What is the Ford Bronco?
The Ford Bronco returned this year in its sixth-generation form with the promise of an exciting, off-road-focused SUV that would live up to the iconic nameplate. Bronco-mania feels as if it has started to wane amid manufacturing issues and tough competition from Jeep's Wrangler, which seems to add a new variant every few months to steal Ford's thunder. Ford has responded to the former with assurance that factory teams are ready to accelerate improved production procedures that should alleviate any issues with the hardtop Broncos. But, when it comes to the competition, we are delighted to report that Ford's response is to go racing, as is tradition for the American OEM.
Enter the 2023 Ford Bronco DR, or Desert Racer. While most off-road trims in SUVs and pickups add bits like new shocks, all-terrain tires and tough skid plates, the Bronco DR is essentially a race truck. With its sights set on competing in the SCORE Baja 1000, the Bronco DR comes off the factory assembly line turnkey-ready for the grueling, high-speed desert venue. In the words of a Ford PR rep, "just slap some stickers on it, and you're ready to roll."
The Bronco DR will initiate production with a limited run of 50 vehicles in late 2022. The number 50 was chosen to pay homage to the brand's racing heritage and 1969 Baja 1000 overall victory, achieved by a 4x4 Bronco, which still stands today as the only outright Baja 1000 win by a 4x4. It also hints at the displacement of the engine underhood.
What's under the Bronco DR's hood?
The Bronco DR's powertrain produces the immense power you'd expect of a dedicated off-road racer. Rather than stick with the range-topping turbo V6 from the standard Bronco, Ford has stuffed a 5.0L Coyote V8 — the same engine used in the Mustang GT — under the hood. It makes over 400 horsepower, and sounds righteous while doing it. Because the Bronco DR starts life as a four-door Bronco frame, this could potentially foreshadow bringing the Coyote V8 motor to a large-volume Bronco model. This is a factory-installed Coyote, after all, and if the mechanisms exist and the response is strong enough, why wouldn't they? Ford was coy over bringing V8s to their modern SUV and truck lineup, but with an F-150 Raptor R on the way next year (rumored to be driven by the Mustang GT500's supercharged V8), a Bronco Raptor or Bronco Raptor R seems like a realistic scenario to consider.
The factory modifications to the Bronco DR are far more extensive in its suspension and chassis categories. Being a desert racer, the truck is reinforced to handle the rigors of a full-length Baja race and aims to meet the demands of any hardcore off-road enthusiast. Starting with the suspension, Ford taps Multimatic to bolster the Bronco's High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension by adding trick DSSV dampers. We won't bore you with the numbers, but Ford is targeting 50% more front and rear travel compared to a four-door Bronco Badlands. It also sports 37-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3 tires, 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels and upgraded brake pads at each corner.
Cap it off with a 10R80 transmission and transfer case borrowed from the F-150, electronically locking front and rear differentials, huge air intakes, and a 65-gallon fuel tank resting below the cargo area, and you have a properly hardcore desert racer.