The resurrected Ford Bronco gets all the press. But there’s another Bronco that may warrant your attention if you’d like something a bit less aggressive — and significantly less expensive.
It’s the Bronco Sport.
What It Is
The Bronco Sport is not a “sporty” version of Ford’s resurrected 4×4 icon. It is a modified version of the Ford Escape, styled to emulate the look of the new Bronco and with more off-road capability than the Escape, Ford’s popular compact crossover SUV.
Prices start at $26,660 for the base trim, which comes with the Escape’s 1.8-liter, three-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission and the “4WD” all-wheel-drive system. A gear reduction feature is standard, and it works like a two-speed transfer case and 4WD low range gearing, without the two-speed transfer case.
A Badlands trim gets the Escape’s optional 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine an electronic “locking” feature for the rear differential that ups the off-roading leverage, a digital main gauge cluster and a household-type, three-prong 115v power outlet.
It lists for $32,660.
A top-of-the-line First Edition has all the Badlands gear plus a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium audio rig, unique-to-this-trim Ebony Black wheels with 29-inch Falken all-terrain tires, a roof rack and sunroof.
It stickers for $38,160.
Both versions of the Bronco are new-for-2021 models — it’s not built to compete with the profusion of light-duty crossover SUVs that already crowd the market, but it’s built to compete with the handful of more capable four-by-four models sold by brands such as Jeep and even Land Rover.
A more capable Escape — for less than the cost of a Bronco.
More on-road friendly than the more single-minded Bronco.
More standard cargo capacity than the two-door Bronco.
What’s Not So Good
AWD isn’t “4WD.”
There’s no option to go two-door or four-door (or topless).
There’s no option to shift for yourself.
Under The Hood
The Bronco Sport’s engine lineup is essentially the same as the Escape’s. Both come standard with a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine — turbo-boosted to make 181 horsepower. Badlands and First Edition trims get the Escape’s optional 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, boosted to 250 horsepower. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The big difference between the Bronco Sport and the Escape is the rest of the drivetrain.
The Bronco Sport comes standard with a much more capable all-wheel-drive system that features an 18:1 gear reduction ratio that provides crawl leverage similar to a four-wheel-drive system’s two-speed transfer case and low range gearing, but without the transfer case, which saves weight as well as expense.
It’s not as heavy duty or as mechanically aggressive as a 4WD system with a two-speed transfer case — as is standard in the Bronco, which offers a 94.8:1 crawl ratio — but it is much more capable than the light-duty AWD system found in the Escape and other crossover SUVs not meant to venture seriously off-road.
On The Road
Being able to drive a little farther off road, go a little deeper into the mud or get home from work when it’s really snowing without having to drive a jacked-up, twitchy-handling 4×4 that burns through tires almost as quickly as it burns gas is the mission of the Bronco Sport.
The Bronco — with its Spicer front and rear differentials, 17-inch beadlock’d 35-inch-off-road knobbies and decoupling front swaybar — will go anywhere it’s possible for a four-wheeled vehicle to go. But that kind of capability comes at the cost of things such as on-road handling, wind and tire noise and (inevitably) more rapid wearing of the more aggressive M/S-rated knobbies you need to go anywhere .
This is not a critique of the Bronco. Just a reality check. It is the right tool for people who spend their weekends rock crawling and who probably have something else for going to work on Monday.
Perhaps a Bronco Sport.
At The Curb
The Bronco Sport’s body comes just one way, as opposed to the two ways the Bronco’s comes. Technically four ways since, in addition to being available in both two and four-door configurations, the Bronco also comes with hard and soft tops.
With the Sport you get four doors, standard. And a hardtop only. But Ford has gone to great lengths to impart visual separation between the Bronco Sport and its Escape antecedent. The visuals are so different, in fact, it is difficult to tell by looking that the two are so closely related.
It is squared-off where its brother from the same mother is rounded off, with a much more upright windshield, taller-looking side glass and an Expedition-looking side profile. These angularities extend to the interior, which is vaguely similar to the Escape’s brickier and bulkier looking, down the vertical-stack (versus horizontal and slimmer-line) air vents and the thicker, wider center console. Even the knobs to control and adjust the AC system are bigger — and so easier to grip when gloved. They are also silicone sealed to protect against water intrusion.
Badlands and First Edition trims come with rubber/hose-off flooring. All trims get an underseat storage area that’s watertight.
Such as the Bronco, the Sport is very customizable — very much unlike the Escape. Ford offers 100 different ways to make the Sport your Sport, including Yakima bike racks for the roof and a tent that sits on the roof — with a ladder to access it.
The Bottom Line
The Bronco Sport should give the Jeep Compass and Subaru Outback a run for the money — and for less money (with fewer compromises) than the more single-minded regular Bronco.
(SET IMAGE) epe081721adAP.jpg (END IMAGE) (SET CAPTION) View the Bronco Sport this week. (END CAPTION)
To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com. Eric’s latest book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now.
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Last Updated: Monday, Aug 16, 2021 12:29:59 -0700