St. Andrews, NB — Recently, we attended the Canadian launch of the Ford Bronco Raptor – not far from one of the most mental vehicles found on the market today. While its fat-fendered figure is currently stealing most of the headlines, the Everglades model is also joining the party. Admittedly, it has a bit of a hill to climb to separate itself from the Bronco’s significant shadow in the fast-growing world of special Broncos.
Luckily, it has more than a few tools to help it climb that hill, literally.
After all, that’s what the Everglades model is all about, really; it’s like a Bronco that’s been fit for overlanding right from the factory. It’s meant to soldier on through mushy fields or over rocky passes and has been given neat bits like a reversible snorkel, big mud-flinging 35-inch Goodyear Territory rubber wrapped in 17” off-road specific wheels that look ready to conquer the tundra and the arguable pièce de resistance, a standard 10,000 remote-activated Warn winch. Those accessories, of course, aren’t the end of it; there’s a bank of auxiliary switches above the rear-view mirror so all the good stuff available for other Broncos can also be had here. Spotlights, foglights, mounts for traction pads and so forth is all possible. It’s available only as a four-door – makes sense, considering the application – and only with a hard top.
In addition to the tires and winch, it’s hard not to notice that other exterior detail: the big “Everglades” logo on the front fender. If you’ll look closely, you’ll notice a bunch of hash marks on there. More than just looking cool, they’re functional – the mark sitting second from the top is especially important as it sits 36” above the ground below, and is literally a high-water mark that shows just how deep you can wade. Let the water go above that, and you could be in trouble. There’s also a new Everglades-exclusive Desert Sand exterior colour. Either way, this is an incredibly cool-looking truck that wears its new bits well and gets a whole whack of added presence as a result. It’s no Bronco Raptor, but Ford has managed to sperate the Everglades version from other Broncos which is no small feat, considering no Bronco of any stripe is ever going to be called a shrinking violet.
Inside, the uniqueness continues. There are special washable vinyl seats, sprayable floorboards with drainage plugs and even the roof panels come finished with exposed, washable plastic; you can add a sound-deadening roof liner if you’d prefer; just have to decide if you want to be cleaner or more comfortable, I suppose.
Otherwise, it’s standard Bronco in here – the gauge cluster with large TFT central display, the surprisingly small steering wheel and bank of switches across the top of the dash for your front and rear lockers and Trail Turn Assist feature – more on which in a minute.
What thing you won’t see there that some other Broncos get is a button for the sway-bar disconnect. In other Broncos, this is a specialized off-road feature to relax the chassis and let it better clamber of bumps, both large and small. It’s a great feature and to not have it here is somewhat disappointing, as I could see it coming in handy even in overlanding applications.
The 12” infotainment display is also standard, which is great as Ford’s SYNC infotainment system continues to be one of the leaders in that department. Its buttons are big, it’s responsive to touch commands and it offers wireless CarPlay and Android Auto and makes it easy to switch from between those apps and Ford’s native interface. It of course also offers a back-up camera and a forward-and-down facing camera that automatically activates in certain drive modes (of which there are seven: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Rock Crawl, Mud-ruts, Sand) to give you an idea on what’s going on below your tires.
Being a four-door model only, room inside is ample both front and back and while the rear seats don’t fold completely flat, doing so will provide 2,350 L of cargo space, good for all the coolers, stoves and sleeping bags you need. Oh, and right there, crowning the dash is a mounting place for GoPros and the like, so you can record your next overlanding adventure. Better still is the tray that slides out from the cargo floor; an Ikea-like icon on the leading edge of the cargo floor suggests it to be used as a seat; personally, I’m thinking a barbeque.
We see standardization again when it comes to the powertrain as a single engine is offered: a 2.3-litre turbo four-cylinder good for 275 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque, fed to all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission. It may not be the power star in the line-up, but for longer drives while power is important, fuel economy perhaps even more so, especially when the next gas station may be a few hundred miles away.
Power comes on ably enough, but it does come accompanied by a somewhat strained report as it does have to work hard to haul around the extra weight from the special tires, snorkel and so forth – maybe that extra sound deadening provided by the optional roof panels isn’t such a bad idea. It will get you going quickly enough, though, and the transmission is game to help provide the power required for passing at highway speeds and so on.
When it comes to crawling along at lower speeds, meanwhile, is right there where you want it.
We had the opportunity to put it through its paces on the mulch and loose surfaces on which it is meant to excel — its purpose, if you will – and it proved a hardscrabble competitor here. Rocks and branches were no match for those bit tires; you could here them ping-ping-pinging off the underbody as they were chewed up and spat out like so many sunflower seeds at a baseball game.
As the trails got narrower and the turns sharper, it was time to put that Trail Turn Assist (TTA) tech to the test. Essentially, what TTA does when activated is apply the brakes to the inside wheel on turns, helping you pivot ‘round as if on cat tracks. It’s a somewhat eerie feeling to see that big, square hood slung out ahead of you almost crab in the direction you’re steering. TTA reduces the turning radius, which f course is important considering the Everglades is available only as the long-wheelbase model.
I do miss that sway-bar disconnect, though. Having experienced the feature in a number of Broncos prior to this, I know it would make for a real boost on rougher terrain. It adds both comfort and confidence, and when you’ve got a cliff on one side of the forestry road and hidden stumps on the other, you’ll want all the help you can get.
Get pas that, though, and the transition to Everglades spec adds a neat layer to the experience, one that some may argue is the more practical transformation to the likes of the Raptor. It’s more practical in town than that truck, it’s got the better fuel economy and when it comes time to put it to the test in its element it can hack that, too. It’s a cool truck that doesn’t try so hard to be a bit different, a bit more fun.
- Standard winch
- Water-fording ability
- Ultra-capable wheels and tires that look great
- Loud interior
- Only one engine choice