The urge to explore exists in all of us – sometimes it just takes a global pandemic to turn those glowing embers into a burning desire.

That’s probably why in the past two years your parents bought an RV, your neighbours bought new mountain bikes, and you’re reading this article. Exploring the great outdoors is something countless Canadians have discovered – or rediscovered – since the pandemic began, which is precisely why we created a new category in this year’s AutoTrader Awards: Best Vehicle for Adventure.

Since not all adventures are created equal, we started with a shortlist of 10 vehicles ranging from the most civilized machines on the market to the most serious. From there, our jury of more than 20 automotive experts from across the country cast their ballots, with the Ford Bronco emerging victorious as the Best Vehicle for Adventure in the 2022 AutoTrader Awards.

The reborn Bronco has been among the most hotly anticipated vehicles we can remember, and it not only met those expectations head-on but exceeded them. Cooked up to take on the Jeep Wrangler, which has long been known for its ability to explore parts unknown, the Bronco takes all the same ingredients – removable roof and doors, four-wheel drive, and various off-road goodies – and packages them in a way that’s objectively more palatable for more people.

Even so, that’s not enough on its own to be worthy of the win – especially when the rest of the finalists are considered. There’s the Wrangler and its pickup counterpart, the Jeep Gladiator; the reigning champs of reliability, the Toyota Tacoma and 4Runner, both done up in TRD Pro guise; the Land Rover Defender, which is offered in two- and four-door body styles; and the Subaru Outback Wilderness, which takes the brand’s adventure wagon and turns it up to 11.

If any one of those capable vehicles was declared the winner here we’d be able to sleep well at night, but it was the Bronco that kept us tossing and turning – not with angst, but because we were itching for more time on the trail. As mild-mannered as the 4Runner on the road and with the same world-class capability as the Wrangler off it, the Bronco is the embodiment of wanderlust (heavy on the lust).

Just like the Wrangler, it comes in two- and four-door configurations, providing room for the whole family to adventure together. It can be had with locking differentials, beefy off-road suspension, a disconnecting sway bar, and massive mud-terrain tires – all the stuff it needs to keep up with the Wrangler Rubicon out on the trail. Under the hood is the choice of two turbocharged engines, while four-wheel drive is standard (all-wheel traction was a prerequisite for all shortlist candidates in this category), and it can even be had with a manual transmission.

From bumper-deep water crossings to a boulder that stood taller than its hood, our experience with the Bronco out on the trail showed some serious out-of-the-box capability. There are more affordable off-road rigs out there, but not many combine capability and coolness in the same seamless way as the Ford Bronco – and that’s what makes it the first-ever AutoTrader Best Vehicle for Adventure.