28 Aug 2023
After looking for a Bronco for 2 years at MSRP I finally found one just after my H3 got totaled.
My first 4-wheel drive was a 2003 H2. Not very practical but super fun to drive. I once pulled a UPS truck out of the mud with it!
Then in late 2008 I heard a radio ad for new H3's with a $3,000 discount. This was the middle of the financial crisis. After a week the discount was $5,000 off, and another week $10,000 off. So I headed to Frank Kent Hummer in Fort Worth where they offered me $13k off! I bought it and they closed the dealership the next day.
The H3 was my daily driver for many years but when Ford announced they were remaking the Bronco I knew that would be my next 4WD. I have Ford brand loyalty from my Mustang.
But Covid policies threw a 10mm monkey-wrench into everything. There were a few Broncos available but they were often $10k or more over MSRP. Nope, not doing that, so I hunted for over 2 years.
In February 2023 there was a bad ice storm that caused a giant pine tree to fall miraculously between the house and garage with minimal damage to either. But the top tree limbs went over and around the garage and landed on the H3 parked in the driveway. Insurance totaled it. There was a limb stuck in the grill so I just drove around like that for a while.
Miraculously 2.0, within a month I got a call from AutoNation in Fort Worth saying they had the Bronco I wanted at MSRP. Deal!
The Bronco product line is complicated and confusing. There are 2 completely different versions of Broncos - the smaller Bronco Sport and the 'big' Bronco.
The Bronco Sport is a small 4-door SUV like a Ford escape. WIKI
The 'big' Bronco is more like a Jeep Wrangler and comes in 2 or 4 door models. Unlike the Sport, the roof comes off, the doors come off, and it's offered with hard or soft top. WIKI
Each version comes in many different trim levels, some for luxury and some for ruggedness, just like the Jeeps. And there are several specialty editions of each offered with various stylings and functions.
I'm not a big 4-wheel driving guy so what I have to say here is of minimal value to most Bronco buyers. I'll be using this Outer Banks for ON-road driving, maybe a few trips, and towing some lumber with my small trailer. I'm not even sure the roof will come off this thing, and I'm not remotely interested in pulling off the doors.
PROS: Drive and power is fine, even with the smaller 2.3L engine I have. So far I'm getting about 19MPG around town. Comfort is fine. Styling is excellent. All the connectivity works with my phone and playing a thumb drive works without any trouble. I'm not connecting this vehicle to a WIFI network. I thought I wouldn't care for the keyless entry, locking and starting but that all works really good. There are no air leaks so far like I've seen on hard top Jeeps. Towing my small 5x10 trailer with lumber or sod works just fine - use a 2" drop. It's nice they put mounting points on the roll cage for handles and stuff.
CONS: Road noise is more than I'd like but it's probably better than most others in its class. I prefer old-school 3-knob AC/heating systems instead of clicky buttons I have to bend down to see, but I'm old. Headlight controls are difficult to access and read but I don't need them much. Gradual high-beams is no good, I need to see it click to and from high-beams. Interior lighting is very weak, I had to upgrade that. Auto-Start-Stop is something that would prevent me from buying this vehicle if there wasn't a way to turn it off permanently. At the very least it should not default to ON at every start. The touch screen is too sensitive for a moving vehicle. Sometimes I have to touch a button multiple times and I have to take my eyes off the road to change radio stations, and sometimes pushing a button will scroll the display. Panel alignment is probably not the best I've seen, but I'd rather have that than leaks. The rear gate/window works fine, and I wouldn't suggest a change, but I enjoyed the single gate/window on the H3 for convenience. It seems like the remote mirror button is upside down, pushing down makes the mirrors go up, but I'll get use to it.
Area 51 was one of the first colors offered on the modern Bronco. It's a slate-blue-ish color without any metallic. It tends to pick up color of the surrounding area like Cactus Gray does so it might look a little blue-er with sky or greener with trees.
In 2023 they started offering Azure Gray which is very much like Area 51 but has metallic in it. From what I can tell it's a little blue-er than Area 51 but maybe that's just the metallic, I don't know.
From 25' most people can't tell the difference unless different vehicles are right next to each other.
Since Area 51 is sometimes called A51 I decided to call my Bronco A52. Here's an up-close shot showing the metallic which you will NOT see in Area 51.
I often carry 8' material such as molding and 2x4's inside my H3. This is a big deal because hooking up the trailer is a hassle. The answer is YES, the 4-door Bronco has room for that. With the seats folded down 8' material can rest on the center console all the way to the rear gate with several inches to spare. Even with the rear seats up you can stick a piece of 8' material from the front floorboard, between the front seats, and rest on the rear seat back. I'm super happy about this and now I don't have to build a roof rack.
With advice from my Bronco guru friend I did several add-ons, mostly for convenience and aesthetics, not performance.
The first thing I did was bypass the Auto-Start-Stop 'feature' which is very irritating. There's a button on the dash but you have to remember to push it every time. This 'feature' would be acceptable if it retained status through turning the engine off but it defaults to ON. This eliminator product is a cable that emulates the pressing of the Auto-Start-Stop button on the dash. If you look fast you can see a message on the instrument cluster that the button has been pressed by the eliminator. This product is available from various vendors with prices ranging from $50 to $100. I opted to try the cheaper one and it works fine. Installation takes 10 minutes if you know how and 1 hour if you don't. It's just a cable and module that connects between an existing cable under the dash on the driver's side. You'll be sore after bending backwards to do the install. If it had been impossible to deactivate Auto-Start-Stop, I wouldn't have bought this vehicle - I blame government for this.
I insist on a dash cam and running power to them is always a hassle. Luckily the Bronco has a power connector at the rear-view mirror and this 16-pin Type A adapter for Ford Bronco provides a USB power connector to a dash cam. Wire-tie it behind the mirror.
I thought this might add some quiet to the engine. The part number is M2DZ-16738-A and I bought it from Levittown Ford for $83. To install the pad you'll need this pack of 1-1/4" retainer clips. Super easy install. Pictures before and after.
My Bronco guru friend suggested a 2nd rear towing hook and I agreed because it looks lopsided without it. Honestly, it's just about symmetry and I admit that. I got it from Levittown Ford on-line for $51 along with the hood insulator pad. The part number is MB3Z-17N808-B. Installation is 5 minutes.
This Hood Protector is a must-have to protect the hood and windshield. It's an original Ford product part # VM2DZ-16C900-B and cost about $95 on Ebay. Installation is a little nerve-racking but not too bad. The red lines you see is the double-sided tape. You have one chance to align it correctly.
I installed these Havoc door entry guards to protect the paint from people getting in and out. HFB-08-002. $55.
Interior lighting is very weak. For my 4-door I added the center rear ceiling light ($80), and the 4-piece 'dome lights for the sides ($80), all from Mabett. Fairly easy install except the clips on the rear light kept falling off because they're made to put on once at the factory. All this improved the lighting issue.
I bought Area 51 CORNCOB (has all the letters you need) overlay vinyl letters for the grill logo and it looks great even though my car is technically Azure Gray. The ebay vendor is called StickerFab. $20. Use an Exacto knife on the edge of each letter to install, fairly easy.
Had a local paint shop mix up some Area 51 paint for these. I started with some existing ones that were painted and scuffed them up with Scotch-Brite first.
The bucking Bronco on the gate was silver but I wanted it black so I used Plasti-Dip on it. Just tape off a block around the emblem, spray a first light coat from all angles, then 3 more coats, let dry, then just peel off the background and it will automatically cut right around the bronco. At the same time I made a template for "A52" and sprayed that on.
The pinch-weld below the rocker panels have a series of holes which I find unsightly. They're not for the side steps, those are mounted in a different way. My solution was to fill them with black bolts and the result was very good. I used M8-1.25 x 25mm hex flange bolts in black oxide and M8-1.25 black lock nuts. There is no washer. The first picture is before and the second picture is after. Great improvement I think.
At 1500 miles I had a headlight go out all of a sudden. This resulted in a fast turn signal to indicate the light is out. This is not just a simple headlight, it's a complicated assembly that costs more than $500. It was covered under warranty and a local dealer took care of it with a 2 day wait. I'm happy with how it was dealt with.
I've noticed a few times when I switch from reverse to forward the backup camera stays on. I think this is the computer getting confused but not sure.
If the car is on and you get out it will double honk at you. Often this happens when you're right in front and it's very disturbing. This might sound like a useful feature but I hate it and heard a lot of complaints about it on the forums. I've bought the OBDLink EX adapater and FORscan to reprogram it but haven't gotten around to it yet.
If you don't want your bumper drilled by the dealership for the front license plate mount then catch them quick before they do. I wasn't fast enough and settled on keeping the stock mount for now.
I noticed on my Bronco the rear gate panel doesn't line up with the body. It closes fine and doesn't leak, so maybe that's how they had to align it to make it work. I thought it was just mine but I went to a meetup and many other Broncos have the same issue.
Here's the reason I like to have a dash cam. Watch the white van I'm driving towards.
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