2023 Ford Bronco Desert Racer: A V8-Powered, Baja-Bound Dune Buster

Ford revealed the 2023 Bronco DR (for “Desert Racer”) today at its Bronco Off-Road “Roadeo” venue outside of Las Vegas. The DR sports a long travel suspension, extensive fiberglass bodywork, and a Coyote V8. Forbes Wheels

Anyone shopping the new Ford Bronco is already up against a candy-store level of options and configurability. But even with its seven trims, four levels of content, two engine choices, two different transmissions and a thick catalog of customization options, until today the lineup still contained one glaring omission: V8 power. 

Ford righted that wrong by a wide margin this afternoon, unveiling its extreme-offroad Bronco DR (Desert Racer) at its “Bronco Off-Roadeo” customer experience outside of Las Vegas, a day ahead of the start of this year’s Specialty Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (SEMA) show.  

SEMA is often a showcase for extreme truck builds and go-faster products, and the DR looked perfectly at home kicking up a roiling dust cloud as it joined a bevy of previous desert-race-winning Bronco models on hand for its debut. The new DR comes wrapped in a classic livery meant to recall the Bronco that won the Baja 1000 in the hands of drivers Rod Hall and Larry Minor in 1969.

While the DR telegraphs some of the Bronco’s high-performance future, there’s still a V8-shaped hole in the regular Bronco lineup. Rumors about the DR suggested it might be an alternative to the V8 Jeep Wrangler 392, which dropped last summer, while the exact details of the upcoming Bronco Raptor remain unclear.

The Ford Bronco DR joins a long line of desert warrior Broncos dating back to the original 1960s versions. The Bronco was a winner at the Baja 1000 as early as 1968, and the DR’s livery is specifically meant to recall the Rod Hall and Larry Minor-driven Bronco that won the 1969 Baja 1000. Forbes Wheels

Referencing the Bronco’s Off-Road Racing History 

In keeping with its racing mission, the DR is about as extreme a Bronco as you can get. 

The Bronco DR is intended to be a turn-key racer with a factory warranty that the customer can buy and then go racing the same day. Under the hood is Ford’s 5.0-liter Coyote V8. While its final tune and power output are still to be determined, it will certainly be north of 400 hp and optimized for high-speed desert romps—so think sustained high revs and blistering temps.  

Accordingly, much of the vehicle’s design is optimized for cooling, with a single-piece grille shaped for gulping down air, and additional intakes on the sides and roof channeling wind to a rear-mounted radiator buried under powerful fans.  

Power is channeled to the wheels via Ford’s 10-speed automatic before passing through to independent electronically locking front and rear differentials. The underlying frame is shared with the regular Bronco, but the body with its wide flares and open rear is mostly fiberglass. 

Bill Stroppe's Baja 500 Bronco, circa 1969
Broncos of the past weren’t just dominant on the Baja 1000. Bill Stroppe, a longtime builder of performance Fords (on-road and off) created a large series of private-entry Broncos for the Baja 500 and other off-road races in the 1960s and 1970s. Stroppe is behind the wheel himself in this one, on the 1969 Baja 500. The DR may inspire similar private racers. Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images

As for the four corners, the Bronco DR gets a long-travel suspension as any self-respecting Baja beast should, with Multimatic Positional Selective DSSV dampers and massive billet-aluminum lower control arms. Ford says the Bronco DR will get well over 50% more suspension travel than its currently most-extreme Bronco Badlands variant, with 15.8 inches at the front and 17.4 inches at the rear.  

All this reach helps the Bronco DR attain a 47-degree approach angle and a 37-degree departure—the latter figure matching the currently best-in-class Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, and the former besting it by 3 degrees.  

Multimatic also contributes the burly integrated safety cage; the tires are 37-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains on beadlock wheels. 

Ford Bronco Desert Racer
There’s a production Bronco chassis and shell under there but this extreme bodywork, sure to make an appearance in Forza Horizon 5, is mostly fiberglass. Some of these pieces may later be adapted as accessories for street-legal Broncos, either from Ford itself or aftermarket vendors. Ford

A Baja Bound Bronco Bound To Inspire  

Intended for off-road use only, there’s isn’t any provision for a street-legal Bronco DR. At first glance, it looks theoretically streetable, with factory headlights shared with the regular Bronco—but then you realize that it doesn’t have a windshield, and you have to climb in through the window.  

Fire it up, and any hope that there’s a jurisdiction somewhere where it wouldn’t get a noise ticket is dashed—the dual pipes cut off just behind the doors, and they’re thunderous.  

Desert motorsports aside, the truck is clearly meant to be aspirational from an accessories perspective—and accessories are how Ford makes bank on the Bronco, with the average customer dropping $700 in on add-ons before driving off the lot according to the company.  

Ford Bronco Desert Racer
Events like the Baja 1000, King of Hammers, and Rebelle Rally have drawn more attention to extreme off-roading in recent years as recreational off-roading becomes more popular. Don’t expect to see one of these desert racers at your local campground, however. The DR isn’t street legal. Ford

In addition to the high-profile pieces, the Bronco DR will boast a list of kit more extensive than what was teased today. That’s bound to get the gears turning in the minds of those shopping lesser Broncos as well. Expect to see more of the Bronco DR as it hits the desert-events circuit, but watch for derivative goodies to filter into the dealer accessories catalogs as well. Just as it’s common to see Toyota Tacomas sporting desert-warrior-type accessory bodywork nowadays, extreme Broncos are sure to follow. 

So what will customers pay for this desert-ready race truck that they can’t drive on the street? Ford is estimating a starting price “in the mid-$200,000 range.” The Bronco DR is expected in late 2022 as a 2023 model, and production will be limited to just 50 units. For its part, Ford will be racing the Bronco DR in events high-profile events like the 2022 SCORE Baja 1000 and the Rebelle Rally.  

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