone cases that can survive being hit with a sledgehammer and immersed in an ice bath. 

Land Rover Defender-style grab handles bookend the dashboard, which is topped with a GoPro-or-similar camera mount and features two fairly low-rent screens: one for driving information, the other Ford’s ageing 8-inch SYNC touchscreen. A Mustang Mach-E, it is not. 

Six auxiliary switches hang from the ceiling, for controlling campsite electrical equipment or extra spotlights. Even if nothing’s attached, they’re just fun to flick, while doing your best airline pilot’s voice. Seatbelt signs on…

All steering wheel switchgear is via rubber pads. So too the centrally mounted window and mirror switches. No electrical controls are left on the doors, because the doors are removable. How often a UK-based, non-Sasquatch Bronco will have its doors unbolted (they’ll fit in the boot, but leave the mirrors on the A-pillar) is debatable. Still, thanks to all the waterproof buttons, it’s hose-downable. 

Build quality actually feels remarkably solid. The dated screens might not stand the test of time, but the rest of the Bronco’s cabin feels built to absorb punishment. You won’t wince when the kids climb aboard with muddy shoes, spraying crumbs and snot around like ectoplasm.

What if I fancy some fresh air but want to keep the doors in place?

Peel back the roof. Two chunky clasps release the front part of the canvas lid, which then folds back like a giant can of mackerel. It’s not altogether graceful to behold, and even with the roof in place the Bronco has a whiff of the infamous Top Gear convertible people carrier about it. 

The entire roof and rear window assemblies are fully detachable, if you fancy an incredibly butch successor to the Citroen Pluriel. We don’t. It’s a fiddle to remove and cumbersome to rebuild. 

Any good on the road?

With only a brief drive on country lanes it’s unfair to be definitive, but the Bronco steers obediently and the body control is decent – it doesn’t lurch or wallow in corners like, well, an old Bronco would. Euro-friendly as this powertrain package is, it’s crying out for a lustier engine than the bland 2.3-litre four-pot. 

It’s not buzzy or harsh, but a Bronco is a characterful 4x4, and this engine is a white good. We’d prefer a V6. Or a V8.

What’s it like off-road?

It’s a lot to live up to. The mode selector for all your mud-plugging settings is branded ‘G.O.A.T’ – that’s Go Over Any Terrain, though there’s obviously a nod to ‘Greatest Of All Time’ there. Strong. 

But on its 18-inch rim-shod Bridgestone Duellers, the Bronco feared to tread where a Land Rover Defender would happily paddle. It lacked ultimate ground clearance. It’s considerably less intelligent at shuffling drive between wheels when it senses traction being lost, spinning wheels and losing its footing where a Landie calmly considers the situation and strides forth unhindered. 

But if I really want to get stuck into my green-laning, I’ll get a Sasquatch pack, right?

Indeed, and it really appears that’s where the Bronco is happiest, specced out as the full freedom-with-a-side-of-root-beer monster truck. The Outer Banks looks and behaves like a pulled punch, more workmanlike and rudimentary than a European 4x4 but not quite as capable either.

As with so many American cars, the recipe for the best Bronco is to go big, or go home. 

Ford Bronco 2.3 Outer Banks four-door

$41,700 (£75,000 imported to Britain)
2.3-litre 4cyl, 300bhp, 325lb ft
10spd auto, AWD
0-60mph in 8.8sec, n/a mph
21mpg US, n/a CO2

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