In January, Ford released a 42-second clip of an early Bronco prototype cruising through the desert. Now much closer to the launch and production dates, the automaker’s done it again with more finished prototypes in two- and four-door trims. A 46-second clip was posted on Bronco Nation, the all-in-one forum, event, and merch site that claims to be “an independent enthusiast community,” but that’s actually run by Jackson Dawson, one of Ford’s external marketing agencies. The insider access is how Bronco Nation earned the designation of “the first to be nationally recognized and certified by Ford,” and hence how Bronco Nation got high-res footage of Ford engineers testing camouflaged Broncos in the alien soup known as red Georgia clay.
A few years ago I spent a day romping around these very trails, not far from Booger Hollow — a real place — in a convoy of the Bronco’s benchmark competitor. I described the clay as “a picnic when dry, but when it’s wet the coefficient of friction flatlines at banana peels on ball bearings on ice.” In other words, a great place to test an acme off-roader. Based on the videos, the Broncos has more than a bit of hardcore going for it, and some tech that the competition doesn’t.
The two-door Bronco and whatever tires its wearing race up a wet hill at 0:10 and make it look easy, then put in a little effort at 0:30. In between that, at 0:24, the four-door shows off a move that rock crawler types call the “front dig.” As the Bronco maneuvers around a tree, the inside rear wheel locks up while the front wheels keep spinning, which pulls the front of the truck around to reduce the turning radius. The Bronco obsessives at the Bronco6G forum picked up on it, recalling that Toyota offers a similar system called Turn Assist Control in its larger Land Cruiser. The Toyota system is activated when the Land Cruiser is put in Crawl Control Mode; Bronco6G sleuths picked out the button atop the Bronco’s dashboard that appears to control activation of the front dig feature. Toyota’s system uses simple brake control. The opposite of that is hardcore rock crawler and trail builds that put twin levers on the transfer case so the driver can lock one axle and leave the other in neutral — that allows for front dig and rear dig — and install a second parking brake to lock up the rear wheel of choice. Our guess is that Ford’s gone with a brake-operated system, but there could be more to it. What we do know is that right now, Jeep doesn’t have this feature.
Beyond truck and tire capability and fording performance, Ford engineers had practical reasons for playing in the mud as well, like finding out how hard it is to clean a Bronco after a day of dirty deeds.
You can check out a shorter clip of just the two-door, and just the four-door. The reveal isn’t far off. Better yet, there are going to be some wild comparos headed our way. Oh, and at the time of writing, Bronco Nation says it “is for US residents only,” so don’t bother rocking up to the site with an IP address from the wrong country.