My wife told me that cars with a spare tire mounted to the back are automatically cool. She’s not wrong. The bright yellow 2021 Bronco Badlands sitting in our driveway is painfully cool. It oozes bravado and continues a trend of looking backward for designs. Ford as an entity has strip-mined nostalgia and emerged from its cave, face covered in soot, holding up a glorious piece of automotive gold. But it didn’t share its discovery with us right away, it spent years carrying around a sealed box telling us that inside was something special and it would unleash its glorious Bronco upon us, unsuspecting mortals when the time was right.
God, we really wanted to see inside that box. They had us in the palm of their hands.
The hype machine eventually came to a rest and behold we were introduced to the Bronco. A vehicle that I can safely say, lives up to expectations. It turns heads, it makes Jeep owners question their life choices, and it gives you a feeling of power over the environment. In fact, that’s its true power, what it does to the world around you, and how it scoffs at the obstacles that would fell a lesser vehicle.
In the driver’s seat, I’ve determined that this may be the perfect evacuation vessel. California is on fire, New York is flooding, the South is bracing for hurricanes and the Bronco is there to conquer it all. A four-wheeled-drive messiah handed down from Dearborn, Michigan sent to deliver us from our past sins while continuing to perpetuate those misdeeds.
While automakers including Ford take to the world’s stage to announce carbon neutrality, upcoming EV fleets, electrified sales targets, and acknowledgment that their machines have helped alter weather patterns around the world, the Bronco is selling out. The Bronco with its EPA rating of 21 miles per gallon. A laughably low number.
“Is this available as a hybrid?” My wife asks.
“No. Maybe next year.” I answer.
It’s not a suitable answer when the plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4XE is on the market. It’s not a suitable answer when Ford is promising an electric future. It’s not a suitable answer when every time I smell smoke in the air, I immediately check the Twitter accounts of multiple fire-fighting agencies while scanning the horizon. It’s not a suitable answer.
But the Bronco has risen above all of that. “Shhh, just let us have nice things” I whisper to myself as I drive off-road to test its capabilities. I should just let it exist as the last hurrah of the oversized inefficient SUV market because I mean look at it. I want to drive it into the sunset. A glorious sunset tinted brilliant orange by the smoke of a fire hundreds of miles away. An inferno that’s resulted in some of my friends having to evacuate their homes. They have no idea if they’ll return to a home or a smoldering graveyard of memories and personal possessions.
I wish I could have picked them up in the Bronco. “Get in, we’re going to escape this in the Bronco,” I’d yell. It’s so perfect for a dystopian future. Did you see the trail turn feature? One of the rear wheels locks to make tight corners on a trail. The freeways are blocked, we’re taking this thing into the wilderness to escape and Mother Nature doesn’t adhere to road width regulations. Thank you Bronco, you’ll keep us all safe. We can remove one of the roof panels for a better view of the road ahead. Is it blocked? Is it flooded? A little water can’t stop the Bronco, it can ford TKTK inches. You see that discarded suitcase in the road up ahead? No problem for the Bronco, it has a TKTK inches clearance. (TKTK nothing matters anymore)
Society collapses but the Bronco prevails. Does anyone I know have the skills to refine gasoline from oil when humanity loses its tenuous grip on this planet? This really should be a plug-in hybrid. All we’d need then would be some solar panels to keep this sublime mixture of engineering and design on the road. “Maybe next year,” I mumble to myself.
I’m so high off the ground right now as I head to market. Look at everyone else in their fake SUVs. They’re doomed if shit goes sideways. There are so many SUVs that will get stuck in the mud high centered on rocks and trees on the road intermingled with raised trucks. I’m bonded to those pickups with their lift kits and pristine beds. We’re burning through dinosaurs quicker than a meteor. Shit, I need to refuel again.
I show off the aux switches above the rearview mirror. “I can add lights, a winch, a water filtration system,” I tell friends. Clean water will be tough to come by at some point. Did you see the undersea fire in the Gulf of Mexico? I’m told an oil line ruptured and the heat of the fire created steam and the oxygen in those little bubbles allowed for an undersea firestorm. I’m learning horrifying facts all the time about fire, hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, and climate prediction models. Maybe one of the aux switches can be used to run a tiny oil refinery.
I’ve started taking notes while watching Mad Max. Furiousa would love the Bronco. Imagine how she’d spec it. Does Ford offer a flamethrower trim level?
I wonder what the payments for a Bronco would be. Could I afford it as gas prices rise? Can I afford not to have it as the sea levels rise? My coupe won’t save me. My EV won’t save me. My motorcycle might actually save me. The collapse will be a mad dash to drive somewhere else and the result will be an eye-in-the-sky traffic reporter cackling to themselves as they realize society is trapped by the very vehicles that helped bring all this about. They can fly away.
I love the Bronco. Society loves the Bronco the same way an alcoholic loves that last drink. They swear it’s the last time. We swear the Bronco is the last time we ignore what’s happening and fall in love. The last time we all get behind something that’s the epitome of the path that led us to being frightened of the Weather Channel. The last widely loved and socially acceptable 20 MPG behemoth.
I’m taking this thing off-road one more time before they pick it up. I don’t want them to take it away as I roll over a pile of unknown items. Hey, if we get a flat tire, we have a full-size spare on the back. Because full-size spares are cool. Now turn up the AC, for some reason, it’s unseasonably warm outside.