One of the first things I asked for when I rejoined Motor1.com was to drive a string of vehicles from Ford. All things automotive changed a lot from the summer of 2018 (when I stopped reviewing cars) to the fall of 2021 (when press cars started showing up in my driveway again), and the changes to the Ford lineup in that time are endemic to the industry.
Getting caught up on the latest flavor of F-150, and potential segment leaders like Mustang Mach-E and Maverick was a priority for me. I also just really really wanted to get into the Bronco, like seemingly everyone else in America. So why not check off a bunch of blue ovals in the process?
Is anyone selling a more diverse set of SUVs and trucks than Ford right now? Of course you can buy pickups in small, medium, large and extra large form factors, across three nameplates. But Ford trucks also offer a diversity of powertrain: a low-output, high-efficiency hybrid and a high-output lower-efficiency hybrid, plus traditional gas and diesel ICE powerplants that range in rating from under 200 horsepower to over 700.
The SUV lineup is entirely more conventional and less differentiated from the competition than the trucks, but compelling nevertheless because of the energy around Bronco. The baby Bronco Sport sold in six-digit volumes in 2021, despite industry-wide production constraints. The big Bronco, meanwhile, has been a critical darling and Internet phenom, even with some controversy around its convertible tops and general weathertightness.
Don’t sleep on the low-key electrification across all of Ford. No fewer than seven nameplates – Maverick, Escape, E-Transit, Mach-E, Explorer, F-150, and Lightning – make use of electric drive in part or full.
Of course, the Mustang Mach-E and the upcoming F-150 Lightning have been the topic of many car people conversations in the recent past, with the former propelling Ford’s ranking in EV mindshare. But don’t sleep on the low-key electrification across all of Ford. No fewer than seven nameplates – Maverick, Escape, E-Transit, Mach-E, Explorer, F-150, and Lightning – make use of electric drive in part or full.
Finally, there are a lot of Mustangs. That’s fantastic, and I hope to drive all of them as the weather starts to turn warmer here in Michigan. But sports cars in general, and Ford cars specifically, have never been further from the American driving zeitgeist than right now.
You don’t have to be an off-road driving enthusiast to “get” the Ford Bronco. It does help to be a child of the ‘80s though, I think.
Honestly, it didn’t take much more than five minutes behind the wheel of the Cyber Orange (to my eyes, yellow) Outer Banks edition Bronco for me to be thoroughly charmed. The turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder is willing and punchy, the cabin feels expedition ready, the view across the flat expanse of hood gives one that Master of My Domain feeling, and bounding body motions over any surface irregularities are the motoring equivalent of a labrador puppy.
The experience reminded me almost instantly of growing up in CJ Jeeps, Bronco IIs, and K5 Blazers. I think that’s the magic: This Bronco has modernized the feeling of driving old-school SUVs, almost without, it seems, the pretension of making it a reasonable daily driver ala Wrangler or 4Runner. All id, no ego, as it were.
In that regard, the Bronco is probably Ford’s simplest current execution of a vehicular idea. Even Mustang and F-150, dedicated as versions maybe be to the ideals of track performance or work performance, are compromised to the benefit of folks who’ll drive them daily.
The Bronco seems unconcerned with daily driving. It’s loud and rough on the highway, it achieves dreadful fuel economy numbers… hell there isn’t even effective climate control for rear seat passengers. None of that matters, of course. Just like that lab puppy you bring home that pees on the carpet and chews on your Nikes, the love the Bronco engenders outweighs the frustration of actually living with one.
There Will Be Trucks
The pickup truck wars in the USA will never end. And while blood rivals Ford and Chevy are both embracing their EV Truck futures, the selection of Mavericks, Rangers, and F-150s one can buy today is impressively versatile.
In our recent Drive Notes feature, I talked a bit about how the Maverick didn’t quite live up to my lofty expectations for it. It’s a great truck, but not so malleable as to truly take the place of a car or small SUV for most folks. (Though I have to say that the hybrid powertrain should make a ton of sense for a ton of people, especially with fuel prices going bananas.)
Meanwhile, one of the vehicles I’ve talked up the most to friends and strangers alike, is the hybrid, aka PowerBoost, F-150. Admittedly there may be some recency bias involved, but I think this truck might be amongst the best pickups I’ve ever driven.
Why? Well, for one the powertrain just kicks ass. The combination of the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 and electric assist is good for a riveting 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque, delivered all but seamlessly. There’s no economy penalty for that oomph, either, with a rating of 24 miles per gallon combined.
The hybrid engine also gets you the Pro Power Onboard generator which can feed 7.2 kilowatts of power to 240- and 120-volt outlets in the bed. From running tools on a jobsite to running a compressor to blow up my kid’s unicorn raft, the generator feature offers a huge dose of flexibility for doing more truck things.
Mach-E, Late Registration
Being off the new car testing hamster wheel for a few years means that I’m way way behind on EVs. (Don’t worry, I’m making a concerted effort, with the help of the team at InsideEVs.com, to rectify that problem.) So while the Mustang Mach-E was one of my must-drive cars this year, I don’t have much to add to the discussion around it this late in the game.
I’ll say this, it’s great looking, good to drive, seems painless to run as a daily driver in a huge number of use cases, and has all of EV DNA (striking acceleration, silent operation, crazy big infotainment screen) that most of us are looking for in this new segment.
It does take some settling into. To start, the seating position (and front seats in general) are trash. Has there ever been a vehicle with this much instant power off the line – and a Mustang badge no less – that feels more like driving a bus? Flat seats lacking lateral support combine with super upright steering wheel, and a high position relative to the car’s hood, to make me feel as though I’m in some kind of mass transit sim game.
Apparently the Mach-E GT seats fix this issue… I’ll try to snag the keys to one of those and report back.
P.S. Bad seating positions, poor seats, and wonky headrests still plague Ford products after my run in the brand offerings. Granted, I’m very tall, so perhaps I somehow defy Ford ergonomic models? But must every Ford headrest poke me in my occipital bone?
Of course, those are a few negative items. But the clear throughline after driving four Fords (and one Lincoln Aviator) was one of innovation by way of electrification – the company clearly has an edge over most legacy automakers in this space, and I’m anxious to see it press the advantage.
This was the first time in my career I’ve tried this exercise: driving a string of products from one brand in succession. For me, getting that kind of total overview of what one automaker is up to, was enlightening.
So the question becomes, should I try it again? Is it worth bugging Volkswagen, or Chevrolet, or Toyota for sequential loans? Which brands are most interesting for that kind of lens? Why don’t you all let me know; leave a note in the Comments section below, or blow me up on Twitter (@seyth), where I’m known to spend my nights and weekends.
Photo Credit: Logan Zillmer