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01 arb bronco lead photo

Ford Bronco Gets The ARB Treatment

How To Improve On A Great Platform

Photography by Harry Wagner

The Ford Bronco is the hottest platform in the 4×4 world right now.  It rivals the Jeep Wrangler with its removable top, disconnecting front sway bar, and locking differentials, but ups the ante with innovative features like Trail Turn Assist, a twin turbo V6 engine, and ten-speed automatic transmission.  The ability to option out a vehicle with selectable locking differentials and steel bumpers right from the factory might seem like it is stepping on the toes of companies like ARB, considering that their signature product is the famous Air Locker.  Rather than be discouraged, ARB outfitted a new Bronco with a host of their products to show that they still have plenty of tricks up their sleeve to make a Bronco more comfortable and capable on the street and on the trail.

02 arb ford bronco

ARB started with an Outer Banks edition Bronco and put their own special touches on it.  The results are just as at home exploring the western United States as they are in ARB’s backyard in the Australian outback.  This is a vehicle that is incredibly capable but still comfortable enough to drive over long distances without wearing you out.

The Platform

The Bronco is a capable platform right out of the box.  ARB optioned out a four-door Outer Banks model, which comes with comfort features like an 8-inch touch screen but doesn’t have the locking differentials of the Badlands or 35-inch tires of the Sasquatch Package.  ARB can solve both of those issues though.  They realize not everyone will buy the top-of-the-line Bronco from the dealer and provide opportunities to upgrade the suspension, armor, and running gear in the future as your wants and needs change.

03 arb zenith rear bumper

The Zenith rear bumper includes two jack points and incorporates twin chassis-mounted rated recovery points while accommodating the OEM trailer wiring and parking sensors. It comes with a textured black powder coat finish and is compatible with either Wide Flare or Narrow Flare Models.

The Upgrades

ARB has fully outfitted the Bronco in a similar manner to what we would anticipate most enthusiasts will do over time.  Regardless of the platform, upgrades like a front winch bumper, auxiliary lights, rock sliders, onboard air, and a fridge are popular upgrades.  These modifications increase capability with very little trade offs or compromises.  Starting with the armor, ARB added a front Summit bumper, rear Zenith bumper, Zenith rock sliders, and skid plates to protect the undercarriage. The front bumper holds two 7-inch Intensity SOLIS LED lights and a warn winch and is completely compatible with the factory air bags, adaptive cruise control, and parking sensors.

04 arb intensity solis lights

New to the Intensity line, the Solis light is available in a Spot or Flood beam and comes with interchangeable red and black die-cast side bezels. The Solis comes with an array of features including a five stage dimmability function, a highly tuned single-piece reflector, and 165 watts of Osram LED power.

Inside, ARB added their Outback Modular Drawer System to the cargo area to safety carry items like tools, spare parts, and recovery gear.  The drawers don’t take up any floor space, you can still stack your camping gear and clothes for a weekend trip on top of them.  The Zero Freezer Fridge plugs into the factory 12V plug in the rear of the vehicle and automatically shuts off at a preset voltage, ensuring that you still have enough juice to turn over the engine. Chances of that happening are slim though thanks to the addition of a Redarc battery manager and portable solar panel. Redarc is another Australian company that specializes in electronics and is increasing its presence in the US, most recently by adding 4Wheel Parts as a retailer.  

05 old man emu suspension

The Bronco suspension was upgraded with a kit from Old Man Emu that is designed to handle the extra weight of the bumpers, winch, and rear drawers and fridge.  It provides two inches of lift to accommodate 35-inch-tall tires with no rubbing, while maintaining reasonable CV angles in the front axle. For those looking for even greater performance, ARB plans to offer their BP-51 internal bypass shocks for the Bronco in the near future.

06 arb zenith rock sliders

ARB designed their Zenith rock sliders for the Ford Bronco utilizing a one-piece design to spread the load and protect the vulnerable lower sill area of the vehicle when used off-road. The sliders are manufactured from multi-folded, 4mm laser cut, folded and pulse welded sheet steel to provide strength without the need for thicker material to keep weight at a minimum. 

How It All Comes Together

ARB handed us the keys to their Bronco after King of the Hammers and let us put it through the ringer on a road trip through Death Valley and up the 395 corridor along the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Range.  On this trip our impression is that the Bronco platform is half way between an FJ Cruiser and a Jeep Wrangler.  It also has 100 more horsepower and more gears in the transmission than either of those vehicles, making it easy to click off long days on the road.  The Wrangler is more capable with the solid axles, but for trips like this one through Death Valley with endless washboard roads we found the Bronco had far less feedback through the steering wheel than a Wrangler.  As for the comparison with the FJ Cruiser, the visibility is far better in the Bronco and the large wheel wells and Old Man Emu suspension make it easy to fit 35-inch-tires with no rubbing.

The ARB additions were welcome on our trip through Death Valley.  The Zero fridge kept our food and drinks nice and cool, while the Solis LED lights illuminated our path once the sun went down. The Zenith rock sliders gave us confidence that we wouldn’t smash a rocker panel, but they do protrude far enough to get your pants dirty when entering and exiting the Bronco.  We found the Old Man Emu suspension to be comfortable and responsive on the road while still being supple on the trail.  We went north out of the park past Crankshaft Corner and through Hanging Rock Canyon to Big Pine, crossing 50 miles of washboard road along the way.  Airing the tires down to 18 psi made the ride much more complaint, and the ARB Twin Air Compressor controlled by the LINX system allowed us to easily air back up when we reached the pavement. The Bronco is a great platform made even better through the addition of ARB components. The ARB-equipped Bronco gave us the confidence to explore off the beaten path, comfortably allowing us to explore empty corners of Death Valley where we never saw another soul.  That was exactly what our souls needed to be recharged.

08 arb bronco skidplates

ARB designed their skid plates to protect the Bronco’s vulnerable steering, engine sump, transmission, and transfer case. The front, engine, transmission, and transfer case panels bolt directly to the chassis to provide continuous under vehicle protection from the front bumper to the rear of the transfer case. The skids are made from laser cut, press formed, and folded 3mm sheet steel to maximize strength while minimizing weight.

09 arb bronco interior

Inside the back of the Bronco, ARB added their modular drawer system, a Zero freezer fridge, and their long travel hydraulic jack to make tire changes a breeze.  Both the front and rear bumpers feature keyed recovery points that fit the foot of the jack perfectly so you never have to worry about the vehicle sliding off the jack when it is in the air.

10 arb bronco air compressor

Onboard air is one of the first upgrades we recommend for any vehicle, so you can reinflate your tires at the end of the trail.  ARB’s Twin Air Compressor is compact enough to fit in the crowded engine bay with ARB’s mount, and it quickly fills the tires with its 4.65 cfm rating and 100% duty cycle.

Products we used in this article