2021 Ford Bronco Sport First Ride: This Crossover Is No Typical Escape

Bronco love up to now is proving to be unconditional. But increasing the household and attaching the Bronco title to a crossover cousin of the Ford Escape raised hackles from the beginning. The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport compact SUV has much more to show and plenty of hearts to win over.

The Bronco Sport is the mainstream SUV that Ford believes will sell the best in the Bronco family—and assist finance the lower-volume 2021 Ford Bronco that marks the return of a rugged, body-on-frame, off-road succesful, two- and four-door SUV.



But Ford deliberate for the Bronco Sport to be a extra rugged, squared-off counterpart to the extra car-like Escape, with the latter’s sculpted sides and tapered roofline designed to attraction to town driver. And whereas the Escape and Bronco Sport share the identical new car-based, front-wheel-drive structure and about 80 p.c of their components, engineers gave the Bronco Sport normal all-wheel drive and added severe off-road options to additional differentiate the 2 SUVs.

It was with deep curiosity that I climbed into the passenger seat of an early-build 2021 Bronco Sport at an off-road park in Holly, Michigan, outdoors of Detroit. Ford allowed a small group of media to expertise the automobile, which fits on sale this fall. The autos readily available had been prototypes, and we weren’t allowed to drive them. Ford put its personal folks behind the wheel, the product builders and engineers who’ve spent years engaged on the autos. We had been additionally not allowed to overview the interiors, as they had been pre-production spec and due to this fact not ultimate representations of what clients will see.

All of this implies we have now to attend a bit longer for a full drive overview, however for now, we are able to present preliminary impressions from the passenger seat of the Bronco Sport in a brand new state park with all kinds of trails to check its hardiness. This is what we realized:

The Bronco Sport Badlands Lives Up To Its Name

The Bronco Sport I rode in was a Badlands, one in every of 5 trim ranges (the identical collection names largely mirror these used for the Bronco). Badlands is the highest trim, excluding the 2021 First Edition, which is a one-time restricted run to have fun the relaunch of the long-lasting nameplate and is loaded with nearly all the things from the opposite trims as normal tools. The Badlands takes the options provided within the mid-level Big Bend trim and provides components to make it extra off-road succesful.

Badlands additionally replaces the 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine and eight-speed automated transmission with the extra highly effective 2.0-liter turbocharged I-Four EcoBoost engine and a 10-speed automated transmission. You can’t get a guide transmission on the Bronco Sport.

Upgraded AWD System

There are different key upgrades. Although all-wheel drive is normal on all Bronco Sport fashions, the Badlands has a novel system with a twin-clutch rear axle for torque vectoring. It additionally has a novel off-road suspension and rides on 28.5-inch all-terrain tires on the 17-inch wheels.

Other differentiating mechanical bits embrace steel bash plates, entrance tow hooks, and a digicam to see what’s forward on the path because the automobile crests the highest of a hill and the motive force can’t see the path.

Cruise Control for the Trail

Many consumers are accustomed to Hill Descent Control, software program designed to slowly ease down a hill at a managed velocity. The Bronco Sport has Trail Control that acts as a low-speed off-road cruise management and works going up a hill, down a hill, or on the flats. My driver set it to Four mph and took his ft off the pedals. The Sport maintained a relentless velocity up and over a 25-degree slope, in response to the info on the off-road data cluster.

The new state off-road park in Holly, Michigan, provided a wide range of trails with rock, sand and water obstacles. There had been many unfastened surfaces and rutted hills with as much as a 19-degree slope. The middle differential lock comes on mechanically in off-road modes to separate energy evenly between the entrance and rear (the Badlands has seven completely different terrain modes). The driver hit a button to lock the rear axle clutches as effectively, and the SUV by no means flinched because it navigated the terrain. Rear locking could be activated on the fly in any mode.

From our MotorTrend SUV of the Year testing, I’ve seen many a crossover battle in tremendous, silty sand, and lots of have needed to again down a hill for a second attempt or be winched out of the deep, slippery granules. But the Bronco Sport had no issue and handed the check the place you cease midway up the hill, let it settle into the sand, after which resume the climb. Equipped with Hill Hold, the Bronco stays in place on hills mechanically—no want for two-foot driving.

Bronco Sport Takes a Dip

My driver took the Sport via a smaller water gap than the one which the body-on-frame Bronco was charging via at a fast tempo. But that was okay; the 2 autos are complementary, not rivals, and had been meant to supply completely different levels of functionality. The Sport isn’t designed to go snorkeling in deep water fairly just like the full-blown Bronco.

The journey within the Bronco Sport was considerably temporary, but it surely did impress. This is just not the Escape-based poseur SUV some feared. The urban-based warrior who needs to interrupt unfastened on the weekend will probably discover it may well deal with greater than will probably be requested of it. We stay up for getting behind the wheel to place it via its paces correctly, on the street and off, for a extra full evaluation.

Yes, there are haters who refuse to simply accept {that a} unibody SUV bears the Bronco title, however having spent a while in it, we are able to admire the strategy behind the moves to create a larger Bronco family. And we are able to see consumers coming into Ford showrooms like moths drawn to the Bronco mild however leaving with the Bronco Sport if it higher meets their wants.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport
PRICE $28,155-$39,995
LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINES 1.5L/181-hp/190-lb-ft turbo DOHC 12-valve I-3; 2.0L/245-hp/275-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 8-speed auto
CURB WEIGHT 3,500-3,650 lb (est)
WHEELBASE 105.1 in
L x W x H 172.7 x 74.Three x 67.9-69.1 in
0-60 MPH 7.0-8.5 sec (MT est)
EPA FUEL ECON Not but examined
ON SALE December 2020

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