What are the Model Differences?

After several delays due to the health crisis, Ford has unveiled the new Ford Bronco SUV and 2021 Ford Bronco Sport on the same day, which is sure to cause confusion among car buyers. Ford has created an off-road brand under the Bronco name, but the two vehicles are completely different, save for the horse badge and tough boxy design aesthetic.

So let’s compare and contrast the two Broncos so you know what to look for when you start shopping.

What’s the Difference Between Bronco and Bronco Sport?

CHASSIS

Bronco is a traditional SUV based on a body-on-frame truck with a longitudinally mounted engine, based on the next generation Ford Ranger pickup truck.

Bronco Sports based on the cross-engined, FWD-based Ford Escape crossover. These are usually described as “car-based SUVs”, but since Ford doesn’t sell sedans anymore, the “unibody” description suffices.

SUSPENSION

Bronco gets a control arm front suspension and an optional front bar anti-roll disconnect device to facilitate maximum suspension articulation. At the rear are live axles located with trailing arms (also called radius arms or rods) and Panhard rods, along with serious off-road options such as locking front and rear differentials and substantial underbody protection.

Bronco Sports retains the basic design of the Escape’s completely independent front strut and rear multilink suspension, although the springs and dampers are new, and the control arms and knuckles have been revised to increase track width, suspension travel and ground clearance. The Bronco Sport’s unibody construction with independent suspension will result in a smoother ride than the more off-road capable Bronco configuration.

MACHINE

Bronco offers a choice of a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost producing 270 hp and 310 lb-ft and a 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 producing 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.

Bronco Sports shares the Escape’s two turbocharged gas engine options: the 1.5-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost producing 181 hp and 190 lb-ft and the 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost producing 245 hp and 275 lb-ft.

TRANSMISSION

Bronco offers a choice of a new Ford Getrag 7MTI550 seven-speed manual gearbox featuring a super-low “granny gear” first ratio for extreme rock crawling or a Ford version of the superb 10-speed automatic co-developed with General Motors.

Bronco Sports sharing the Ford Escape’s eight-speed automatic throughout the range.

FOUR/ALL-WHEEL-DRIVE SYSTEMS

Bronco offers two transfer cases. The base version gets an electric shift-on-the-fly unit from the F-150 offering 2Hi, 4Hi, 4Lo and neutral. The low-range gearing in the Bronco implementation is 2.72:1. The optional upgraded version features electromechanical shifting, has a full-time 4-Auto mode, and features a 3.06:1 low range.

Paired with locking front and rear differentials and 4Hi or 4Lo modes in both cases, which effectively lock in the center difference, the big Bronco offers serious traction. “GOAT Mode” (Goes Over Any Terrain) settings include normal, eco, sport, slippery, sand, Steel, mud, and rock crawl. The latter automatically manages differential locks, anti-roll bar disconnect system, traction and stability control programming, etc.

Bronco Sports also offers two “transfer cases” (they are actually power takeoff units). Excluding low reach or even creeper gears; both can transmit between 0 and 50 percent of available engine torque to the rear wheels when the front wheels slip.

The base system gets the signature rear differential, while the upgraded system features a simple half-axle bevel gear drive equipped with a multiplate clutch that connects the drive to each rear wheel. This system can provide torque vectors. It also gets water cooling for the power take-off unit, though the base unit gets a dedicated line that provides PTU air cooling. (However, this represents an improvement over Escape.) All Sports get Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Sand terrain mode settings, and the Badlands model adds two GOAT Modes: Rock Crawl and Mud-and-Ruts, each of which gets Special brake calibration to ensure nanny stability never prevents forward progress.

BODY WORK

Bronco is all about the “Max Air,” offering three hard and soft top designs, each of which offers a variety of configurations between fully open and fully closed, plus a removable door (which can be stowed over four doors). Remove all these panels, and the Bronco will treat you to unlimited sunshine and wind (as well as rain and mud). The industry’s first waterproof, easy-to-clean vinyl coating and available rubber-like floor covering with drains in each leg hole make cleaning easy.

Bronco Sports is a conventional “min-air” SUV with a permanently attached roof and doors. There may be a sunroof option. But at least the overhangs have been shortened and the suspension raised to encourage owners to venture further off the beaten path they might try in the Escape.

SIZE

That Bronco Sports has been characterized as a “Baby Bronco” and despite the 105.1-inch wheelbase between the two- and four-door Broncos’ 100.4 and 116.1-inch chassis, its length, height, and width are all smaller than those of the two-door. “Large” Bronco: 172.7 x 74.3 x 67.9-69.1 inches, versus 173.7-174.8 x 75.9-79.3 x 71.9-73.8 inches two-door and four doors 189.4-190.5 x 75.9-79.3 x 72.9-75.3 inches. It’s worth noting, however, that the overall length of the Bronco Sport makes up nearly all of the usable body space, while the Bronco’s hefty length is for the rear-mounted spare tire.

What are the Similarities Between Bronco and Bronco Sport?

Although they use very few common parts, both Ford SUVs share the same mission of being able to perform at or near the top of their respective segments in terms of off-road prowess.

We hope Off-road optimized 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands model to be able to follow the Rubicon Jeep Wrangler at Moab, and we expect Variant Bronco Sport Badlands to be able to run with the Trail Rated Trailhawk Jeep Renegade, Compass, or Cherokee variant. Of the three Jeep nameplates, we expect the Cherokee to be the biggest challenge.

Ford’s aftermarket accessories group will support both Bronco models with adventure gear to facilitate tailgating, camping, fishing, biking and other recreational activities. We’re told there will be at least 200 aftermarket accessories available for the big Bronco at launch and another 100 customized for its sister.

Which is Better, the Bronco or the Bronco Sport?

Well, duh. It’s not our money, and we haven’t been driving either—but of course we’ll be casting our voices for the new 2021 Ford Bronco, the retro-looking giant Tonka Toy coming to life. Color us with available 400 lb-ft of torque, lockable diff, breaker stabilizer bar and removable roof and doors. Happy happy happy!

No, the Bronco Sport won’t be able to go wherever the big Broncos can, just as the Cherokee couldn’t easily follow the Wrangler all the way to Hell’s Steps. The specs suggest that the Bronco Sport should be able to compete with off-road unibody Jeeps, and we really like it because it looks a lot like the Bronco (and unlike the Escape). So from our armchair, we’re willing to give it the benefit of the doubt about the “cut the old block” sensibility.

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