The 2021 Ford Bronco is assuredly actuality to booty on the Jeep Wrangler, but don’t balloon that Ford is absolutely advancing Jeep on a additional front: babyish crossovers. The Dejected Oval’s weapon of best is the Ford Bronco Sport, and its aim is to abduct abroad Jeep Compass buyers. Here’s why I anticipate it will succeed.
(Full Disclosure: Ford arrive me to an off-road esplanade in southeast Michigan to analysis the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport on clay trails, a beach “rallycross” stage, a baptize puddle, over some boulders and additionally on the streets. Ford fed me lunch.)
It makes faculty that the Bronco is accepting all the love, as the Bronco Sport doesn’t attending about as cool. That’s why the actual aboriginal photo I took at the Ford Bronco Sport media drive was this:
Everyone wants to drive the tough-looking Bronco, but price, ammunition economy, and ride abundance will adequate dissuade many, who instead of opting for the added able body-on-frame, solid rear-axle Bronco, could seek ambush abaft the caster of a added car-like crossover.
That’s why the Bronco Sport is so important: It is there, in part, to act as a net for those who abatement from the aerial billow that is Broncomania. And of course, it is there to abduct sales from Jeep.
Engineers acclimated the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair’s architectonics as the starting point for the Bronco Sport. This agency the little Jeep Compass adversary is congenital on a transverse-engine, front-wheel-drive-based unibody belvedere (though all Bronco Sports appear accepted with four-wheel drive, for clout) with a MacPherson strut abeyance in the advanced and a multilink architecture out back.
Under the awning is one of two accessible EcoBoost turbocharged engines. There’s a 1.5-liter three-cylinder authoritative 181 application and 190 lb-ft of torque (which is the accepted ability on Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks trims), and a 2.0-liter inline-four cranking out 250 application and 277 lb-ft of torque (this is accepted on the Badlands trim).
Both engines are absorbed to a rotary dial-controlled eight-speed automated transmission. A ability alteration unit, or PTU, anchored to the manual apportions torque amid the advanced arbor shafts and the rear driveshaft. That rear driveshaft connects to a rear-drive unit, or RDU, which distributes torque amid the rear wheels.
In the lower three trims, a clamp in the PTU and a distinct clamp in the RDU let the agent drive in two-wheel drive for best on-road duties to aerate ammunition economy, again bound circuit up the rear driveshaft and affix the rear auto to the agent to appoint four-wheel drive aback requested.
The Badlands (and the low-volume Aboriginal Edition) adds aqueous cooling to the PTU and a additional clamp to the RDU, accouterment a “differential lock” feature, as Ford calls it. This is altered from a absolute automated locker, but the point is that the rear drive assemblage can accumulate powering both auto alike aback one has little grip. The schematic beneath shows the basics of the Badlands’ off-road system:
The Badlands archetypal gets alluvion plates, two tow hooks appropriate on its face and all-terrain tires captivated about 17-inch wheels. Accepted tires are 28.5 inches in bore on all Bronco Sport models including Badlands (OK, on the cushier Outer Banks trim, they’re 28.6). If you go for the Badlands’ alternative 29-inch all-terrain tires, you aerate the car’s off-road geometry.
The Sport’s arena approval alcove 8.8 inches, the admission bend alcove 33.1 degrees, abandonment bend hits 30.4 degrees and breakover bend comes in at 20.4 with that setup. Those numbers, abreast from the breakover figure, are aggressive with the Jeep Compass, whose numbers are 30.3, 33.6, and 24.4, respectively.
The Bronco Sport looks a lot acknowledgment with 31-inch tires and a babyish lift kit, as apparent on the abstraction car above, admitting a Ford architect told me he would “never advance to lift these vehicles.”
Such is the attributes of unibody, transverse-engine cartage with absolute suspension; appropriation them tends to bandy abeyance geometry and critically, CV collective angles, out of whack. Ford itself offers absolutely a few aftermarket mods for its new baby. The absoluteness is that authoritative cogent automated changes to the Bronco Sport doesn’t attending like it’ll be easy, so you’d bigger like the way it comes from the factory. I did. Mostly.
I collection an Outer Banks trim Bronco Sport first, the best able of the four capital trims. It comes accepted with 18-inch wheels, acrimonious leather-trimmed seats, a acrimonious leather-wrapped council wheel, alien alpha and a 6.5-inch apparatus array screen. With a bulk of almost $36,000, this archetypal was able with Ford Co-Pilot360 including adaptive cruise control, “evasive council assist” and dispatch absolute assurance recognition.
I admired the anatomic interior, with an easy-to-use punch shifter about-face and adamantine buttons for aggregate and altitude ascendancy that were automatic to use. The dejected seats were cool, too.
The ride was OK and the council was light; agent babble while canoeing was subdued. There’s a aerial basement position to advice you see over the rather collapsed hood, and the cocked pillars and ample windows accord the berth an aerial feel. It was able on alluvium and burghal surfaces, but all-embracing the active acquaintance was unexciting. It’s not added banal than the archetypal crossover or SUV in this delivery — aloof don’t apprehend too abundant into the Sport allotment of this crossover’s name. The Bronco Sport isn’t as anxious or characterful as a big Bronco or Wrangler, but allotment of that is a accommodation for practicality.
Working adjoin a 3,500 batter barrier weight, the 181 application 1.5-liter agent was alone aloof able beneath my foot. Not apathetic like the Jeep Compass I drove, but still far from thrilling. The eight-speed manual abashed able-bodied abundant (even if it got acutely abashed at low speeds), but there was never abundant spirit to accord the car a “sporty” feel.
Even the 250-horsepower 2.0-liter motor, which apparently scoots the car from 0 to 60 mph in the six-second ambit if the Escape is any indication, didn’t absolutely activity my soul. Here’s a attending at an dispatch run in the Badlands model. “Alright. That’s alright,” you’ll apprehend me say:
There’s additionally a adequate bulk of space. I ambition the rear seats bankrupt absolutely collapsed (see the bang below), but bandy a little belvedere in the burden breadth and there’s apparently abundant allowance to affected in this machine.
I’m additionally a fan of the pop-up bottle liftgate. You can ample the rear to the border with being and not accept it all abatement out every time you appetite to admission something. The rubberized burden breadth should be accessible to clean, and Badlands models get rubberized attic to advice on this advanced as well.
Immediately aloft sitting in the car, you apperceive you’re not active article expensive. The autogenous is altogether functional, but the berth feels simplistic. (To be fair, the Jeep Renegade gives off a agnate vibe.)
The aboveboard awning bulging up from the centermost of the stack, the babyish audio ascendancy console and the all-embracing appearance of the birr — abnormally aback you accede some of the adamantine autogenous plastics — acquainted awkward and a bit cheap. Alley babble and acerbity weren’t bad, but they were still there and served as reminders that this is a adequately bargain SUV.
The hardly bigger Ford Escape that shares the aforementioned belvedere and engines array bigger ammunition abridgement than the Bronco Sport, admitting the latter’s beneath all-embracing length. In the all-wheel drive Escape, the 1.5-liter array 26 mpg city, 31 highway, 28 combined. The 1.5 Bronco Sport is rated at 25 mpg city, 28 artery and 26 combined.
It’s a agnate adventure with the 2.0-liter. The all-wheel drive Escape array 23/31/ 26 city/highway/combined; the Bronco Sport manages 21/26/23. That’s a huge drop, and if you’re not activity to use the Bronco Sport’s off-road chops, I don’t see how that could possibly be account it.
But of course, bodies don’t buy cars for analytic reasons. I’ll assumption that abounding will be accommodating to absorb added on ammunition alone to get the Bronco Sport’s added asperous looks. I’ll accept that it does accept added appearance than an Escape.
The Ford Bronco Sport Badlands is as adequate off-road as its adversary from Jeep, the Compass Trailhawk, but the Ford’s added squared-off contour makes it the acknowledgment of the two machines to be apparent in.
Nearly nine inches of arena approval accustomed the babyish Bronco to footfall assimilate ample rocks afterwards too abounding crunches from its underbody, and the limited-slip rear cogwheel kept ability activity to auto on the ground.
The rear-drive assemblage was abnormally accessible during hillclimbs, area amount abashed off the adenoids and against the rear tires, which did a adequate job at blame the apparatus over this hump:
Decent admission and abandonment angles meant the Ford could bisect asperous area afterwards bashing its bumpers:
A blink at the Bronco Sport’s underbody reveals alluvion plates that should assure best of the vehicle’s acute bits. The cooling bore in the lower grille opening, apparent in the photo below, looks a little abutting to the aerial alike of the vehicle’s admission angle. I could see that intercooler demography a hit if you ran into a change in abruptness that’s greater than 30 degrees, or if you approved to alternate a big rock.
That said, the blow of the car’s analytical $.25 looks adequately able-bodied protected, with animate alluvion plates beneath the agent and PTU.
The ammunition tank, which straddles the rear driveshaft, is additionally adequate with steel:
Here’s addition attempt assuming the rear lower ascendancy accoutrements (the rear abeyance is absolutely agnate to that of an Escape or alike a Focus). You’ll apprehension no alluvion bowl beneath the aluminum rear drive unit, admitting it appears to be tucked adequately aerial up in the subframe:
Where the Bronco Sport absolutely thrived was in the woods, on bound trails with copse aggressive to add wrinkles to the sheetmetal from all angles. The crossover’s bashful ambit and babyish axis amphitheater fabricated it accessible to absolutely position the little one and to cross aciculate turns afterwards stress:
Off-road, there isn’t abundant abeyance articulation, acceptation the agent lifts tires all too frequently, giving the car a tippy feeling. That about occurs with cartage that accept absolutely absolute suspension, and it’s what you’ll get here.
Another affair is disciplinarian visibility. I mentioned that the berth feels airy, but the high, collapsed awning dead my aplomb aback allegorical the Sport’s adenoids through trails, abnormally over crests. Luckily, the Badlands archetypal comes accepted with a advanced camera, which was acutely clamp off-road (and, I imagine, would be in a parking situation.)
Rear afterimage is about adequate for a avant-garde bunched vehicle, but it is bedfast by a behemothic bang in the rear trim — one that apparently hides the rear wiper motor and latch for the pop-up rear glass. As abundant as I like that pop-up rear glass, I’d rather canal it and bandy the wiper motor aloft the bottle to get bigger afterimage in the back.
The abridgement of low-range gearing will be a botheration if you appetite to do any austere off-roading. The abbreviate 4.69 aboriginal accessory and adequately abbreviate 3.81 final drive do their best to accomplish up for this absence of a low-range, but the absoluteness is that an 18:1 clamber arrangement isn’t activity to be abundant for low-speed crawling. Admitting the Bronco Sport featuring Ford’s Aisle Ascendancy off-road “cruise control” feature, I begin myself accomplishing a lot of left-foot braking.
I additionally took the Bronco Sport on a beach “rallycross” course. This approved two things: That the Bronco is abundantly active and that the adherence ascendancy seems to accomplish it difficult to absolutely bang the appendage out and accept some absolute fun on a apart surface. This ability be fixable by affairs a fuse, admitting I didn’t analysis it in advanced of the Ford association that day.
While on the aisle ride in a group, the disciplinarian of an Outer Banks archetypal attempted to arise a hill. Afterwards aloof a brace of bootless attempts to ascend the rather bashful incline, she said over the radio that her agent adumbrated Four-Wheel Drive Temporarily Disabled.
The Ford rep acicular out that the Outer Banks archetypal does not accept the Badlands’ liquid-cooled Ability Alteration Assemblage (a Ford architect told me that this is cooled via coolant in the engine’s cooling loop), but CNET’s analysis indicates thermal apropos with alike the Badlands model. From CNET:
Unfortunately, afterwards 15 account of hooning about in the sand, my Bronco Sport overheats and goes into limp-home mode. I ability apprehend this if ambient temperatures were actual high, but it’s a absolute 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Thankfully, the Bronco cools aback bottomward bound so I can accumulate on arena — admitting a bit beneath aggressively.
Driving on apart area is acutely demanding on agent thermal systems. The slippage leads to a lot of aqueous churning. Aback there are claws involved, those can get hot, and their action can degrade, causing slip. There’s additionally absolutely a bit of agent amount and agent speed, which agency the abeyant for a lot of calefaction bounce in a albino dune environment. Back the tires are slipping, these altitude tend to accord to low agent speeds, which additionally agency there’s low admission air acceleration and bargain cooling capability.
Still, overheating afterwards aloof a brace of attempts on a freezing algid Michigan day? Overheating afterwards aloof 15 account of beach active with 82 amount ambient temperatures? I’m not activity to harp on about this back I didn’t acquaintance a abortion in my vehicle, but as a aloft off-road cooling arrangement engineer, I’ll aloof say: That would be appealing crank if it angry out to be a accepted issue.
As you can see in the blow above, the Outer Banks in catechism eventually cooled off and climbed the bashful grade. I account Ford for authoritative the non-Badlands trim Bronco Sport accessible for off-roading on a columnist event; aback Jeep does columnist events, it usually makes journalists drive Trailhawk or Rubicon models on the off-road course.
On the road, the engines aren’t exciting. Off-road, the agent doesn’t let you drift, and it could potentially attempt with thermal issues. Plus, it suffers from a cardinal of ailments that car-based off-roaders about ache from: The Bronco Sport will be adamantine to adapt with a lift kit, it doesn’t action abundant articulation, and it doesn’t accept a low-range alteration case for stress-free, low-speed bedrock crawling.
But for babyish adventures, the Bronco Sport is affluence capable. Accessible Aisle Ascendancy acts as off-road cruise control, which works able-bodied in best altitude to accumulate the agent affective steadily beneath guidance. The Badlands’ four-wheel- drive arrangement gets ability to the ground, the 2.0-liter has affluence of torque to ascend grades, and the vehicle’s all-embracing geometry is adequate abundant to acquiesce for some fun, light-to-medium adversity off-roading, depending on your bravery.
The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is advised for those branch out to air-conditioned hiking or camping spots on beat-up old clay roads. It’s not aloof addition Jeep or Subaru and critically, it’s added affordable than the big Bronco. I anticipate it will attempt absolutely able-bodied in the segment.
Looks cool, abundantly able off-road, able abundant on-road, automatic autogenous blueprint and function.
Not agitative on-road, not a barbarian off-road, a ammunition abridgement accommodation over the less-capable Escape, accessible thermal apropos off-road, blah interior.
The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport will accord the Jeep Compass a run for its money.