Facing a stretch of muddy water about the length of a football field, we felt fearless behind the wheel of the 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades. Not only because it comes factory equipped with an air-intake snorkel and a heavy-duty Warn winch—in addition to the formidable Sasquatch off-road package—but also because Ford brought us in to test the limits of the new special-edition Bronco, and we took that as a challenge to get it stuck or sunk or both.
We were unable to sink the Bronco Everglades during our drive on Drummond Island, located off the easternmost tip of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (maybe if we had driven it directly into Lake Huron . . .). Our handsome Eruption Green example forded the aforementioned waterway with nary a snag or a leak, only the harmless sound of water splashing beneath its washout vinyl flooring. To make the Everglades the most seaworthy Bronco, Ford raised the vent tubes for both axles, the transmission, and the transfer case. Combined with the custom-designed snorkel, this allows the vehicle to drive through up to 36.4 inches of water. That's 2.9 inches more than any other Bronco and 2.8 inches more than a Jeep Wrangler.
Although an island in the UP sounds like a strange place to launch a new Bronco named after the Everglades National Park in Florida, the area has some advantages over the Southern wetlands. We didn't have to worry about losing a leg to a crocodile or being suffocated by a Burmese python, and we got to enjoy the island's robust trail system and rugged terrain. In this Northwoods version of a water park, the Bronco Everglades wrestled with a lot of mud and ruts. Coincidentally, Mud and Ruts—one of seven selectable G.O.A.T. drive modes—automatically activates the rear locker and puts the four-wheel-drive system into 4Hi. Paired with 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory mud-terrain tires (aired down to about 35 psi for optimal traction here), this setting helped the Bronco easily churn through rutted sludge.
Our speed on the muddiest, wettest trails stayed mostly in the single digits. Perhaps that type of slow and steady pace influenced Ford's decision to fit the Bronco Everglades exclusively with the 300-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder—the 330-hp twin-turbo 2.7-liter four-pot is not available here. Likewise, we're surprised that the 10-speed automatic transmission is also mandatory since Ford recently made '22 Sasquatch models with the 2.3-liter engine available with the seven-speed manual in response to popular demand.
Regardless, the Everglades' powertrain deployed its 325 pound-feet of torque well, especially when we were clawing up and down a particularly rocky section with front and rear lockers and 4Lo engaged. We did have the benefit of a spotter to guide us—good thing, given that the Everglades is missing the front-mounted camera available on other Broncos. Unfortunately, due to the location of its winch, the Everglades doesn't get that useful view.
The lack of front-facing camera stinks, and we hope Ford can find a way to add one, but the standard winch is arguably more important. It could mean the difference between getting unstuck and calling search and rescue when you're off-roading alone. Granted, there are countless aftermarket options, and Ford Performance sells a Warn winch kit for $3500. This factory-fitted unit has a 100-foot synthetic line and can pull up to 10,000 pounds. We originally wanted to get stuck and try out the winch, but when we arrived at the gnarliest obstacle of the day, we became more interested in conquering this hilly, muddy, rutted section. A well-chosen line and a lot of throttle got us through on the first attempt, but not without dislodging a piece of the rear overfender on the driver's side. We did get to see the winch save other drivers who weren't so lucky.
When it's not scaling rock walls, winching out of the mud, or swimming, the Bronco Everglades is an enjoyable daily driver like the rest of its kin. Despite a body-on-frame construction and a solid rear axle, the Everglades has a surprisingly civilized ride on pavement. Too bad its bluff shape causes considerable wind noise at highway speeds. It handles better than a Wrangler, though, thanks to a more sophisticated steering system and front-suspension setup. The Bronco we drove felt plenty quick charging down backcountry roads, and its high-rise air intake emitted a satisfying intake sound with the passenger's-side window down and the throttle uncorked. The snorkel's other neat trick is the reversible plates that can be easily switched between the front and back, but ours always faced backward.
The snorkel and winch are prominently displayed on the Everglades, but other specific elements define its design. All models have four doors and a hard top, but look closely to see squared wheel arches that don't appear on any other Bronco. It also has 17-inch aluminum rims reminiscent of steel wheels. We think they look cool but wonder why Ford doesn't offer a beadlock-capable version as on other Sasquatch models. At least the Everglades won't be confused with any other Bronco—it's the only one with a distinct topography graphic stamped on its front fenders, though we can't decide whether it's cheugy. The Everglades is also the only model available with the new Desert Sand paint color.
Inside, there aren't many details that distinguish the wetlands-themed Bronco from its brethren. Every Everglades has comfy seats covered in material that's marine grade but still manages to look nice. If only we could say the same for whatever wraps the steering wheel (if that's real leather, something was wrong with the cow). At least the crisply rendered display in the gauge cluster and the massive 12.0-inch touchscreen are pleasant distractions. The Sync 4 infotainment system is as intuitive as it is attractive, with wireless Apple CarPlay working consistently and seamlessly during our drive. The Bronco's physical switchgear and useful cubbies further contribute to a functional cabin.
The 2022 Bronco Everglades starts at $54,545, slotting between the $52,770 Wildtrak four-door and the $70,045 Raptor. Deliveries are set to start this summer. However, there's a catch: Ford is making the Everglades available only to people with an existing Bronco reservation for the 2022 model year. The company hasn't confirmed whether it will offer the model again for 2023. Those who can get their hands on one will be empowered to explore deeper water and drive through more difficult obstacles than owners of other Broncos—the Everglades encourages fearless off-roading.
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