Sometimes a new vehicle surprises us on debut, but then our enthusiasm wanes—the 10Best has been littered with magic for a year. The Ford Bronco isn’t one of them. Even though the craze is fading and Broncos are now a common sight, we’re still in awe of this SUV, which combines the best of open-air off-road cutting with tolerable highway behavior. You know what? The whole idea of independent front suspension is probably going to be a hit.
Credit Ford for keeping the fire going even though the latest Bronco is still relatively new and very popular. Recent additions to the lineup include a retro Heritage model, an Everglades swamp creature, and the all-around Raptor, which reaches 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and is equipped with tires that would make him proud King of the Hammers competition. Ford hasn’t neglected its existing owners either, releasing an upgrade that brings the 2.3-liter inline-four to 330 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque and adds rev-matching for the manual transmission for just $825. Speaking of manual transmissions, Ford heard Bronco fans complaining that the Sasquatch off-road package wasn’t available with a manual, and Blue Oval made that happen. We were optimistic that if we repeated our “Bronco V-8, Bronco V-8” mantra long enough, it would become a reality.
Even if not, the Bronco offers variety. Minimalists can get a four-cylinder two-door model with steel wheels. Realists might opt for a four-door Outer Banks and pavement courtesy. And survivors can park the Everglades, with their winches and snorkels, in their bug-out complex.
All Bronco models share a commitment to fun, an attitude that driving should be a good time. Removing the Bronco doors is easy, as is removing the top. The interior looks good but could tolerate a hurricane. Ford is even building a series of Bronco off-road playgrounds across the country, Off-Roadeos. That alone tells you the purpose of the Bronco goes beyond anodyne transport. Broncos are supposed to provide a bit of excitement every time you fire them up. And in its third model year, it sure still is.