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2021 Ford Bronco Sport: 5 things you need to know [First Drive]


The long-awaited 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is finally here, creating a huge amount of buzz. And, frankly, I was pumped to be one of the first journalists to try it on a 3-day foray that took us from the busy freeways of LA to remote off-road areas near Death Valley, Calif., to assess the 4 x 4 capabilities of this “baby Bronco.”

I expected good power from the Sport’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine with 245 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque as well as the smooth-shifting integration from its 8-speed transmission. I was also sure this four-door unibody SUV would display decent road manners with its independent front and rear suspension. Plus, its laudable list of infotainment, technology and safety features flushed out its appealing exterior penned with iconic heritage cues that is matched to a cockpit crafted with a persona that says “weekend adventurer.”

2021 Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport interior (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.)

I watched as the Bronco Sport was unveiled and read a passel of press release material, so none of these things were a surprise.

After motoring in northern California’s Mesquite Flats, playing in sand dunes with fast- and slow-track courses and trekking across the Cerro Gordo Trail for more rough-and-rugged off-roading, I was surprised by the incredible capability of this vehicle.

So, here are the five things you absolutely need to know about the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport.

2021 Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport, Cerro Gordo Trail (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.)

Bronco Sport is built to Go Over Any Terrain

All Sport models use Ford’s advanced four-wheel-drive technology and terrain management systems with G.O.A.T. Modes (Go Over Any Terrain), borrowed as a moniker from the original Broncos. Different selectable drive programs are engineered for varying road conditions, with five to seven distinct programs, depending on the series, including Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand. Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl are available on Badlands and First Edition versions. A twin-clutch rear-drive unit tailors the vehicle’s behavior and has a differential lock feature.

Of note, the rear differential unit is similar to a traditional mechanical locking differential as it can divert nearly all rear-axle torque to either wheel, setting it apart from its competitors.

2021 Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport, Cerro Gordo Trail (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.)

We’ve got clearance, Clarence

The Sport has notable off-road capability numbers. We’re talking 8.8 inches of ground clearance, a 30.4-degree approach angle, a 33.1-degree departure angle, 18:1 crawl ratio and a water-fording depth of 23.6 inches. After two days in some serious off-road situations, I can tell you these numbers matter!

Seeing the unseeable

Class-exclusive front off-road trail cameras come with a lens washer. They serve as a spotter to improve visibility on trail ahead, displaying the video on the center stack-mounted touchscreen. These cameras are  when climbing up and over steep rock and navigating tracks where precise driving is critical.

2021 Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.)

Features designed to take you off-road – and back

Bronco Sport also has a bevy of other cool upgraded features that aid off-road prowess. The class-exclusive Trail Control allows pedal-free driving with a cruise control-like setting, allowing the vehicle travel up to 20 mph forward and 6 mph in reverse. Speeds can be set by the driver.

In Rock Crawl mode, the electronic power steering assist system is uniquely calibrated to provide more precise control to help reduce steering wheel disturbance during low-speed maneuvers over rocky terrain. Plus, there’s a cooling system with additional transmission and rear-drive coolers, which keeps Badland and other 2.0-liter models running strong over tough and rugged tracks.

Class-exclusive features abound

A safari-style roof brings class-leading headroom and a cargo area high enough to hold two 27.5-inch-wheel mountain bikes standing up in the rear! Not into biking? There are more than 100 factory-backed and aftermarket accessories available to help transport other gear like kayaks, surfboards, skis and camping equipment.

Like to get dirty? Washable rubber flooring is throughout the interior and cargo area, and a storage bin located below the second-row passenger-side seat can hold wet, icy or muddy gear. Other nifty items are the class-exclusive liftgate with LED floodlamps and MOLLE straps to carry extra gear, zippered seatback pockets for additional stowage and a built-in bottle opener in the cargo area.

2021 Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport, Olancha Dunes (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.)

The bottom line on the 2021 Bronco Sport

I was pleasantly surprised by the 2021 Bronco Sport’s capability as an off-road vehicle that has far more talent in sand driving and rock crawling than I anticipated, as it’s been engineered on a toughened version of the Escape platform.

I’m also impressed by the breadth and scope of personalization that Bronco Sport owners can choose by selecting from two engines and five different models as well as from a host of aftermarket add-ons and a notable list of gear and goods.

Bronco Sport will go on sale later this month, preceding big brother Bronco by 6 months. Starting price for the base model is $28,155, including destination. The Badlands model, which we were driving, starts at $34,155.

If you want to spec out and accessorize a Bronco Sport of your own, be sure to visit Ford’s vehicle configurator.

Related posts:

Covid-19 strikes again! Ford Bronco delays continue

Ford Adds New Dimension To Bronco Brand With 2021 Bronco Sport

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Sue Mead

Sue Mead’s automotive career began as a freelance evaluator for Four Wheeler Magazine in 1988, on the first team that included women as testers. Today, she travels the globe test-driving cars and trucks, and working as a photojournalist/feature writer for dozens of publications, specializing in 4WD and adventure. Mead has been an auto editor and 4WD editor for CNN/fn. Her books include Monster Trucks and Tractors; Off Road Racing, Legends and Adventures; and Rock Crawling. She has been to 70 countries; driven enough off-road and 4WD race miles to have circumnavigated the globe twice! Mead won the Open Production class at the 2011 Dakar; and is an inductee into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. Mead, who is a private pilot, hasn’t owned a personal vehicle since 1994, when she purchased a 1951 Willys A pickup for $850.

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