Words: Mike Ryan
Photos: Ford Media
FORD BRONCO SPORT
It’s part of the Bronco family, but the Bronco Sport is something of an odd inclusion being based on an existing model - the Escape SUV – and of monocoque construction where the two- and four-door Broncos are bespoke designs and use body-on-frame construction.
Being based on the Escape (a small SUV, but subcompact in US terms) means the Bronco Sport comes with some compromises, starting with the styling, which has less of the boxy retro look of the other two models and more curves and rounded edges. Ford calls it “modern, heritage-inspired style that stays true to the original Bronco DNA”.
While it may seem like a soft-roader at first glance, Ford says the Bronco Sport has some serious off-road ability, backed by testing in extreme environments.
“Bronco Sport has the toughness and smarts to help turn off-road novices into 4x4 pros,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer. “Bronco Sport embraces the needs of outdoor enthusiasts – every inch of it was designed and engineered with weekend adventurers in mind.”
Details of the Bronco Sport’s four-wheel drive system have yet to be revealed, but Ford says it’s advanced, with a class-exclusive twin-clutch rear-drive unit and electronic diff lock feature that’s similar to a mechanical diff lock and allows greater off-road performance.
The Terrain Management System and G.O.A.T. modes carry over from the two/four-door Bronco, offering up to seven selectable modes, from Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, to Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.
The Bronco Sport also gets the H.O.S.S. suspension of the other two models, but based around a MacPherson strut front end and independent double lateral link semi-trailing arm rear. Various upgrades elevate this suspension package above the Ford Escape it’s based on and optional to this is a tougher H.O.S.S. set-up that adds softer coil springs and stabiliser bars at each end, twin-tube shocks and hydraulic rebound stops up front and thicker monotube shocks and a unique cast knuckle at the rear.
Available Trail Control technology, a form of off-road cruise control, furthers the Bronco Sport’s off-road prowess, offering vehicle-controlled throttle and braking at speeds of up to 32km/h and 10km/h in reverse, so the driver need do no more than steer.
Four separate bash plates are available, protecting the engine, transmission, transfer case and fuel tank, with front tow hooks optional, too.
A choice of 17- and 18-inch wheels are offered, but none of the mad Sasquatch 35-inch tyres. Rubber is limited to 29 inches maximum, and like the other Broncos, a full-size spare wheel is standard.
The five-seat Bronco Sport runs a 1.5-litre EcoBoost turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine as standard, with a 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol four-cylinder optional or included with specific trim levels. Engine outputs are still provisional, but in the area of 135kW and 257Nm for the 1.5 engine, and 182kW and 373Nm for the 2.0 four-cylinder.
An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission available, but on the 2.0 engine, this can be upgraded to an 8-speed with paddle shifters and SelectShift manual shifting mode.
Trim level options are reduced compared to the two- and four-door Bronco, with Big Bend, Outer Banks and Badlands offering progressively greater levels of equipment and upgrades, while the First Edition will combine the Badlands spec with unique cosmetic touches, and is limited to 2,000 units.
Big Bend increases the wheel size and adds features like push-button starting, satellite radio, rubberized cargo floor, side/rear privacy glass and more. The Outer Banks version adds features like 18-inch wheels, leather-trimmed seats, remote starting, reversing sensors, a 6.5-inch instrument display and ambient lighting, to name a few.
The 2.0-litre engine and upgraded transmission comes online with the Badlands version, as does the upgraded suspension, Advanced 4x4 System, Terrain Management System with seven GOAT modes, Trail Control function, 180-degree front camera, underbody bash plates and more. The First Edition upgrades the Badlands, adding full leather trim, power front seats, a 10-speaker B&O sound system, power moonroof, cosmetic touches and a trailer towing package (max. towing capacity is just under 1,000kg).
Ground clearance on the Bronco Sport varies from 198mm to 223mm, with fording depth of up to 600mm. Wheel/tyre combos alter approach/departure/breakover, too, from 21.7 to 30.4 degrees (approach), 30.4 to 33.1 degrees (departure) and 18.2 to 20.4 degrees (breakover).
Notable design features include MOLLE straps on the front seatbacks, a built-in bottle opener in the cargo area and an optional Cargo Management System that includes a slide-out work table, 400-watt inverter and LED floodlamps in the tailgate.
More than 100 factory-approved accessories will be available from launch, including themed bundles for Bike, Snow, Water and Camping.
The Bronco Sport will be the first new Bronco to market, with a North American release later this year, where the other Broncos are due partway through 2021. At US$28,155, pricing for the Bronco Sport starts just under the base two-door Bronco.
Like the two- and four-door Bronco, the Bronco Sport is unlikely to be released in Australia.