2021 Ford Bronco Sport: First Drive Review

We put the revived 4x4 through its paces in North Carolina's Outer Banks.
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The author strikes a pose alongside the purpose-built off-roader. 

The author strikes a pose alongside the purpose-built off-roader. 

The Ford Bronco: Cult classic, California dreamin’, object of desire for the dude looking to add a retro beach-buggy to his collection. Unlike that dude, I’ve never been a Porsche 911 guy (the engine is in the wrong place), worn a Rolex, or shopped at Brioni. 

But I sort of like the Bronco beach buggy idea anyway, and have driven a couple of expensively rebuilt ones with six-figure refit tickets that draw crowds. Both were complete pigs to drive, bouncing along on their lifted suspension like over-filled space-hoppers with handling like sick on a plate…but they looked good doing it.

2021 Ford Bronco Duncan Quinn (2)

So I was intrigued to see that Ford had launched a new Bronco with styling cues from the cult classic. And promises of a juiced-up off-road rally car version with Raptor parts perhaps called the “Warthog” (hopefully named for the awesome USAF plane as much as the sub-saharan wild pig.) 

That is the one I really wanted to drive; to see if it would be a good fit for our annual pilgrimage to Zambia in Africa to compete in the extreme 4x4 off-road rally, the “Elephant Charge” which raises money for conservation and elephants. But alas, the Warthog is as yet mere whispers in the gossip of the automotive world.

So I was given an Outer Banks specification of the Bronco's baby brother, the 2021 Bronco Sport, to test ($36,045 as tested.) It seemed only fitting to take it to the OBX for a ride with the horses on the beach just north of Duck, NC. That gave me ample time on the highway, the shopping run, off-road, and in torrential rain, not to mention in ECO mode to see if I could eke out the NYC to Duck run on one tank of gas (I couldn’t.)

The Bronco Sport is no supercar, and neither is it pretending to be one. In the specification it was delivered it’s more of a school-run, shopping, soccer-mom car. But in that context and all things considered it does a bang up job, and then some. 

In “Sand” mode on the beach in Corolla we moved along nicely without even letting any air out of the tires. No mean feat when lifted, juiced up, redneck-mobiles with fancy tires and suspension were getting stuck in the calf-deep soft sand every few yards. And in sideways rain on the freeway it felt glued to the road in “Slippery” mode.

The great bones that are here would seem to be a cool platform for more interesting things to come. At least if you are pondering swash-buckling adventures in places far-flung and unknown. In the meantime before the Warthog or whatever it ends up being called arrives, the Bronco Sport is a great doorway to access retro-cool in a package that actually works and is fun to drive. Have at it.

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