An updated sports coupe gets plenty of improvements.
Proper M models from BMW are legit contenders in their respective classes, and to capitalize on this, the Munich marque was smart to slap a lighter version of that celebrated letter on several of its models. When the 2 Series got this treatment nearly a decade ago, the M235i was instantly hot. A bargain version of the iconic brand, offering some stellar performance for your enthusiast dollar. Sure, having more numbers after the M meant it wasn’t quite the hot model in the lineup, but BMW hit a sweet spot.
For 2022, the 2 Series coupe got an upgrade in both sheetmetal and powertrain, but the styling is going a different direction than its truly polarizing 3 and 4 Series siblings, while still testing the patience of BMW loyalists with its looks. Thankfully the exterior lines aren’t too edgy, and the numbers on paper catch the eye, but is this new 2 Series a true sportscar player at a price that’s easier to stomach?
The Important Figures
Under the 2022 BMW M240i’s hood is the B58, a twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six–also found in the BMW M340i sedan–which cranks out a healthy 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. A ZF 8-speed automatic is the only transmission (clutch your pearls, manual fans), and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive is the default driveline too. With this powertrain, the M240i will sprint from 0-60 MPH in just 4.1 seconds, on its way to a 130 MPH top speed on all-season run flat tires (or 155 when fitted with optional summer performance tires).
BMW adjusted the 2 Series coupe’s dimensions for 2022, now sporting a 62.2-inch front and 62.8-inch rear track, which is nearly identical to the faster M2. A 2-inch longer wheelbase now measures 107.9 inches, and the weight distribution is 53.1/46.9 front to rear. The entry level 230i coupe is standard with rear-wheel-drive, and this quicker M240i comes with BMW’s xDrive setup that spins all four wheels. Due to possessing all-wheel-drive, the M240i conceals a bit more weight than the proper M2, tipping the scales at 3,871 pounds.
Because of its compact coupe size, the power it packs, and the price point, the 2022 BMW M240i has a mixed group of competitors. Cross shoppers could consider a Toyota Supra, Porsche 718 Cayman, or Audi S3, depending on which of those categories tickles their fancy most effectively. At a base price of $48,560, the BMW M240i catches plenty of enthusiasts’ attention. After ticking a few options boxes, and adding a stunning shade of Thundernight Metallic paint, this tester hit a total MSRP of $56,845.
A Compliant Cruiser
BMW is nailing the civility challenges some sports cars can’t overcome. The M240i is a fantastic daily driver, benefitting from the adaptive dampers from the last generation 2 Series’ M2 CS–that I called the best driver’s car BMW has ever produced–that provide a sublime city driving experience. Surprisingly, the M240i doesn’t feel as heavy as it truly is, and the adaptive suspension is the primary reason. There’s good responsiveness from the M240i’s suspension, but the tech softens any chassis harshness one would expect from a sporty coupe.
Electric assistance makes the M240i’s steering feel light yet sharp in its comfort and eco modes, and only gets properly heavy when put into the individual or sport modes. Now boasting all-wheel-drive, the BMW M240i offers greater confidence when the weather is less than favorable. In standard trim, the M240i comes with a square setup of 19-inch wheels wrapped in 225/40/19 all-season rubber, but this tester was fitted with M Sport 19-inch wheels with meatier 245/35/19 front and 255/35/19 rear Pirelli P Zero summer tires for added grip.
The turbocharged engine concealed beneath the M240i’s sculpted hood is a gem, offering plenty of smooth torque that helps it scoot past slower commuters effortlessly. While there’s sufficient power ready to consume lots of premium unleaded, BMW does have an eco drive mode to tame the throttle response and mapping, making the EPA fuel economy estimates of 23/32/26 more attainable. I like that each of the eco, comfort, and sport drive modes in the M240i can have individual configurations, giving the driver greater flexibility for dialing in the perfect setup for any driving mood. My errand running setup was in the eco pro mode, but I made the steering tighten up, and kept the suspension in comfort.
Once you slip into the driver’s seat, the M240i’s cockpit looks identical to that in the bigger brother BMW 4 Series, down to the thick-rimmed multifunction steering wheel. Even the console for the shifter, drive modes, and iDrive puck look like they were plucked from the upper segment BMW model. Similar to the 4 Series is the M240i’s infotainment and climate control cluster, which neatly includes easy to use controls.
A tasteful update over last year’s 2 Series, the materials in the 2022 BMW M240i definitely aren’t entry level, giving it an advantage over its rivals. For an extra $150, BMW gave this M240i cool aluminum tetragon trim too. Seats are big and plush, with good headroom and shoulder width up front. Legroom in the back seat isn’t great, but this is a compact coupe, so as long as your adult friends aren’t stuck back there for anything longer than a quick run to get a bite to eat they’ll live. Trunk space is plentiful in the M240i too, and if you need even more storage, the rear seats fold flat.
BMW’s adaptive cruise control is great, which I tested thoroughly on a couple Austin-area toll roads, but it’s part of the $1,450 driver assistance package that also includes extra parking assistance, a drive recorder, and a 3D surround view on the infotainment display. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard in the M240i’s infotainment system, with a wireless mobile charging pad installed in the compartment which also conceals the cupholders. I suggest spending an extra $875 to upgrade to the Harman Kardon audio system, which sounds fantastic.
A Proper Back Road Plaything
It may not be a full-fat BMW M model, but don’t sleep on the M240i. Possessing under 400 horsepower doesn’t make big headlines in the sports car world, but don’t scoff at the M240i’s 382 peak horsepower output. The straight-six is pleasantly punchy, offering its peak 369 lb-ft of torque across a massive plateau from 1,800 – 5,000 RPM, allowing this purple machine to scream with ease. Could this enthusiast driver be happier with more power? Sure, but frankly the M240i’s power is more than sufficient. Exhaust notes from the M240i aren’t the most striking, but this M-lite model is supposed to be more composed than its proper M siblings, even if it’s apparent there are fake engine sounds being pumped through the speakers.
BMW’s choice to fit all-wheel-drive may have added weight over the front axle, but that is a compromise I’ll happily make because the upgrade certainly improves front-end stability when tossing the M240i into fast sweepers. If you’re really pissed about BMW having all-wheel-drive, you’ll be happy to know that the M240i will have a rear-wheel-drive option later this year. I expected a bit more understeer with all-wheel-drive, versus rear-drive 2 Series models I’ve tested in the past, but the M240i still likes to slide its ass-end, thanks to a bit of rear-wheel bias. The standard M Sport rear differential effectively manages slip angle too, making it exit any corner smoothly even if you’re heavy on the throttle.
My sport individual setup put the engine and transmission in sport plus, steering in sport (because sport plus just seemed a little too heavy and sensitive), but like every other grumpy 40-something reviewer I stuck the dampers in comfort. Unless you’re on the smoothest track, keep the suspension in its soft mode, particularly as the adaptive suspension will perfectly compensate for any bumps while providing the perfect amount of firmness faster than your synapses fire.
BMW says this new M240i has more negative camber than the last generation, helping the Pirelli contact patch stick where it’s supposed to in the corners. I still don’t love the P Zero, and will continue to crave the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S as the all-around rubber champ until something better comes along, but the Pirellis held up quite well when I gave the M240i a good thrashing session along a twisty road just outside of Austin. The bright blue calipers clamping on steel rotors didn’t get too hot during fun sessions either, and the pedal feedback was bang-on.
The M240i’s revised front end sports new kidney grilles–which thankfully aren’t massive like the M3 and M4–that incorporate air flap control to reduce drag when the engine is running at optimal temperatures while sliding open when additional cooling is required. Out back, the M240i gets a neatly integrated rear lip spoiler. While crafting a new body design, BMW claims it reduced the M240i’s lift by 50% thanks to optimized aerodynamics.
The Pros And Cons
Thank you, BMW, for offering the M240i with this wildly cool paint as the launch color. Thundernight Metallic isn’t just a cool name, but the deep purple shade has a great amount of metallic flake mixed in to create a stunning look when any dose of sunlight hits it. Reshaping the new M240i was an overdue task, and this finished product has mixed results. Overall, the look is good, and the more pronounced fender flares give this compact sports coupe a more muscular stance, but BMW didn’t get the fascia right. The new kidney grilles are cool and functional, but I don’t understand why the angled side vents are so big and sharp. Then there’s the tail end. Much like the front, the lines seem too edgy, and slightly cheapen the look of this upmarket sports car.
Details around the M240i have some positives. I like the new adaptive LED headlight housings, which have circular lighting projectors within the sharper housings. The texture worked into the daytime running light element is futuristic too. Gray metallic caps are used over the side view mirrors, offering a hint more contrast to this compact BMW’s body, and the shadow line trim around the bumpers and grilles is a nice feature. The M240i’s seats are comfortable to spend hours in, and subtle in appearance, as opposed to the ones fitted to the M3 and M4. I also like the blue contrasting stitching that completes a sporty look.
There are a couple points deducted in the cockpit. I am not a fan of the gauge cluster. It is now a fully digital display that can be customized, but the needles for the tachometer and speedometer are tiny, and the numbers all blend together too easily. Nothing about them truly stands out to make a needle nor number clearly visible. Drive modes have individual buttons, so you have to take your eyes off the road to make sure you’re pressing the correct one. I wish there was a knob for this function, like there are in other German sports cars.
The climate control system doesn’t have a sync button on the dash, so if you want to align all the ventilation, you have to tap the A/C menu button and make a couple extra adjustments on the infotainment screen. Buttons are also less than intuitive on the steering wheel, with the roller used to change menus on the gauge pod, rather than adjusting volume. Instead that’s done with the + / – buttons. Those last two items are small complaints though.
A Great Little Sports Coupe
BMW gave the M240i a great stack of updates for 2022. Its power is plentiful, the steering is precise, and the handling is fantastic. The new M240i’s exterior appearance may not be as tidy as its predecessor’s, but the refreshed body is more stylish without being as polarizing as the M3 or M4. The M240i may not offer flashy stats like its bigger M siblings, but there’s more than enough performance to satisfy this enthusiast. I won’t deny that I look forward to reviewing the next iteration of the M2 and its faster variants, but this lesser M model still ticks plenty of boxes.
When I evaluate the M240i’s capabilities, its compact packaging, and its sub-$60,000 price, I compare it to BMW’s E46 M3. Still one of my favorite performance cars from the early 2000s, it offered stellar performance at the right price, with proportions that nailed it for me. When viewed in that light, the M240i is a modern interpretation of that iconic analog driving gem, ready to put a massive grin on your face as you conquer a twisty road, and I think that makes it a big hit.
Boasting supreme luxury and cool styling, this loaded flagship sedan leads the field.
When Mercedes-Benz launches a new S-Class, the industry takes note. Always the pinnacle of the German marque’s capabilities, the S-Class brings new tech, features, and styling cues to the lineup, and makes the competition step up its game. Recognized as the sedan that hauls bank executives, dignitaries, and celebrities alike, this Mercedes-Benz icon has serious expectations to conquer.
Competing with the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, and Maserati Quattroporte, the S-Class will always have rivals at its heels. In its newest form, Mercedes has unveiled its executive sedan to suit the driver as much as the driven occupant. Having reviewed a variety of ultimate luxury sedans including the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Bentley Flying Spur, I wanted to see how a slightly more attainable luxury sedan got along, so I gave it a comprehensive test.
THE KEY SPECIFICATIONS
Mercedes-Benz offers the new S-Class with two different engine options. In the S500, a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six (shared with the AMG GT 53 I reviewed) makes its way under the hood, coupled with Mercedes’ EQ Boost 48V mild-hybrid system, producing 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. In S580 guise, Mercedes provides its exceptional 4.0-liter biturbo V8, also equips its EQ Boost system, which bumps the output to 496 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. The S580 is driven by a 9-speed automatic that powers all four wheels, and the sprint from 0-60 MPH takes only 4.4 seconds.
At 208 inches long, 77 wide, and 59 tall, the S-Class has a 65-inch front and 66-inch wide rear track, and a wheelbase measuring 126 inches. In its ultimately appointed–and more expensive–Maybach offering, Mercedes extends the wheelbase and overall length seven inches, providing the rear cabin occupants a massive space to be driven in. Thanks to extensive use of aluminum in its construction, this luxobarge tips the scales at just 4,775 pounds.
Mercedes offers the S580 in three distinct trim levels, with the Luxury Line being its standard model, at a base price of $117,700. The upper trim is the Executive Line model, which adds seating and entertainment upgrades to the rear cabin, focused on the driven occupant. The model I tested is the AMG Line, in the middle of the lineup, adding sportier details inside and out, with a base price of $122,000.
Painted Obsidian Black, treated with Sienna Brown and Black Exclusive Nappa leather, and trimmed with Slate high-gloss poplar wood trim, my tester added 22-inch AMG wheels with performance tires, rear-axle steering, the Burmester 4D high-end audio system, warmth and comfort package, night package, and 3D technology package to hit a total MSRP of $142,090.
THE BEST WAY TO COMMUTE TO THE OFFICE
As expected from a car of this caliber, the all-new Mercedes S580 is wonderful to spend time cruising in. While the standard inline-six in the S500 is a good powerplant, the biturbo V8 stuffed into the S580 is the one you want. With its peak 516 lb-ft of torque available from 2,000 – 4,000 RPM, there’s no hesitation when you want the S-Class to surge ahead, complimented by the smoothest torque-ll provided by Mercedes’ EQ Boost mild-hybrid system. Unfortunately Mercedes no longer has a 12-cylinder option in the S-Class, like is standard in the Rolls-Royce Ghost I enjoyed, and is optional in the Bentley Flying Spur and BMW 7 Series.
The S-Class glides over the bumpiest city streets, thanks to its adaptive AIRMATIC suspension that prevents any disruptions inside this massive chassis. Despite being a huge executive sedan, the S580 is remarkably nimble, and the rear-axle steering is a great option box to tick for added agility. Pirelli P zero rubber is wrapped around the 22-inch wheels in the AMG Line, which denitely help it cope in the bends. I took this S-Class along twisty roads on multiple occasions, and was more than pleased with how confidently it carved corners.
The dynamic drive modes offer eco, comfort, sport, and sport plus defaults, and my favorite individual setup involved putting the engine in comfort, the suspension in sport, and the steering in sport too. I liked a hint firmer response–but not too stiff–from the adaptive dampers, as the comfort mode was more floaty than I prefer. Demand even more cornering prowess? Drop $6,500 on the E-Active Body Control that employs a stereo camera system that works in harmony with the 48V electronics in the suspension to minimize body roll, pitch, and dive characteristics under any driving condition. Even if that drive is only made between one’s massive house and the office or country club.
The new S-Class is treated to a cabin that’s upholding the new Mercedes look that perfectly balances cool and luxurious. The S580’s seats are supremely good, with loads of support in the right spots, and heating, ventilation, and massage modes that will spoil you along any drive. The pillows attached to the headrests are a nice touch too. I suggest taking a long road trip to truly exploit the comfort provided in this flagship Mercedes.
The Burmester 3D surround audio system (a $6,730 option) is among the best I’ve heard in any car, even versus the Naim for Bentley system in the Flying Spur and the Bespoke Audio in the Rolls-Royce Ghost I reviewed, detailed with cool metallic speaker grilles (featuring tweeters that unscrew outward when the system is on). If the speakers aren’t potent enough, Mercedes supplies laminated glass that’s heat and noise-insulating, and IR-reflecting, to make sure you aren’t affected by any outside elements.
BEING DRIVEN IN COOL LUXURY
While driving the new Mercedes S580 is great, spending time in the back seat is fantastic. Even without opting for the Maybach model that boasts an extra seven inches of wheelbase that benefits the rear cabin, the legroom rear passengers will enjoy in the S-Class is massive. The optional warmth and comfort package adds rapid heating, cool ventilation, and power adjustments to the rear seats, while also giving the front passengers added heating in the center and door armrests.
If you’re the person being driven more often than driving, spend the extra cash for the Executive Line S580 that enhances the seating setup with massaging modes, a footrest on the right side, four-zone climate control, and upgrades to the MBUX infotainment system to allow for easier controls while utilizing a tablet that docks in the cooler center armrest that also conceals a wireless charging pad.
THE EXCEPTIONAL DETAILS
While the Mercedes-Benz S580’s exterior may project that it’s an understated executive sedan, but there are countless details that make it cool. The sculpted panels carry subtle styling lines that flow smoothly around its body, cleanly connecting the headlights to the taillights. The classic grille contains the cruise control radar components, and there’s still the iconic Mercedes-Benz hood ornament installed.
Under its fine sheetmetal, Mercedes-Benz has gone wild appointing its interior with some of the coolest tech you’ll spot inside any car currently on sale. An additional $3,000 will upgrade the cockpit with an augmented reality heads-up display and a 3D instrument cluster. The 64-color ambient light modes can be adjusted as desired, but I went for the cool Miami Sunset theme that cycles through retro pastel shades.
While cool speakers, ambient lights, and space age materials aren’t new to luxury cars, Mercedes has a party trick few can match, tucked into its infotainment’s settings: “Energizing Comfort” modes. Whether the S580’s occupants are in need of a boost of energy, want to calm themselves after a long day, or have just taken a dose of their favorite psychedelics (please don’t do this and drive), the S-Class will set up a mind-blowing experience.
Depending on the mode selected, an adaptive color theme is introduced through the ambient lights, the seat and armrest heaters crank up if it’s a warming theme or the seat ventilation fans activate, a unique massage mode begins, and the Burmester audio system flexes its prowess as instrumentals blast through all its numerous speakers. It’s an immersive experience like nothing else, and I strongly recommend making friends with a new S-Class owner, wandering to an open space at night, and firing up one of these modes.
THE POSITIVE POINTS
As more luxury manufacturers are making bold styling changes, Mercedes insists on keeping the S-Class refined. Every panel has the tiniest gap that is perfectly measured around the entire body. Soft-close doors silently operate, yet still have a solidly-weighted feel. Door handles are similar to those found on a Tesla Model S, but with smooth and silent extending and concealment when entering or exiting the S-Class.
I expected the new S-Class to be extremely well-assembled inside, but this S580 is exquisite. A blend of big high-resolution displays for the instrument cluster and MBUX infotainment system, fine quilted leather, and cool metal trim that compliments large wood panels complete a cabin I adore. Follow any stitching, wood, or metal trim line, and you’ll never spot a deviation or imperfection. Considering the S580 costs half the price of the Bentley Flying Spur and a third of the cost of a Rolls-Royce Ghost, the interior detailing of the S-Class is on-par with them both.
A FEW TINY COMPLAINTS
Where the complete outer proportions of the Mercedes S-Class are great, the front grille is a little large when presented between the smaller headlamp housings. I get that Mercedes wanted the front-end to be striking, but the main grille element needs to shrink about 20 percent. This is about as much of a complaint as I can find around the S580’s body, as it still looks ridiculously good.
Continuing the trend throughout its updated cabin designs, Mercedes has incorporated more capacitive touch controls for the seat adjustments, and I would prefer some physical movement that’s given more of a positive click when making each of the many seat sections move. The same gripe extends to the steering wheel setup that I didn’t love in the Mercedes E350 I drove not long ago. With physical controls being eliminated, Mercedes makes you take your eyes off the road to adjust the climate control or volume of your favorite music. At least the volume slider adjusts intuitively when you slide your finger either direction.
“THE BEST OR NOTHING” EPITOMIZED
More than a catchy tagline, the principle of “The Best or Nothing” is effectively applied to the new Mercedes S-Class. As is the case each time Mercedes-Benz releases a new S-Class, the luxury flagship benchmark has been reset with this newest edition. Best of luck to the S-Class’ rivals, in an attempt to compete with what is the best offering in its class by far. The S580 demonstrates the finest engineering and craftsmanship Mercedes can produce.
Met with timeless looks outside, the S580’s cabin is treated to wonderfully modern styling touches and a cool factor like no other flagship sedan. Pair a refined chassis with a mild-hybrid powertrain that creates a truly smooth surge, and the Mercedes-Benz S580 is as joyful behind the wheel as it is from the back seat. There’s nothing like a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and I think it is absolutely the executive sedan to buy.
Wanna be a baller, shot caller, 33-inch meats on this rock crawler.
After several months in the wild, the all-new Ford Bronco has received plenty of praise from owners and motoring journalists alike. A properly sorted truck platform that can go damn near anywhere while being civil on the street, the Bronco got high marks from me, when I reviewed its more city-friendly Outer Banks trim level last summer. I made sure to give the new Ford Bronco a solid examination during that test, putting plenty of city miles in addition to loads of off-road hours on the truck.
By no means was the Outer Banks model a slouch in the rocky terrain of a favorite off-road park, but that setup is more focused on being the mall crawler that occasionally gets dirty. I wanted to see how the more hardcore Bronco performed where it mattered, so I rang up the people at Ford, and they sent the Badlands model my way for some proper analysis.
The Good Stats
The Bronco has two engine options no matter how many doors you prefer, with a base 2.3-liter turbocharged four cylinder and the manual transmission, and a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 as an upgrade. The bigger engine provides 330 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque if you ll the tank with premium unleaded, and offers 315 horses and 415 lb-ft if you opt for regular unleaded. While the V6 option is stout, the EcoBoost 4-banger is a bit more tame, offering a decent 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque when using 91 octane, and 275 horsepower and 315 lb-ft when using 87.
Ford oers the new Bronco in two- and four-door bodies, including soft or hard top options, with a full slate of trim levels to hit the sweet spot for any driver. Selectable four-wheel-drive comes standard on the Ford Bronco, with your choice between a 10-speed automatic or 7-speed manual (with a crawl gear) available in the four-cylinder model, and the V6 has the 10-speed auto as its only transmission (which was the setup in the Outer Banks model I reviewed earlier in the year). This two-door Badlands model was equipped with the smaller 2.3-liter engine, hooked up to the 7-speed manual.
The 2-door Ford Bronco has a base price of $29,995, with 4-door models starting at $34,695, with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder as the standard engine. Add a couple thousand to the sticker price if you want the V6. In rugged Badlands trim, this Antimatter Blue tester didn’t add the seriously hardcore Sasquatch off-road package, but opted for the 3,500-pound towing package while adding an accessory cargo protector, keyless access keypad, roof rack and cross rails above the removable hardtop, and partial leather and vinyl black seats to hit a total MSRP of $52,060. That figure is nearly identical to the more powerful and more nicely equipped four-door Outer Banks model I reviewed this summer, and is level with the starting price of the luxurious and capable Land Rover Defender 90 I had last month.
Reasonably Civil In The City
The Ford Bronco won’t try to disguise the fact that it’s a proper truck underneath its attractive rugged body, but it’s surprisingly comfortable for cruising around town. The standard four-cylinder engine has punchy low-end torque, met with some close-ratio gears in the manual transmission, but the power isn’t fantastic if you’re covering more freeway than city miles. Not as composed as the ride provided by the Land Rover Defender 90’s air suspension, the traditional shocks and independent front suspension in the Bronco provides a remarkably compliant ride when dealing with bumpy concrete streets in the city.
Even with 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A K02 rubber fitted to its 17-inch wheels, the Bronco Badlands doesn’t dish out a beating during your commute or on errand runs. If you’re rarely traveling off the safety of pavement, you may want to opt for an Outer Banks model that gets more city-friendly Bridgestone Dueler tires. Turning corners in the Bronco is simple, thanks to a steering and suspension setup that manages dynamics much better than I expect in something so ready to be a blast off-road.
Considering it’s more focused on being rugged and cool, Ford gives the Bronco a moderately-appointed interior, that delicately balances cost-saving materials with a design that provides decent cabin comfort and cool looks. The Badlands model’s partial leather and vinyl seats aren’t as nice as the Outer Banks trim I enjoyed this summer, but they aren’t too spartan. Heated front seats and steering wheel are a nice touch when it’s chilly outside. If you want to get a seriously refined and trimmed cockpit in your off-roader, you’ll have to spend a bit more to upgrade to a Land Rover Defender.
Thankfully Ford carries over the switchgear and center controls you’ll recognize from the full-size F-150 pickup, which also utilizes the new Sync 4 infotainment system in a big 12-inch touchscreen that has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto installed. I appreciate the rubber-coated buttons throughout the interior, which keep dirt and sand from getting trapped under the controls when you take the Bronco off-road.
The Confident Explorer
Bringing the Bronco back to the market was a big risk for Ford, knowing it had to provide enthusiasts with an exceptional off-road machine. Thankfully the Bronco Badlands is fantastic when you leave the comfort of paved roads in search of less stable terrain. Cool branding makes Ford’s G.O.A.T (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) Modes exciting on paper, but the setups make guring out how to dial in the Bronco foolproof. Each mode will correctly pick whether the Bronco needs to be in two- or four-wheel-drive, locks the dierentials accordingly, enables the hill descent control, and allows the right amount of slip if you’re playing on sand, rocks, or mud. Equip the Bronco with the 2.7-liter V6 and its automatic transmission, and Ford also provides one-pedal driving (which I enjoyed using when I tested the Bronco Outer Banks).
Buy a First Edition or Badlands trim level, and the Bronco comes standard with front and rear locking dierentials that are optional on all trim levels. Ford’s advanced 4×4 system is standard on all but the base model Bronco, coupled with a 3.06:1 low ratio, allowing easier engagement of the 2-way transfer case that gives more competent grip when the surface isn’t so grippy. In Badlands trim, the 7-speed manual flexes a 94.75:1 crawl ratio in addition to a proper crawl gear below 1st gear, and the 10-speed automatic still has a healthy 67.80:1 crawl ratio. The Badlands equipment also includes steel bash plates under the front and rear of the Bronco, keeping its vital parts safe from rocks you encounter on the trails. Trail turn assist is a cool feature that works with the locking diff to make tighter turns a breeze.
A Dana AdvanTEK M190 independent front suspension is standard up front with a Dana 44TM AdvanTEK M220 solid differential out back. The front suspension also includes twin forged A-arms with long-travel coil-over springs with HOSS-tuned heavy-duty dampers, and the rear suspension has a 220 mm solid rear axle with long-travel, variable rate coilovers with HOSS-tuned heavy-duty dampers. The Bronco Badlands also gets upgraded with a detachable front sway bar, allowing for even greater articulation in demanding conditions. Opt for the Sasquatch package, and Ford will upgrade the durable suspension with Bilstein position-sensitive dampers with end-stop control valves.
Approach, breakover, and departure angles are 35.5º, 21.1º, and 29.8º respectively, which bump up significantly if the Bronco is optioned with the Sasquatch package’s 35-inch bead lock capable wheels and tires. All Broncos sport a 33.5-inch fording depth, in case you need to cross a bit of water, and boast 8.4 inches of ground clearance in standard trim, which bumps up to 11.6 inches with the 35-inch rubber tted. All of these figures are marginally less than the Land Rover Defender 90 I took off-road offers. The gures and equipment sheet might be impressive, but I had to nd out just how much more capable the Bronco Badlands was o-road compared to its nicer Bronco Outer Banks sibling and the legendary Land Rover Defender 90.
To keep the playing field level, I took the Bronco Badlands to Hidden Falls Adventure Park, which is located about an hour northwest of Austin. In this environment, I found out where the extra off-road kit in the Badlands setup went to work. Covering the same stack of trails I did previously, the Badlands kicked ass with ease. Around most of the paths covered, I simply picked the Baja G.O.A.T. Mode, which selected the 4H drivetrain, turned on the front camera that converts the infotainment screen into a massive front view, and tapped the button atop the dash to disconnect the front sway bar. If speeds exceed 20 MPH, the Bronco will automatically reconnect the front sway bar, but will unhook it again once you’re back down to slower speeds. This feature came in extra helpful when I was driving faster on smoother trails between more demanding stretches when having that extra flex allowed came in handy.
The Bronco Badlands’ upgraded suspension, more aggressive tires, and tighter gears made crawling rocks ridiculously simple. The crawl gear is awesome, but it’s not as if using the normal 1st or 2nd gears won’t provide enough confidence when ascending up somewhat demanding rocky hills. While driving a stick is cool in many conditions, I actually prefer having the automatic take away one complication when my average-at-best off-roading skillset is put to the test. The extra power and torque from the Bronco’s optional V6 is a welcome upgrade too. Even with the lesser engine and manual gearbox selected, the Bronco Badlands kicked ass all over these rocky Texas Hill Country trails. Not once did I come across a situation where the Bronco couldn’t dominate the rocks, and I gave it some seriously challenging off-road action. An amateur off-road driver will be astounded by how the Bronco makes having a blast so simple.
Some Notable Highlights
Ford nailed the styling of the new Bronco, and the two-door body is my choice. The rugged look is perfectly proportioned, and the rear occupants and cargo volume aren’t terribly compromised by only getting two doors. The rear passengers may gripe about getting in and out of the Bronco’s back seats, but if you aren’t often taking friends or kids along for a ride, ditch the four-door Bronco. I also like how the new Bronco has a modern take on a classic look, better executing that idea than Land Rover did with the new Defender (which also looks quite good).
To give outdoorsy types more functionality, Ford was smart to set up the Bronco’s exterior with plenty of hookups. The top of the front fenders have useful hooks that not only function as tie-downs, but double as indications for the corners of the Bronco’s body when you’re wandering off-road. To capitalize on the massive aftermarket supply of off-road parts, Ford has hundreds of factory and dealer-installed accessory options at your disposal, and was smart to set up tons of pre-drilled mounting points that all use one of two or three fasteners all over the Bronco. Even the interior has pre-amped accessory switches above the rearview mirror, so that you don’t have to damage the interior when adding more lights and features outside the Bronco. Those who want to record their adventures will appreciate the GoPro mount and extra charging ports atop the dash.
Ride quality on the street is the biggest advantage the Bronco holds over the Jeep Wrangler, and it’s obvious Ford took its time engineering this new off-roader to address nearly any gripe a Jeep driver has. An independent suspension up front pairs nicely with a modern rack-and-pinion steering system, and it pains me that Jeep refuses to spend the money to engineer and install these in the Wrangler. I don’t want to hear a single Jeep driver talk about off-road capabilities over an independent setup, as the Bronco had zero issues attacking demanding trails alongside modded Jeeps during my tests. Ford also gives the Bronco frameless doors that allow drivers to quickly detach and store the doors on-board, rather than ditching them on the trails. Side mirrors are mounted to the cowl, rather than the doors, so that Bronco owners can see clearly all along the sides when storming off-road.
A Few Point Deductions
Cool, tough looks have some trade-offs. Because of the boxy shape, the Bronco is an aerodynamic challenge, sacricing fuel economy and cabin composure. At just 21 MPGs, the 2.3-liter Bronco could be more economical, and the wind noise from the hardtop and roof rack is intrusive at speeds over 60 MPH. A new roof design is being rolled out, but a bit more interior insulation would do the Bronco some favors too.
The cargo area does employ a split tailgate feature, but you have to open the lower door half completely to allow the trim edge of the glass top to lift up. I wish Ford allowed the glass to open independently from the door part, for easier loading of smaller items. I like that Ford allows the driver to toggle between several views and data layouts in the instrument cluster, depending on what sort of driving conditions you’re exposing the Bronco to, but I wish it was bigger with better resolution.
The Best On- And Off-Road Experience For Your Money
Ford rolled out one seriously good o-road machine with the new Bronco, and did so while addressing all sorts of demands the o-road driver has in addition to making it respectable to drive on the street. With a nice enough interior, the Bronco can serve nicely as a daily driver, but if you’re not wandering along the trails more than a couple times per year, opt for the nicer setup in the Bronco Outer Banks trim level. If the fit and finish isn’t enough to satisfy a luxury off-road driver, a few grand more will put a nicely equipped Land Rover Defender in your driveway.
I think the Badlands two-door hardtop model with the 2.7-liter V6 and the 10-speed automatic is the perfect setup, thanks to hardware that improves off-road capabilities without sacricing too much as a city car. Those who want even more terrain-conquering features will likely spend about $5,000 more to opt for the Sasquatch package. Thankfully Ford has a handful of trim levels to choose from, and there’s a perfect Bronco for nearly any budget and driver. Even if you’re a total newbie, make sure to take the Bronco on off-road adventures often, rather than wasting all the of its potential.
No mall crawler, this 2-door Defender gets a proper off-road test.
Decades of adventures around the globe give the Land Rover Defender credentials few vehicles can match. During its more recent history, Land Rover has become a brand synonymous with well-heeled drivers who want a luxury vehicle in the city that can occasionally lug things around on the farm, but there are still plenty of people who know what it’s capable of. When this new Defender was released, Land Rover set out to bring back that popular off-road status back into focus while still delivering a composed city cruiser.
When I gave the new Defender 110 an initial test earlier this year, I was limited to gathering my impressions in the city without going off-road, as a winter disaster hit Texas during my time with it. This massive storm covered the Lone Star State in unprecedented amounts ice and snow, took out Texas’ flawed power grid, and after over a week with millions of people without power or running water, energy companies continued to achieve record prots rather than investing in equipment and winterization improvements, and government officials either remained silent–or tucked their tails and skipped town to seek warmer conditions–as hundreds of people lost their lives while freezing inside their own homes.
To keep the roads clear, and allow emergency workers to serve their communities, I scrapped my plans of taking the Defender 110 to a favorite off-road park to evaluate its capabilities. As I step off my soapbox, I’ll state that I was fortunate to remain safe throughout the winter disaster, though I did lose power and water for several days. Since then, Land Rover released the two-door Defender 90, and offered me a chance to pick up where I left off.
The Useful Specs
Land Rover ships the Defender as either two- and four-door models, named the 90 and 110, respectively. In the previous generation, those numbers indicated the inches of wheelbase for the Defender. Though the proportions have grown for the new Defender– with the 90 now sporting a 101.9-inch wheelbase and overall length of 184 inches, and the 110 boasting a 119-inch wheelbase and 197-inch overall length–Land Rover opted to maintain its previous naming conventions.
Base trims of the Defender can be equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four, producing 296 horsepower. Just like the Defender 110 I reviewed earlier this year, the two-door 90 model shown here–known as the P400 option–is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six, supplemented by a mild hybrid pack, making 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft (550 Nm) of torque. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, the Defender is driven by all-wheel-drive and a 2-speed transfer box intended for your off-road excursions.
Starting price for the Land Rover Defender 90 in its S and SE trim levels actually start a hint higher than its 110 sibling, with a bit more standard equipment, at $52,300. Other trim levels include X, X-Dynamic, and a 518-horsepower V8 selection that loads up the features list while hitting a sticker price just over $100,000. The Pangea Green First Edition model–which packages together plenty of popular options into a middle of the road trim level–I tested has an MSRP of $64,100, and after adding a tow hitch receiver, off-road tires, and the destination charge, the total price as tested hit $66,475.
THE URBAN ADVENTURE VEHICLE
Despite its large proportions and a commanding presence, the Land Rover Defender 90 is remarkably composed as a city driver. Both Defender models I’ve driven have been equipped with the optional–and truly sublime–adaptive air suspension which easily masks the 5,000-pound curb weight as this Land Rover glides through the concrete jungle with only the slightest bit of body roll.
Contrary to my initial concerns for a massive SUV equipped with Goodyear’s All-Terrain Adventure rubber that’s more suited to unpaved surfaces, the Defender 90’s electric- assisted power steering was precise and offered the ideal amount of steady feedback, while needing little elbow grease to maneuver. It may resemble the utilitarian look and target demographic of the Mercedes G-Class–which I gave good marks during a recent review–but the Defender exhibits far better on-road manners at a significantly lower price.
The mild-hybrid powertrain is eortlessly smooth, delivering a subtle shove when you apply the Defender’s throttle. The P400 powertrain is great, even if a 0-60 MPH sprint in 7.6 seconds isn’t impressive, but the Defender has a sucient amount of power and torque according to this enthusiast driver. There are plenty of people who will spend more money to opt for the new V8 Defender if they don’t think the P400 is quick enough.
Moderate use of the go pedal will make it easier for the Land Rover Defender to hit its EPA estimated 17/22/19 MPGs. While the cabin is exceptionally quiet, I still appreciate hearing the slightest rumble from the Defender’s straight-six. The two-door Land Rover’s 8-speed automatic changes gears at an imperceptible level, rounding out a rened driving experience.
Interior treatments in the Defender 90 are a nice ensemble of functional and stylish materials. There are ways to increase your level of luxury, but I like the mixed materials in this First Edition trim that’s exactly like the cockpit in the Defender 110 I previously reviewed. The Defender’s interior is denitely nicer than the upgraded trim you can get inside the Ford Bronco I evaluated this summer, which is still good for its class. Heated memory front seats are standard, and seat ventilation is available in upper trim levels. With the folding fabric roof fitted, rather than the panoramic glass sunroof, I liked driving the Defender with its cabin totally exposed to the sun and sounds of the city.
Land Rover claims the Defender 90 can seat 6 if you opt for the front jump seat–as my tester had–having three occupants up front and out back, but a tiny child would be the only person to sit in the middle of either row. The Defender 90 is a cool package with good proportions in its two-door form, but most drivers will benefit from having easier entry to the back seats while utilizing added cargo space found in the four-door Defender 110. Even though the boot space isn’t great in the Defender 90, the rear seat folds down 40/20/40 when more storage is needed.
Tech equipment is plentiful in the Defender, with a big and customizable instrument cluster, a 10-inch infotainment screen featuring JLR’s PIVI Pro infotainment UI that’s supplemented by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and featuring sounds that pump through a 400-watt Meridian audio system. The Defender also has plenty of USB-A and USB-C outlets spread throughout its interior, for all your devices. Because rearward visibility is compromised by the optional spare tire mounted to the tailgate, Land Rover supplies a digital screen feature in its rearview mirror, which works in harmony with a high-resolution camera mounted atop the Defender. It does take a bit of getting used to, since it’s not a true representation of the distance between you and the car behind you, but it does a good job.
TOUGH YET USEFUL DETAILS
Maintaining a classic Defender appearance while incorporating a new Land Rover design language, the shape of the Defender 90 is cool yet refined. The fascia is impactful yet upmarket, and the fenders are ever so slightly around the meaty tires to give a muscular impression. Atop the hood are rubbery trim panels that allow you to make the spot a workspace without the worry of your stuff slipping off. The tailgate is still a flat surface, and there’s a cool nod to the old Defender’s taillight design that now uses LED strips around the edges with updated lighting components to add a modern finish.
Seating surfaces have a combination of durable leather and textile to offer a hint of luxury while being easy to clean whether you’re wiping up your kid’s breakfast or mud you splattered on the trails. Floors are rubberized for quick cleanups, and all-weather mats have deep walls to help keep any mud, sand, or water from sneaking under the Defender’s seats.
The dash and top of the interior door panels are treated with a rubberized material that looks like a blend of Alcantara and leather, which has a soft touch. Neatly incorporated into the dash panel are a set of pockets and shelves, perfect for stashing smaller items when you’re out exploring. I also like the exposed fasteners in the door panel, showing the trim fitted to the exterior color-painted metal.
DOMINATING ANY TERRAIN
Proving its worth in the great unpaved domain, the Land Rover Defender 90 and I headed to Hidden Falls Adventure Park, about an hour’s drive from the bustle of downtown Austin, Texas. Having evaluated the Ford Bronco along these trails this summer, I wanted to see how a more luxurious and slightly better equipped Defender 90 got along. In this environment, the Defender exhibited its off-road prowess in demanding conditions.
With a quick tap of a button next to the climate control system, the Defender temporarily converts the passenger side temperature knob into a dial to engage its terrain response modes, and opens up its 4×4 settings on the infotainment screen. Offering several dedicated terrain modes (including rock crawl, grass/gravel/snow, mud / ruts, and sand) in addition to allowing a custom conguration, Land Rover makes it simple to dial in the Defender to conquer any surface.
There are also quick buttons to engage the hill descent control and lock the differentials as you see fit. Once you’re in any of the off-road drive modes, the infotainment screen will activate its cameras, offering a wide angle front view, in addition to this view with side views provided by cameras mounted under the side mirrors. I found that trio of displays vital when working the Defender along some trickier paths that were lined with rocks and brush.
While exploring a good variety of terrains at this off-road park, I was able to quickly swap between Land Rover’s modes and test them all. I would also set the ride height to its tallest setting, to avoid damaging any of the Defender 90’s undercarriage. Over moderate rocky stuff, I could simply keep the Defender in its comfort mode with the suspension raised, and this SUV wouldn’t stress at all. As the incline increased, and texture got more dramatic, the 20-inch Goodyear All-Terrain Adventure tires easily grasped the surface, and steadily worked the Defender onward.
When crawling over rocks, the Defender 90 (fitted with its air suspension) has 38º approach and 40º departure angles, and thanks to its shorter overall length and wheelbase versus its big brother Defender 110, the breakover angle bumps up from 28º to 31º. Overhangs are 38 inches up front and 45 inches in the back. Ground clearance is 8.9 inches with the coil springs, and increases to 11.5 inches in the most aggressive off-road setting when equipped with the air suspension. The Defender 90’s maximum angles for ascent, descent, and traverse are all 45º. Should you approach a stream, you’ll have no issues wading through water up to 34 inches deep, and the infotainment screen lets you see just how much wet stuff you’re working through.
I gave the Defender 90 an extensive test alongside a few friends in other off-road customized vehicles, and this Land Rover stood above them all, while impressing a few other park patrons in wildly kitted-out Jeeps who initially scoffed at this class of vehicle invading their turf. I’m an amateur off-road driver at best, and in no way did I feel uncomfortable pushing the Defender along technical trails that blended variations of mud, rocks, sand, and some massive water puddles because it was so capable and easy to drive. Purists may say that the hardware and tech Land Rover offers takes away from the experience, but I’d rather reduce my stress along a rocky path and be able to fully enjoy the trek.
THE ULTIMATE SUV MORE PEOPLE SHOULD PROPERLY EXERCISE
After giving this Land Rover two-door setup a complex test both in the city and along some rocky trails, I still feel that the Defender is the best off-road SUV you can buy, with abilities on the trails that easily match up with the Ford Bronco I loved, but with higher levels of renement in the cabin and on any streets you cruise along. It may cost more than the Bronco, depending on which trim level and options you desire, but the Land Rover Defender has a price point to satisfy many buyers’ demands and budgets.
Realizing that the vast majority of Land Rover buyers will only use them on the street, and barely explore the highest off-road competencies, that won’t stop me from telling you how exceptional the Defender is when you wander away from your comfortable city life. If you decide to make the Land Rover Defender your daily driver, I beg you to make sure to exploit its off-road capabilities–and tackle new adventures–as often as possible. You’ll be glad you did.