Ford Bronco Gets The ARB Treatment
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.