2022 Ford Bronco Everglades First Drive: As Muddy As You Want

Over a quarter-century after the last big horse left the barn for open pastures, Ford brought back the legendary Bronco name not once, but twice in 2020. The first of their kind to arrive in showrooms was the smaller Bronco Sport, the spiritual successor to the Bronco II of the 1980s. Meanwhile, supply shortages delayed production of the retromod Bronco until the early summer of 2021. Once deliveries began, though, old and new fans of the big horse were ready to roll-up on all the Jeep Wranglers and other hardcore factory off-roaders to remind them who did it first, and who did it best.

Though the Bronco is ready to hit Moab and beyond out of the box as far as traversing various terrains go, important items for handling everything else on the trail, like winches and snorkels, must be obtained through the aftermarket, adding more to the overall cost of building the off-roader into a truly capable machine.

Until now. Back in February of 2022, Ford unveiled its newest trim to the Bronco lineup, the Everglades. The special-edition Bronco was built with going through the roughest — and sometimes, the wettest — backcountry in mind. And what better way to experience this stallion's capabilities than with a trip to Drummond Island, Michigan's Turtle Ridge Off-Road Park, not far from Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Saddling up to ride at dawn

The last time I saw the fifth-generation Bronco in person, it was days after its three-TV-network debut in 2020. The Bronco in question was a Cyber Orange pre-production unit which had appeared the day before on ABC's Good Morning America. I flew out of Roanoke, Virginia's Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport to Dulles International Airport in Manassas, then rented a black Ford Mustang EcoBoost to make the final 30-minute drive to Daingerfield Island in Alexandria, just to spend 30 minutes with the new "Mustang of the Dirt."

Nearly two years later, I would get to drive my first Bronco to Drummond Island as part of a herd of horses crossing the Mackinaw Bridge to the ferry port at De Tour Village. The ride of choice for the morning trek? A Bronco Wildtrak in Area 51 with the Sasquatch package and the hardtop. Up front, the 330 horses inside of the 2.7-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 helped me reach the ferry dock with plenty of time to spare, with the 10-speed automatic managing the horses as they galloped along the two-lane path to the ferry.

Of course, wind noise was pretty loud, though that's due to the nature of the roof and doors, designed for ease of removability over NVH. Having a flat windshield also contributed to the buffeting winds, as well as capturing all of the small bugs unfortunate to fly in the Bronco's path.

As far as the ferry trip goes, my first-ever ride on such a mode of transportation was really cool. And short: it took only five minutes to go from the port at De Tour Village to the port at Drummond Island, followed by the final few miles to the meeting with the Ford Bronco Everglades.

Built Ford Tough for the toughest situations

Arriving in showrooms this summer for those who already have a reservation on the 2022 order book, the Ford Bronco Everglades is one of two special edition trims for the 2022 model year, the other being the Bronco Raptor. While the Bronco Raptor's mission is to roar across the desert plains in a blaze of fury, the Bronco Everglades forges – and fords – paths over the roughest lands and deepest waters.

Based on the four-door version of the Bronco, the Everglades builds upon the Sasquatch package with two key additions: a snorkel to allow the 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo-four to breathe while under some deep river crossings (as well as snowy and dusty trails), and a ZEON 10-S Warn winch mounted on a Ford Performance heavy-duty modular front bumper, capable of pulling up to 10,000 pounds with its 100-foot synthetic cord.

The Bronco Everglades gains unique branding on the front fenders, featuring the topography of its namesake. Speaking of the fenders, the front and rear fenders wear unique squared flares over the Sasquatch package's 35-inch Goodyear mud-terrain rubber, which, in turn, wrap over the set of 17-inch Carbonized Gray-painted alloy wheels. Other standard exterior pieces include rock rails, steel bash plates from the Black Diamond and Badlands trim levels, and a protective safari bar. The snorkel's pair of plates can be switched out depending on conditions.

Easy to clean, easy to live with

The Ford Bronco Everglades' interior is a mix of high-tech goodies and off-roading necessity. You won't find any carpeting on the floor, for one. After all, the last thing anyone needs is to bust out the wet/dry vac or deal with smelly, musty carpet after driving through some muddy water. Instead, the floor is rubberized and includes a pair of drain plugs in front of the driver and passenger buckets for ease of cleaning. The marine-grade vinyl seats also contribute to ease of cleaning while looking good in the off-roader. Urban Green seat stitching, air vents and grab handles continue the Everglades theme of its namesake swampy environment.

Above the muck that might cover the floor during a weekend of muddin', Ford's new SYNC 4 infotainment system takes the stage in a class-exclusive 12-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay, as well as the Ford Power-Up OTA software update system. And, of course, on the center console itself is the G.O.A.T. off-roading mode system, featuring eight modes to tackle whatever situation comes up. Plus, if any more accessories are needed, an array of six upfitter switches with pre-wired connections are ready to accept them.

Charging into the breech

No matter how muddy or rocky the trail, the Ford Bronco Everglades promises to pull everyone through with its sole powertrain, a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo-four sending up to 300 broncos and their 325 lb.-ft. of torque (on premium fuel, by the way; regular delivers just 275 horses and 315 lb.-ft. of torque) to all four mud-terrains via a 10-speed automatic. Of course, since water can be on the menu with the Everglades, the front and rear axles, transfer case and transmission feature raised vents for improved water fording. Thus, the Everglades can handle up to 36 inches of water, almost three inches more than even the Badlands with the Sasquatch package.

Speed matters on the trail, but not in the same way as the Bronco Raptor. For the Everglades, it's about managing the revs to climb over rocks, traversing muddy trails and fording those ponds and rivers. The G.O.A.T. four-wheel drive system features a maximum crawl ratio of 67.8:1, all the better for slowly crawling along the great outdoors.

A first time for everything

Last time I was in an off-road environment, it was in the front seat of the pre-production Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV the day before the automaker opened its new battery plant in Alabama. It was quite fun experiencing the electric luxury SUV handle the off-road section of its proving grounds, though I knew most owners wouldn't be tackling the rough-and-tumble of the open country in the Teutonic EV.

On the day of the Ford Bronco Everglades trek, I was in a group of six Broncos, which in turn was one of three groups spending the day at the Turtle Ridge Off-Road Park. Mine was dressed in Desert Sand, which is exclusive to the Everglades, and made more special still by the fact only a few copies will have the color. Other shades include Eruption Green (like the example in front), Area 51, Cactus Gray and Shadow Black (the only color not on the trail this day). My Everglades was also the centerpiece for the morning's introduction and safety meeting, which meant I got to drive the star of the show.

The drive started off easy enough, though I missed the part about putting the Bronco Everglades into the "Mud and Ruts" G.O.A.T. mode. That likely would've made traversing the increasingly muddy trail easier, though I'm not sure I would've been able to tell the difference. All I knew to do was to keep a tire on a rock to avoid bottoming out, which I did quite a few times along the way to the midway break along Glen Cove Trail.

Just before lunch, we switched over to "Rock Crawl" mode to climb back up one of the rockiest portions of the trail. With guidance from the group leaders – and the computer in charge of handling rock crawling duties – each one of us was able to make the challenging climb with little trouble

The greatest challenge, though, would come after lunch.

Volunteering to winch a tree as tribute

Back on the trail, our group was now leading the other two groups through the remainder of the day on Drummond Island. Shortly after departure, we came upon a fallen tree blocking a part of an intersection, a perfect test of the Warn winch. I mentioned to the group leaders I would offer my rig as tribute if I was in position to do so.

So, they made room for me to pull my Bronco Everglades past the tree, then turn around to position the off-roader for winching.

I almost cleared the tree.

I snagged the right rear fender on the pointy part of the fallen tree, popping the fender clear off my Bronco Everglades. This broke the plastic tabs attaching the fender to the body. However, as a post-winching inspection by the Ford crew would discover, the sudden loss of the fender did not damage the attachment points on the body at all. There were no tabs available to re-attach the fender to my rig, so it wound up riding in the back of the lead Bronco Everglades for the rest of the journey.

The group leaders took over winching duties for the demonstration of the Warn winch's capabilities. The controls for the winch were in the center console armrest, allowing the wincher to control everything from inside the SUV. Though a steel cable is stronger, the synthetic cable not only offers lighter weight on the front bumper, but greater safety; as explained, a synthetic cable will go slack when it snaps, while a steel cable will fly and could possibly kill someone.

Rolling in the deep

After moving the fallen tree out of the way and the aforementioned post-fender-loss inspection, I hopped back into my Bronco Everglades for the greatest challenge of the day, starting by fording a deep puddle at the intersection. From there, more puddles would be crossed before giving way to the toughest, tightest parts of the trail. Every bump at low speed felt like I was going fast, my body tossed around like a rag doll in a dog's mouth. And I did engage the "Mud and Ruts" mode for the remainder of the trip starting after lunch.

Eventually, the trail smoothed out once again, leading back out to the paved roads. Switching back to "Normal" mode, the group made it back to the resort to turn in our horses, then pick a new Bronco to take on the trip back over to our hotel two hours south of Drummond Island.

The toughest horse of the herd

A long day with the Bronco Everglades on my first time off-roading was a day well-spent. For a starting MSRP of $53,000 plus $1,495 destination and delivery, the lucky ones who take this capable horse into their stable will not be disappointed. With a few more accessories from various parties, owners will have the ultimate overlander for all four seasons, ready to conquer nearly every terrain and obstacle in their path, including parts of this Bronco's namesake.

My ride for the trip back was this Bronco Badlands four-door with a soft top, where I got to try out adaptive cruise control for the first time. It was really great to have as part of the convoy down to the hotel where all of the invited press were staying. Overall, it was great experiencing all the Bronco family has to offer on and off the road. I would definitely do it all again, especially if I got a chance to pilot the Bronco Raptor around some desert trail at speed along the way.