(Another) Moab FE ride-along opinion

The Bronze

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After almost two weeks and 4 or 5 emails, I was finally able to reserve a time-slot for a Bronco ride-along. When I arrived for my Wednesday ride-along, they had accidently scheduled it for a Bronco Sport Driving Experience. While I looked for my confirmation email, I noticed that they had sent another two emails last night, 1 stating that there were no more time-slots available and another with a reservation for Thursday. I made it easy for everybody and agreed to return on Thursday.

After I arrived and checked-in, I got in line with my brother to wait our turn. We requested the 4dr FE, as it was the only MIC 4 DR, and I wanted to see just what I was getting. Our driver was Brad Lovell and he was gracious enough to skip the formal script and allow me to ask his opinion and some technical stuff that I was curious about. There are plenty of other videos and photos up on these, so I skipped the cameras to talk about the drivetrain and suspension.
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EXTERIOR: I have looked at the 2dr Badlands display when Ford was at Super Celebration West Last September but was happy to see the 4 doors at the Dixie Expo. There were a few of the offered colors offered at Dixie Expo; Rapid Red, Race Red (saw it in a parking lot, but not at the display), Velocity Blue and Area 51. I briefly considered A51, but glad I passed. It appears a bit too teal for me. I do wish they had a Cactus Gray to look at, online photos make it looks too much like primer, and I have driven a few cars in that condition when I was younger! I am not a fan of the gloss black grille and side mirrors of the FE and will be changing out the my grille to a Badlands version and also swapping or painting the mirrors body color. I think off-road vehicles should have the flares fall just short of the tire (1/4" or so), the Sasquatch flares are just a little too wide for that. The MIC top looks good to me. I was skipping the gloss black top, mirrors and grille as they clashes with the satin flares, rocker guards and bumpers. One detail that bothers me, but won’t be an issue for most is that I wish the door handles were black as well. That way, when I run the strip down the side, it will not have to intrude on the body color handles. The sasquatch lift makes it have a great stance. I don't think it is too high for most active people to get in and out. It seemed intuitive to slip up and into the seat.
With all the small exterior details noted, why didn’t I just buy a Badlands and load it up? Because I wanted mine this summer and had an FE reservation……

INTERIOR: When I hopped in, I almost thought I was in a black interior that was a bit dusty. The navy pier color is much darker and muted than I had seen elsewhere. I could have lived with that color had I not ordered the black as it looks like it would go nicely with the lightning blue exterior. The front and rear seats are comfortable, the style and stitching seemed good and my brother, who rode in the back the whole time stated that while the seats seemed to sit a little to straight up and down for him (he didn’t look for an adjustment), he said it was comfortable enough to go on a couple hour road trip without concern. He is 5’ 10”. The 3 seats in the back make the seatbelt buckles ride pretty close to your body on the sides. This might be a concern is you have a bigger frame. The front belt placement was just right for me and held me in firmly on during the more aggressive driving. The front passenger will have a decision to make; sit back away from the dash and airbag or get closer to be able to use the grab handles. Even with my long arms, I would have to lean forward to reach them, or pull the seat forward and crowd the knees a bit for proper arm placement. I didn’t mess with the stereo (which is weird, I totally blanked it out), but the heater controls are well thought out- I loathe looking down to push a button that looks and feels like all the others. With the Bronco, you can put your hand down on the knob for temperature control or slide over to the toggle that controls the fan. It’s a small detail, but when you are trying to keep your eyes on the road, it makes a difference. There is plenty of headroom for both passengers front and rear. The center console lid was in a comfortable spot and the goat mode control was easy to manipulate, although you will have to look down for the buttons assigning 4HI, 4LO, AUTO until you memorize their placement . The phone rang while on the drive, and the instrument cluster provided the information in easy to read format and a simple push of a button on the steering wheel turned it off. The camera displays were large and the front and the wheel cameras made seeing what was going on in front of you a piece of cake. I feel that there is no excuse if you have the high package to not park your vehicle like a pro in the grocery store lot or to line yourself up on some of the trickier spots on your favorite trails. Your buddy will also like not having to climb in and out to spot you during trail rides. During rock crawl mode, the view of the front tires made it easy to keep tires from potentially damaging rocks and the front camera provided a good view of what was upcoming while flying up the top of the dunes. The tire pressure displays while in goat modes was large and in center, so you should be able to see any leaks occurring before the tire gets low on pressure.

ENGINE: I went right for the 2.7L and skipped the 2.3L. I like having a bit of excess power available to use as needed, and already have a couple of manual transmission vehicles in the event someone uses the way gears are engaged as indication of manhood. 😊 The vehicle accelerated quickly and quietly. The transmission shifted smoothly, and later I would be able to see the difference between shifting during goat mode changes. As a tuner (calibrator), I asked about the “over the air architecture (OTA)” that allows Ford to update software without you bringing the vehicle to them. While convenient, it also could provide a way for someone to maliciously gain access to your car. This required Ford to lock down the software extremely well, which may prevent the aftermarket from gaining access to the PCM. Brad didn’t know, so he pulled over on the trail and texted an engineer. The engineer later texted that indeed it was OTA, but didn’t know how much access there was going to be for the aftermarket for the engine and tranny control computer. It was nice that he attempted to get that answer for me. Brad really liked the 2.3 engine as well and said it wasn't lacking too much, especially with the 7 speed transmission. He also mentioned that since the manual didn't have the trail-turn function, it uses a standard brake booster, where the automatic uses a special one to help perform the trail brake function.

SUSPENSION: We skipped the small talk and went right to durability testing. Brad had a bunch of input into the suspension and was clearly happy about what they had pulled off. Each of the Broncos were put through a 700 mile cycle, punishing the suspension constantly. The drivers and engineers were able to make many changes to allow for a really well riding suspension that has plenty of travel and no hard jarring from landing on the bump stops. The 700 miles is designed to approximate the expected off-road use from most of the owners, and almost all of it done at speeds and terrain that will not be experienced by most all but the most die-hard users. Then they went back and did the cycle again…..

THE RIDE: Brad clearly knows how to race across terrain. He was comfortable (as were we) racing across the trails and washouts as high speeds, the suspension soaking up the washboards that had developed over the numerous trips they had made. It seemed there was very little fishtailing as the suspension worked up and down over those washboards. Using the different Goat Modes, Brad showed us how he uses the front locker and the trail ride assist to move you around rocks and change directions quickly. He showed us the differences in transmission shifting in Baja and Sand (sand is less aggressive for easier driving). I was impressed with the grip the stock tires had in the sand, and I was also impressed with the stability of the Bronco as we slid across sand dunes, searching for traction under wide open throttle. The lockers were quiet to engage and disengage, the transfer case was quiet and the most noise I heard was from an air leak between the top two front roof panels (Brad stated it was no secret on the preproduction roofs and were going to be fixed. He said those were the easy design fixes, and wasn’t worried about the top on his upcoming FE at all. The goat mode control unit was easy to use, the display on the instrument panel made it easy to see what you were selecting without looking down at the console. The trail turn on the automatic uses a different brake booster to make that function work, the manual transmission unit is a standard vacuum assist unit.
While driving on some of the rougher terrain, Brad showed how using the sway bar disconnect you could smooth out the off-road handling a bit. Seemed to me that the Badlands/FE could be a better desert runner than the Wildtrak....

Brad was confident that the suspension was up to the job and explained the valving of the shocks and how the secondary blocks progressively slowed the shocks before bottoming out. Brad was so confident of the durability and shock tune, he wasn’t making any changes to his ordered FE.
 

Felix808

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Thanks for sharing.
 

indio22

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Nice writeup - thanks! Do you have any other recollections of the MIC top? For example, did it seem secure or rattle, how did the interior of the MIC look, and did Ford already have the fabric installed that will apparently be coming with all tops? Would you say the MIC was grey on the exterior as in some photos or darker?
 
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The Bronze

The Bronze

First Edition
Well-Known Member
First Name
Kelly
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196
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Location
Colorado
Vehicle(s)
1986 Suzuki Samurai, 1967 Ford Bronco, 1993 Turbo Notchback, 2006 Sierra K1500, 2013 Sierra K1500, 2014 Sienna Mini-Van
Clubs
 
Nice writeup - thanks! Do you have any other recollections of the MIC top? For example, did it seem secure or rattle, how did the interior of the MIC look, and did Ford already have the fabric installed that will apparently be coming with all tops? Would you say the MIC was grey on the exterior as in some photos or darker?
The MIC looked like the later version and seemed pretty close to the flares. They were extremely dusty from all the desert/sand running though. It did already have the sound deadener in it and overall it looked quite good. There were a few spots where the sound deadener could have been installed a bit better (around right angles for example) but it had good coverage and had to help. The top had wind noise coming from between the two front panels. The driver said that it was not a secret to Ford and it was going to be fixed on the production models. I didn't hear much noise from the top, but the tailgate/spare make rattling sounds while we were going all out in the bumps.
 

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