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They say to never meet your heroes. That saying came to mind after spending some time at the wheel of the new 2023 Ford Bronco Heritage Edition. Ford’s retro-cool off-road SUV has enjoyed a level of hype in the auto industry that automakers constantly crave. Yet, the new Bronco Heritage Edition disappointed me – especially compared to the Jeep Wrangler JL.

Is the Ford Bronco Heritage Edition any good?

A black 2023 Ford Bronco Heritage Edition sits in front of green hills.
2023 Ford Bronco Heritage Edition | Scott Prewitt

The Ford Bronco Heritage Edition nails its intention to provide cool retro looks. Still, it falls flat in the driving dynamics and build quality categories.

I spent time at the wheel of a black two-door example of the Bronco Heritage Edition during the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Spring Rally at Road America. I’d been looking forward to a chance to test drive the Bronco for a while – it’s one of the most talked-about vehicles of the last few years. Needless to say, my expectations were high.

Unfortunately, the 4×4 fell short of those expectations. I walked away from my experience with the Bronco Heritage Edition thinking it still had a long way to go before catching up to the Jeep Wrangler.

The pros: sharp retro looks abound

Close up view 2023 Ford Bronco Heritage Edition badging.
2023 Ford Bronco Heritage Edition | Scott Prewitt

The point of the Bronco Heritage Edition has been to emulate the visual style of the original models of the 1960s. In this regard, the 4×4 passes with flying colors.

Ford nailed the look with its white grille, old-school steel wheels, chunky off-road tires, and retro Bronco badging. It even has plaid upholstery inside the cabin, like the Volkswagen Golf GTI. But looks aren’t everything.

The cons: Bronco Heritage Edition is clunky and cumbersome to drive

Side profile view of a black 2023 Ford Bronco Heritage Edition.
2023 Ford Bronco Heritage Edition | Scott Prewitt

You might expect a shorter version of the Bronco to provide a bit of nimble handling, but the two-door model still feels enormous.

One of the charms of the Jeep Wrangler has always been its maneuverability – especially in two-door models. Even the new JL generation is agile enough to have some fun on the street. It’s light on its feet even while carrying two solid axles.

The new Bronco lumbers along by comparison. It heaves itself across the pavement with the footfalls of an ancient beast while the Wrangler still scampers like a mountain goat. It’s more a bulldozer than a bull ride. While that might appeal to some drivers, it wasn’t this one’s cup of tea.

It’s a surprise, seeing as Ford intentionally designed the new Bronco with an independent front suspension setup. According to Road & Track,This design aimed to improve on-road handling and comfort compared to the Jeep Wrangler. Despite this move, the Wrangler appears to still have the upper hand.

Different Bronco configurations may yield better driving dynamics

Part of the problem may have been the specific Bronco configuration and driving configuration that I experienced. The Bronco Heritage Edition was a two-door model with chunky all-terrain tires – perfect for off-roading but less than ideal for a pavement cruise.

It’s entirely possible that a four-door Bronco with its longer wheelbase and equipped with road tires would produce better results on the tarmac. And I imagine adding a stick shift to the situation would create some extra fun, too.