While the most die-hard Bronco owners are eager take their new steeds across the sands of Baja and up the mountains of Moab, many have never left the relative safety of the pavement. Ford Motor Co. designed the Bronco to make off-roading easy even for first-timers, and for those who don’t go to the Off-Roadeo driving school. It’s that ease that most struck me when I took the SUV though the mud, ruts and rocks of Texas Hill Country last month.
Here are five features that made me feel like an expert on my inaugural off-roading experience.
1. Hero switches: Ford essentially made an off-road “easy button” for the Bronco with a row of hero switches at the top of the dashboard. There’s one each to lock the front and rear differentials, allowing both wheels on an axle to rotate at the same speed and evenly apply the same power to conquer rough terrain. A “trail turn assist” switch locks the inside rear wheel while turning to create a pivot point, helping the Bronco around tight corners. On some models, there also is a front stabilizer bar disconnect switch, which gives the vehicle better articulation over rough terrain.
2. One-pedal/no-pedal driving: Models with the optional 2.7-liter V-6 engine have one-pedal mode, which automatically applies the brakes when the driver eases off the accelerator. It’s supposed to make climbing up rough, uneven rock faces easier by taking the guesswork out of when to brake — and it takes some getting used to. But as a novice off-roader, I found that if my brain didn’t have to worry about when to move my foot from one pedal to the other, I could better concentrate on steering, or listening to the trail guide, as I maneuvered up the bigger rocks.
The Bronco also has a feature called “trail control,” a sort of off-road cruise control that pushes the vehicle along at a low, set speed so the driver can focus on steering up or down hills.