2021 Ford Bronco Black Diamond new car reviews

Photography by Tim Suddard

Don't worry, we haven't turned into Grassroots Offroadsports just yet–but we couldn't pass on the opportunity to drive one of the Jeep Wrangler's key competitors.

Our tester was a four-door Black Diamond model fitted with the 2.3-liter inline-four and seven-speed manual transmission.

Other staff views

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard
Publisher Emeritus

Everyone seems to want a Jeep-like vehicle these days. This Jeep craze, especially in some parts of the country–most notably the South–is truly palpable.

The old saying goes something like, “if you have to ask why, you are never going to get it.”

Well, we don’t really get it. Sure, if you are going on an African Safari, you might need a vehicle like this. For driving to work, you really don’t.

Why? Because most of the vehicles in this genre ride a bit rough, have too much wind noise, get pretty terrible gas mileage and are neither as practical as a real SUV or as comfortable to drive as a sedan.

What we do understand is that this category of vehicle is considered “macho” and the club support is off the charts. So, really, who are we to discourage club participation? It’s just the wrong club for us.

Now that we got that off our chest, let‘s take a look at the Bronco.

Two Broncos, Not Just One

The first thing you must understand is that Ford, in their infinite wisdom, has two distinctly different Bronco models. (Since Ford has sold thousands of both models, though, there is obviously more wisdom there than we can't see.)

First, we have the Bronco Sport which is based on the unibody C2 platform. This is the basic platform used to build the Escape and the new Maverick pickup (which we recently reviewed and liked very much).

As you can see from the photos of the two vehicles next to each other, the Bronco uses an entirely different body-on-frame chassis from the Ranger pickup.

So, the Bronco Sport is a cute, practical little SUV whereas the Bronco we tested is closer to a real truck–towing capacity and all.

Speaking of towing capacity, the Bronco with the 275 horsepower, 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine can tow 3500 pounds, with the 2.7-liter V6 engine rated for 4500 pounds. For comparison, the Ranger pickup is rated to tow 7500 pounds.

So, is the Bronco Hateful?

Despite not being fans of the genre, there are some things we found to really like about the Bronco. As a whole, it’s tough looking and rather attractive in a butch kind of way.

Egress and ingress are relatively easy and, once inside, the stylistically simple cabin is functional and not uncomfortable.

Our vehicle was equipped with a 6-speed manual with a 7th crawling gear. While were thrilled to see a manual transmission–and it shifted well and added to the sportiness of the Bronco–the upper gears were not well-suited to the lack of low-end torque out of the four-cylinder engine.

In first through third gears, the Bronco truly ripped, but in top gears, we had to downshift to maintain momentum on even the smallest of hills.

We would assume if you opted for the larger engine, this would be less of an issue.

Other than the ride quality–which was decent for a truck, but too rough for a car–our only other real complaint was wind noise. The Bronco is configured with removable roof panels, which is novel for a trip to the beach, but not so much when traveling on the interstate.

Offroad, the Bronco is uber-capable. A brief offroad foray seemed to improve the ride quality, and the all-wheel-drive system offers a feeling that the Bronco can seemingly go anywhere.

Other note-worthy features include tie-down points, a plug in the middle of the rubber floor mat to let water back out and true low range on the transfer case.

We drove the Bronco about 600 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Dubuque, Iowa. We took mostly back roads and averaged a rather disappointing 20 mpg.

As sports car people, we should–and do–appreciate a passion for impractical vehicles. Overall, the Bronco is not that impractical and certainly looks great and is kind of a guilty pleasure to drive.

If you need a small truck, the sub $30,000 Maverick is a way better proposition than the $40,000+ Bronco. And if you are thinking the Bronco Sport looks nearly the same as the Bronco, just with a better ride and a lower price tag, think again. While the ride might be better, you are still paying for the Bronco panache, as prices are in the high thirties.

Would we buy one? Probably not. Would we tell our friends we got to drive one for a week? Quite possibly.

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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
9/19/22 2:39 p.m.

I briefly considered the possibility of a four-door Bronco as the next family hauler, but then I realized that I wouldn't be taking it offroad nearly enough to do it justice.

APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
9/19/22 3:43 p.m.

I have absolutely no use for a vehicle like the Bronco but, I wish I did.  There's something about them that I find really appealing.


Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/19/22 3:50 p.m.

They push buttons in the part of our brain that makes us stop every time we come across a Hot Wheels sales rack. I have to say that if I were looking for an off-roader that was new, I'd give them a good solid eyeballing. 2 door for me.

buzzboy SuperDork
9/19/22 3:57 p.m.

I spent a lot of time cross-shopping manual transmission 4x4s. At first when the Bronco was announced I thought, "this vehicle will be my replacement for the XJ." After reading up on specs, dimensions, capacities etc I was realizing the Bronco isn't as practical as the JLU. On top of that the Jeep can be had with a manual transfer case and manual windows. The 2door Bronco though, is a sexy thing!

earlybroncoguy1 Reader
9/19/22 9:26 p.m.
irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/19/22 10:29 p.m.

So here's something interesting. The girl at work who often parks near me has a 6-month-old Bronco. Like all the rest, it has the loops at the front of the hood for the branch risers (doubt 95% of Bronco owners know what those are actually for.....but that's not the point). Anyhow, the branch riser things have inserts or something held in by some screws, and on hers after 6 months the screws are rusty as hell (not sure if they're supposed to have a cap over them or what, but they don't).

One would think that exterior screws (or probably philips bolts) would be stainless on a new vehicle, but apparently not?

This thing, Can you take a look at yours and see if it has exposed screws, or a cover plate, or what? I'm curious every time I see hers. 

classicJackets (FS)
classicJackets (FS) SuperDork
9/20/22 7:58 a.m.

In reply to irish44j (Forum Supporter) :

Stainless is not likely to happen, but they should have coatings that meet durability requirements, including corrosion. Does seem weird that they would allow something out that would be rusty in such short time. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/20/22 9:29 a.m.

It's part of the retro thing. 

earlybroncoguy1 Reader
9/20/22 1:56 p.m.

In reply to irish44j (Forum Supporter) :

Ford refers to them as "trail sights", they're positioned right over the centerline of the front wheels, so the driver has a point of reference where the tires are when negotiating obstacles. At least, that's the explanation given by the instructor when I went on the Bronco "Off-Roadeo" (yes, that's how they spell it). And, having driven a Bronco during that, and mine, on some trails where you really want a tire on THAT rock, yeah, they help.

As far as the rust goes, not surprised - thousands of Broncos sat out on Dirt Mountain for months, in all kinds of weather, waiting on chips until they could be shipped. Some of them are still there. At least the bolts can be easily replaced (or painted, or powdercoated, or whatever).     

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
9/20/22 2:31 p.m.

In reply to irish44j (Forum Supporter) :

As far as close-ups, this is what I what able to find between our photography and Ford's press photography:

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