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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Ford Bronco Raptor Is Its Wildest 4×4 Yet

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Ford revived the Bronco in 2021 with the goal of dethroning the Jeep Wrangler as America’s off-roading SUV of choice. After two years of reviews and critiques from the 4×4 community—mostly revolving around the pros and cons of a solid front axle—the highly anticipated Raptor package now establishes Bronco as king of the four-wheeling landscape.

The so-called “Braptor” recipe employs many of the ingredients that cemented Ford’s F-150 Raptor as America’s go-to off-roading pickup. In lots of ways, the Bronco Raptor more closely resembles an F-150 than its lower-spec brethren: a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 pumps 418 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque to 37-inch tires through a 10-speed automatic and fully locking differentials front and rear. A disconnecting front sway bar and impressive set of 3.1-inch Fox LiveValve shocks allow for increased wheel articulation.

Front view of orange Ford Bronco 4x4
Courtesy Image

The Bronco allows owners to customize their drive settings in addition to the seven standard GOAT modes, an ambiguous acronym that apparently stands for “Goes Over Any Terrain,” though devotees might apply “Greatest Of All Time,” as well. The Fox dampers can quickly firm up or soften with a button on the steering wheel, as can the steering assist. Push another button and the exhaust valves open to full flow, which brings up a prompt on the upgraded gauge cluster (also cribbed from the F-150) that stipulates Baja mode is “For off-road use only.” Best to heed that advice, lest you upset the neighbors.

All those extras pay off. From the driver’s seat of a Bronco Raptor, the gnarliest rock-crawling trails and highest sand dunes look merely pedestrian—select the right GOAT mode, mash the throttle and get a move on. But the biggest revelations are the on-road driving dynamics. Despite knobby tires measuring 12.5 inches wide, the Bronco Raptor drives more like a sports car than a Jeep. Setting the shocks to Sport drops body roll to almost zero. All-terrain tires from BFGoodrich, rather than mud-terrains, hint at how many owners Ford believes will ever go off-roading. After all, the 1 percent or so who do will probably swap on mud-terrains anyway—40-inchers should fit just fine.

Orange Ford Bronco 4x4 speeding over dusty desert
Courtesy Image

Given the eye-popping dealer markups (MSRP is $68,500), most buyers will probably end up choosing between a Mercedes- AMG G63, Land Rover Defender or Bronco Raptor for their gritty grocery-getter. For those who simply require the very best off-roader ever to leave a Detroit factory, be it for the toughest trails or most technical mall crawling, Ford has delivered a Bronco that threatens to render all other 4x4s obsolete.

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