If you want to get way out into the woods, desert, or mud with a 2021 Ford Bronco, you’ll be happy to know that the company has an onboard solution to help get you back home—no external GPS device needed. The new Bronco has features baked into its SYNC 4 system that will allow users to create, share, and navigate off-road routes right from the integrated 8.0- or 12.0-inch central infotainment screen—just the thing to set this new off-road SUV apart from its competition (ahem, Jeep Wrangler!). We’ve simulated what it might this not-nav setup look like above, using information about what maps the system will use.
Before we dive any further into the (admittedly limited) details that we have on this system and how it’ll work, the integration here is the best part. There’s no dedicated GPS device—or phone, tablet, or laptop running GPS software—required, and that prevents a whole host of problems. Forget a charging cable and your Google Maps-equipped phone runs out of juice, and you might be stuck looking at your backup paper topo maps. You brought those, right?
Even if Ford’s system isn’t an owner’s primary navigation device, it could be an incredibly handy backup if their preferred external system loses signal in, say, dense woods or a steep canyon. Maybe the Bronco’s system will have signal, maybe it won’t, but two locating devices are always better than one.
Moreover, we know the system will allow for the upload of GPS data files created by common navigation programs, like the .GPX files that many popular devices from Garmin, Nüvi, and apps like Gaia use. That means you aren’t locked into using a Ford interface to create GPS routes, although you certainly can. Being able to upload a GPS file means that you can also share it with others coming along for your journey, so you’re all using the same track, regardless of which trail nav system they’re running.
It appears that an updated version of the FordPass interface, called FordPass Performance, is how Bronco owners will “plan, navigate, and share” GPS information. What exactly FordPass Performance can do is a bit unclear, although Ford confirmed this interface is how owners will upload GPS files. It’s a safe bet that owners will also be able to modify and download routes and files as well. Whether this functionality works offline is also an open question.
Ford also says that there are pre-loaded trail maps available that should work offline, recording the route as you go. But what maps are the Ford Bronco using? The AccuTerra topographical map set from NeoTreks, which is also an optional map on popular outdoor navigation programs like BackCountry Navigator, Gaia, and Singletracks. It’s a cleaner take on the traditional topo map, with a clear look and color palette more similar to Google’s Terrain maps than, say, the busy old-style USGS topo maps. It incorporates over 250,000 trails, and covers the whole U.S. If you want a preview of what AccuTerra might look like on the Ford Bronco, you can play with the topo version of the map at the AccuTerra website.
Ford says that trail information from Trails Offroad and FunTreks will also be included. The former includes detailed trail info, including trail reports and basic details, as well as the ability to download .GPX files for specific trails and get detailed route information. FunTreks provides a similar amount of information on various trails. How much of the information that’s available online to subscribers or account holders that will be incorporated into the Bronco’s special SYNC 4 system isn’t totally clear at this time, but it should give Bronco owners more info about trails than a typical external GPS device. Ford says this trail guide information will cover “more than 1,000” trails.
A Ford spokesperson told us that more info on this system or how it works won’t be available until closer to launch, but the system sounds incredibly promising. The proof will be how it actually works in practice, and especially way out in the backcountry. When there’s no cell signal and your backup GPS device dies, how robust will Ford’s integrated solution be? Based on what we’re seeing, we’re hopeful that it’ll be good enough that most Bronco buyers could leave their other device at home. We can’t wait to try this system—and the Bronco itself—out on some remote trails soon.