Rooftop tent not required: The Ford Bronco is its own adventure camper
We're not sure if the explosion of overlanding over the past few years helped push along Ford's decision to finally bring back the Bronco 25 years later, but it's clearly guiding the marketing around the new 4x4's launch. Following up on the Bronco Sport camper and Bronco overland concept, Ford reveals how suitable the standard Bronco four-door's interior is for spending the night, fully sheltered or under the sparkling night sky. Fold down the seats and you have a camper van-size lying area for bedding down.
If there was any doubt that the Bronco would make a great overlander and mini-camper, Ford tried to put it to rest on Friday, releasing an official announcement and fact sheet about the four-door's baked-in camping capability.
"We spent a lot of time engaging in the outdoors with off-road enthusiasts and understood Bronco had to elevate the off-road camping experience with cleverness and comfort," explains Bill Mangan, Bronco chief interior designer. "So we made sure our four-door models could accommodate in-car camping and we followed it with best-in-class overall openness with the top removed so campers can enjoy spectacular nighttime views."
We bet at least a few future buyers have wondered if the Bronco four-door would be able to sleep a camping solo or duo in back, and Ford answers that question with hard specs. Fold the rear seats flat and push the front seats forward, and the Bronco has 78 inches (198 cm) of length in back with the tailgate closed, the company says. Incidentally, that's a recognizable length shared with innumerable camper mattresses that readily accommodate average-height adults.
You might not want to press your luck if you happen to stand all of or close to 78 in (6' 6") tall, though, because that'll mean you're wedged tightly between the front seat back and tailgate, or forced to otherwise bend and twist to fit. You can, however, sleep alone, gaining up to an extra foot (30 cm) of length by lying diagonally. Or you can deploy the available slide-out tailgate extension (also a handy worktop for the campsite) and have 93 in (236 cm) of indoor/outdoor length on which to lie straight and up to 105 in (267 cm) when lying diagonally.
The Bronco's 43-in (109-cm) width is nearly a foot narrower than a residential full-size bed and on the slimmer end of what you might expect for a two-person camper sleeping surface. Still, it falls within the range of a two-person camper bed and is actually an inch wider than the 78-in-long fold-out bed in the new Volkswagen Caddy California. Ford also adds that the Bronco floor widens out at the doors for an extra 10 in (25 cm) of room, right where you want it for your elbows.
The specs sound good, but Ford hasn't done itself any favors with its photos. Maybe it's just the overhead angle, but in the photo at the top, the male has his leg crossed and the female has her feet out onto the tailgate extension. Neither one appears to have much room between their head and the front seat back, even with the tailgate open. How are they supposed to fit with it closed; where's that 6.5 feet of length?
And look at the guy below after he kicks his girlfriend out and goes it alone. He still seems squeezed in, even lying diagonally. Maybe he's over 7 feet tall, but it looks more like Ford never moved and leaned the front seats forward, a curious decision that cuts down the length it's trying to highlight. Perhaps it was trying to mask the open footwell space left between the front seat back and folded rear seat, attempting to give the impression that the Bronco "bed" fills out the entire tailgate area. But that open space would be left in any vehicle and is something any half-resourceful 4x4 camper or overlander could work around.
Whatever the case, it highlights the need for a camping accessory to be offered among the hundreds of Ford-licensed Bronco accessories Ford always likes to mention: a Luno Life-style inflatable mattress kit fit to the Bronco's specific dimensions. That would step up the in-Bronco camping experience all around.
Speaking of accessories, another very useful one for anyone planning to camp in back will be the Yakima platform rack. By carrying cargo on the roof rather than in the back, Bronco campers will save themselves from having to constantly move gear in and out of the tailgate, something that can grow tiresome very fast, especially in bad weather.
The first Broncos will roll out next spring, and hopefully some handy camping accessories will follow soon after.