2022 Ford Bronco Everglades First Drive | Half Bronco, half boat

DRUMMOND ISLAND, Mich. – Popping big money for a brand-new, super-capable off-roader and then instantly modifying it isn’t for everybody. For some, though, that might be in your plans, and those folks are exactly who the 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades is for. It’s essentially a Bronco that’s been modified from the factory, but better. You get a lot of extra parts that can be found in some form on the aftermarket, but in this case, they’re integrated with the vehicle in a way that only Ford can offer.

Considering the vast majority of Bronco versions already available that offer massive amounts of customization or options, the straightforward nature of the Bronco Everglades is an attractive alternative if you were already thinking of hitting the aftermarket post-purchase. And if you’ve already ordered a Bronco and are worried you should’ve checked the box labeled “Everglades” instead, don’t worry. It’s not too late to change your mind, but read on to see if it would be a good idea. 

The single configuration available for the Everglades is a Bronco 4-Door with the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and 10-speed automatic transmission. Those who want a manual need not apply, and the same applies for anyone hoping for the boosted V6. Ford tells us that it’s offering the Everglades exclusively with the four-cylinder because it offers a higher payload rating, and it’s ironically expecting the Everglades to be popular for overlanding where you want as much payload capacity as possible — that’s also why it’s 4-Door-only.

Every Everglades is effectively based upon the Black Diamond trim, which puts it squarely in the middle tier of Bronco variants when it comes to equipment and ultimate off-road capability/usability. Ford ups the Everglade’s cred by making the Sasquatch package standard. As a quick reminder, this includes position-sensitive Bilstein shocks, a higher ride height, locking axles front and rear, 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels wrapped in 35-inch mud-terrain tires, a shorter final drive ratio, Trail-Turn Assist and higher-mounted fender flares for more clearance. Plus, because it builds upon the Black Diamond trim, you get heavy-duty bumpers, full underbody bash plates, rubberized washout flooring, vinyl (washable) seats and the Terrain Management system with seven G.O.A.T. modes. Beyond the Black Diamond goodies and the Sasquatch package, you get a color hardtop, roof rack with safari bars, and the gray grille with glossy black Bronco lettering. Before adding anything specific from the Everglades trim, you’re starting out with an incredibly capable base.

Once you tack on the Everglades bits, this Bronco gets even more enticing. The most obvious extra is a unique intake snorkel designed and engineered by Ford. You can change the direction in which it pulls air — forward-facing or rear-facing — to suit the environment, whether that be sand, water or snow. To further improve water fording, the vents for the front and rear axles, transfer case and transmission are raised by 3.4 inches. The snorkel and raised vents increase your maximum wading depth to an impressive 36.4 inches. That’s more than the non-Everglades Bronco’s max of 33.5 inches, and it even bests the Wrangler Xtreme Recon’s max of 33.6 inches. If deep water is your obstacle, the Everglades is the best solution in this class.

Ford also adds a Zeon 10-S Warn winch on the Ford Performance steel bumper, but it’s not just any winch. Instead of pulling it straight off the shelf, Ford modified the winch to make it better and meet its exacting standards. For example, it gets a special powder coating finish for longevity/durability, uses new-and-improved fasteners and features a different hook. It features a synthetic line and has a 10,000-pound weight capability, so you have more than enough power to pull yourself out of any predicament. We got to see the winch in action on multiple occasions, and can confirm that it does its job.

To account for the extra 100-plus pounds hanging out in front of the bumper — this is where the factory benefits really come into play — Ford has re-tuned the suspension with modified spring rates to ensure it rides and behaves properly. Ford even crash-tested the Everglades with the steel bumper and winch to make sure it still crashed to its satisfaction. And lastly, Ford tuned and dialed in the sensors for driver assistance features to function as intended. So, you can have your fancy winch, steel bumper and snorkel, but don’t have to compromise other features that aftermarket parts could affect.

The Everglades has its own appearance package to go along with its capability enhancements. Its front quarter fenders get an Everglades graphic that features a map topography from the actual Florida Everglades. Five colors are available, including one Everglades-exclusive paint option called Desert Sand (cause when you think of the Everglades, you’d naturally think “Desert Sand”). Every option but the vibrant Eruption Green is a rather muted, murky tone of paint to fit the Everglades theme. The interior is just like a normal Bronco, except for a number of green accents on the grab handles, air vents and seat stitching. Plus, it gets the big 12-inch touchscreen running Sync 4 as standard alongside the other niceties found in the “mid” package.

To see how the Everglades handles off-roading, Ford brought us to Michigan’s Drummond Island. It’s a remote island off the coast of the Upper Peninsula that’s only accessible by ferry, and it’s chock-full of ORV trails. No, it’s not the Florida Everglades, but the swampy nature of the island does a standup job of replicating the landscape you might find in Florida. We’d wager it’s even better, as the mild temperatures found in northern Michigan make it far more palatable to remove the roof and keep the windows down while off-roading. The chances of getting eaten by an alligator are also substantially lower. 

Throughout the entire day, the Bronco Everglades proved itself to be both a dummy-proof rock crawler and a sturdy boat. Heavy rains in the week leading up to our excursion meant that water levels were up across the island, allowing the snorkel to be put to good use. Hearing the water lap up to levels near the door handle is more evocative of relaxing on a pontoon instead of delicately picking our way across a football field worth of water. Even at these deep depths, the Everglades trundles along with a sense of single-minded invincibility, gripping tenaciously to the rocky and muddy surface below the water. Simply stick it in Mud/Ruts mode, and the Bronco handles it from there.

Run across a big rock hidden deep underwater? No problem, the Sasquatch’s 11.5 inches of ground clearance should be enough to get over it. The bash plates are there just in case, and were used on a couple occasions. No harm done, though – that’s what they’re for. On a few occasions, the Everglades’ mirrors inched by stout trees on either side of the trail unscathed, underlining a real-world drawback to the hilariously wide new Bronco Raptor. This Bronco is wide, but it wasn’t too wide to inhibit our fun.

As the day wore on, confidence in the Bronco’s ability to just clamber over anything grew. There’s really no replacement for meaty 35-inch tires like the mud-terrains on display here. You can use them as a weapon of sorts, and they’re an incredible safety blanket for when you take a poor line and go slipping and sliding in especially rutted-up areas (ask us how we know). You’ll be glad to have them when you lose a rear wheel and start sliding toward a boulder, but then there’s no crunch and no damage. Just a rubbery pillow to help you out.

Having a winch while off-roading is also never a bad idea. It gives you the confidence to send it into a deeply difficult situation, knowing that in the end you can just winch yourself out if needed. We did that on a couple of occasions in our convoy, because if you don’t get it stuck, you definitely aren’t going hard enough.

Our time on-road was limited, so we’ll need to wait to see if the new spring rates do much to affect driving comfort versus other Bronco models, but initial impressions tell us that the Everglades won’t handle or ride much differently than other Broncos with a similar build.

If this Everglades package sounds like the hot ticket to you, know that its OEM-plus nature is a little more costly than if you were to buy a Bronco, then buy bits like the snorkel and winch from the aftermarket. Ford admitted as much to us, but that’s the price you pay to have a from-the-factory setup like this one. The starting price, which includes all the parts we’ve talked about here, is $54,495. Build a Bronco 4-Door in Black Diamond trim that has everything but the Everglades bits, and you’re looking at a price just north of $52,000. Essentially, you’re paying an extra $2,500 or so to get the Everglades’ capability and appearance, which is an acceptable charge in our book.

The last catch is that for 2022, the only way you’ll be able to snag an Everglades is if you’re still waiting on a previously-placed order. Assuming you’re one of these people, you’ll be able to convert the old order into an Everglades. We asked Ford if it’d be able to meet demand, and as of now, Ford believes it will.

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