First Look: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport

No, this is not a Bronco, and this is all the difference the word ‘Sport’ makes

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OAKVILLE, Ontario — There’s no doubt Ford’s new Bronco is the story of the year. And at Ford Canada headquarters for a “first look,” closed and away from my peers, I watched a video outlining the Bronco’s early history. I watched a video of the new Bronco racing across the desert. I got to see a beautifully restored 1976 Bronco in the flesh.

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And after all that, the only one I no What can be seen is the Bronco itself—the star of the show won’t be on sale until the spring of 2021. It’s all about the Bronco Sport, which is showing up in showrooms later this year. We’ve already told you about it, and it’s generated a lot of comments, so I’m going to answer some of the questions (and misunderstandings!) we hear.

So the Bronco and Bronco Sport are two completely different models?

Indeed, although they do share some design cues, most notably the wide grille with rounded headlights and Bronco badge, and one-piece taillights. The Bronco is a rugged-and-fallen one, with a body-on-frame construction, in a two- or four-door configuration, with a removable roof and doors, and with a side-opening tailgate and rear-mounted spare tire.

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The Bronco Sport is a four-door unibody SUV with a top-hinged liftgate, and there’s something seriously wrong if his the roof or door is missing. Think of the relationship between the Bronco and the Bronco Sport as the equivalent of the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Cherokee. Note that while the Bronco Sport has Ford’s “Blue Oval” badge on its bottom, the Bronco doesn’t have the Ford name on the outside.

Someone said the Bronco is really just a Ford Escape with a Jeep-style body

Tell them to pay attention. Bronco with removable roof has No relation to escape. It was on a full box frame and equipped with either a 2.3L four-cylinder or 2.7L V6 engine.

It’s Bronco Sport actually related. It rides on the same platform as the Escape and shares its engine, both turbocharged, called the Ford EcoBoost. There are three 1.5L cylinders in the Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks trim levels, making 180 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque. Exclusive to the Badlands trim is a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that produces 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque (on premium-grade fuel; expect slightly less at 87 octane). Both engines use an eight-speed automatic transmission.

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How many coins do I need?

Full pricing for all four trim levels hasn’t been announced yet, but the Bronco Sport Base will start at $32,199, and the top-line Badlands at $40,199. In comparison, the Bronco will start where the Bronco Sport came out, with the entry-level two-door starting at $40,199. At the other end of the scale, the most expensive four-door trim will start at $61,994. The Bronco First Edition, a limited commemorative model, will not be offered in Canada. You can’t buy anything at this time, but you can make a refundable $100 deposit to the Bronco or Bronco Sport.

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If you buy a Bronco Sport Badlands (but only Badlands), Ford delivers the off-road driving experience included with all Bronco models. At one of four US locations, as yet to be determined, you’ll drive on a variety of off-road courses (in the provided vehicle, not your own) with an instructor showing you how. That said, there won’t be any Canadian locations, and while the experience itself is part of your vehicle purchase, you’ll have to arrange and pay for your trip to get there, and your accommodations.

Bronco Sport on tough off-road trails? Seriously?

I haven’t been driving every No Bronco or Bronco Sport models yet, but according to the specs — and my experience with Jeep offerings — I’m betting on “Yeah, seriously,” at least with the Badlands model.

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Each Bronco Sport uses a four-wheel system that leans towards the front wheels, and sends more to the rear as needed. All also includes a Terrain Management System with GOAT mode, for “Across All Terrain,” a nod to an internal memo circulated during development of the original 1966 Bronco. The lower four trims get five GOAT modes, including Slippery and Sand, while Badlands adds two more, for Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.

Ford Bronco Sport 2021
Ford Bronco Sport 2021 Photo by Clayton Seams

The four-wheel system at Badlands exclusively adds a dual-clutch rear drive unit, which can transmit 100 percent of rear axle torque to both rear wheels. It also gets an off-road suspension with larger rear shocks, softer springs, and an anti-roll bar, along with Trail Control, a low-speed off-road cruise control.

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There’s also a front camera, and it automatically turns on when you have it in Rock Crawl mode. Again, I’ve never ridden a Bronco Sport, but I’m hoping the Badlands is similar to the Trailhawk version of the Jeep Cherokee — and that model. amazed capable of difficult things.

So what does the Bronco Sport live like?

It looks pretty good. The setup fits and looks like part of an off-roader, even if most buyers would never take it anywhere from the pavement. Ford calls a flat roof a “safari roof,” and it gives you good headroom from front to back. There will be about a hundred factory-supported accessories available at launch, and one will be a roof tent, so you can climb up and sleep on that flat roof.

Once you have purchased the accessory mount, two mountain bikes will fit in the cargo compartment with the hatch closed. The rear glass flips over separately. For camping, the pull-out handles on the lift doors extend so you can hang wet towels to dry, and there are clips on the sides of the cargo compartment for gear. There is a bottle opener inside the lift gate, and two directional spotlights pointing downwards as the gate opens. There will be an accessory table that can be folded, and you can work or eat under the lamp.

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Ford Bronco Sport 2021
Ford Bronco Sport 2021 Photo by Clayton Seams

The seats look comfortable, and the center stack looks like a sports utility, with an eight-inch touchscreen and simple controls. On the Base trim, you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Wi-Fi hotspot, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-detecting wipers, driver-assist safety technology and LED headlights. From there, various trim levels add heated seats, rubber cargo floor guards, zippered seat back pockets, leather upholstery, satellite radio, and a heated steering wheel, among other goodies.

So to summarize, there are two models; they are related by name only, not by their mechanics; one tough and the other softer, but it seemed the two of them would be able to handle themselves off the tarmac. And of course we’ll be back to report when we get behind the wheel of it.

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