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Ford is going to try to make lighting strike twice by launching the first member of its Bronco family lineup, the Bronco Sport, a subcompact four-door, five-passenger 4x4 SUV, which is now open for reservations ($100 at ford.com), and which will launch by the end of the year. It will be followed by a pair of midsize 4x4 SUVs, two- and four-door models. These vehicles, which will be built at the Michigan Assembly Plant, can also be reserved; they are going to become available in Spring 2021.

Bronco family

The Bronco family from Ford. (Images: Ford)

One of the things that Ford is clearly doing with the Bronco family is hearkening back to the lineup that it had on offer in 1966. If we do the generational math, 1966 is two years after the end of the Boomer generation, and a year into Generation X. For the former, there can be a hope for nostalgia to kick in. For the latter, there can be a hope that disposal income is available—to say nothing of the purchasing potential from the subsequent generations.

Looking at Bronco Sport

While we’ll just focus on Bronco Sport here, given that it will be coming sooner rather than later, one of the things that Ford is emphasizing about the Bronco lineup is that all of the vehicles are 4x4—standard. That statement can’t be made by Jeep, which is clearly the brand that Ford is competing with with this onslaught of product.

Bronco Sport

Bronco Sport is engineered to handle demanding situations, such as when the “road” consists of rocks.

Adrian Aguirre, who is the chief engineer for the Bronco Sport, said that when they were doing testing of the vehicle in Borrego, California, the proprietor of a patch of property (one imagines a grizzled old guy, which may not be accurate, but which fits with the line), told them that the terrain was no place for a “Yuppie puppy,” referring to the vehicle. Aguirre was proud to say that based on the performance of the Bronco Sport, said potentially grizzled old guy let them run the trails that were his special space because the Bronco Sport was up to it.

Although Aguirre is well versed in what it takes to drive under conditions that would cause most people to open their eyes so wide there is the potential of orbital injury, he made an interesting observation: “For most people, 4x4s are a mystery and cumbersome.”

So one of the best things that the Bronco Sport engineering team did was to address that mystery through technology.

Taking on Terrain Made Simpler

For example, there is what is called the “Terrain Management System.” It offers up to seven drive modes—known in Bronco parlance as “G.O.A.T.” modes, for “Goes Over Any Type of Terrain.” (Odds are, there are some people in and around Dearborn for whom the other meaning of the acronym applies.)

The system provides readily selectable Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Sand, Mud/Ruts, and Rock Crawl modes, with the last two being available on the Badlands and First Edition Series. (The other trims for the Bronco Sport are Base, Big Bend and Outer Banks.)

Bronco Sport in sand

Yes, sand, too.

The Badlands and First Edition versions have an even more-capable 4x4 system that features a twin-clutch rear-drive unit with a differential lock. The system is capable of diverting most of all of the rear-axle torque to either wheel.

While all models have independent front and rear suspension setups, the Badlands and First Edition models have uniquely tuned front struts with hydraulic rebound stops to smooth the off-road ride. Also, there are 46-millimeter-diameter monotube rear shocks for off-road response and comfort, as well as softer springs and antiroll bars for articulation over obstacles.

And what could be the most mystery-busting option: Trail Control, which enables the driver to deploy a “cruise control-like setting,” which controls the forward (up to 20 mph) and backward (up to 6 mph) speed so the driver can concentrate on the terrain, not the throttle and braking.

While of the subject of off-road:

  • Ground clearance (inches): 7.8 for Base and Big Bend; 8.8 for Badlands and First Edition with the optional 29-inch A/T tires
  • Approach angle (degrees): 21.7 for Base, Big Bend and Outer Banks; 30.4 for Badlands and First edition with the optional 29-inch rubber
  • Breakover angle (degrees): 18.2 for the group of three; 20.4 for the other two with the optional tires
  • Departure angle (degrees): 30.4 for the three; 331 for the Badlands with the optional tires; 27.5 for the First Edition
  • Maximum water fording (inches): 17.7 for the three; 23.6 for the other two
  • Maximum wheel suspension travel (inches): 7.4 front and 8.1 rear, across the board

Powertrains

And from a powertrain point of view, there is also the separation into the two aforementioned groups: the Base, Big Bend and Outer Banks all come with a 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine that provides an estimated 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque while the Badlands and First Edition have a 2.0-liter EcoBoost that provides a targeted 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque.

Bronco Sport in water

And even through the water.

Across the board there is an eight-speed automatic. But, of course, the Badlands and First Edition have an eight speed with SelectShift and paddles on the steering wheel for gear selection. The vehicles with the 2.0-liter engine have additional transmission and rear-drive coolers.

Tech, Too

Of course, nowadays it would be unthinkable to roll out a new vehicle without things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Which the Bronco Sport offers. As well as the SYNC 3 system with an eight-inch touch screen.

One of the best things that one is likely to see on the screen comes from an available front-mounted camera that allows the driver to see the conditions ahead of the vehicle, which is a good thing to know when the road is far away. Notably, there is a washer the keeps the camera lens clean, because there’s always either mud or dust.

But let’s face it, not all the time spent in a Bronco Sport—no matter how capable—will be off road. So taking into account the less-adventurous but more likely commute, there is standard Ford Co-Pilot360 advanced driver-assist technologies, including Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking featuring Pedestrian Detection; Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support; Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert; Lane-Keeping System; and auto high beam headlamps.

There is also a rearview camera. Which can help navigate things like the Costco parking lot.

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