After she swiped my bank card, the cashier on the diner requested, “Is that your Bronco out there in the parking lot?”

After I defined I used to be test-driving it, she instructed me in regards to the two Broncos she’d beforehand owned (her ex-husband mistreated them each), and the way badly she wished the 2021 mannequin (very, very badly).

She’s not alone. The Bronco’s authentic run spanned the years between 1966 and 1996, and after Ford introduced the model’s return in 2017, Bronco fever set in. The public sale home Barrett-Jackson reported that over the following three years, the typical sale value on previous fashions jumped by 88 p.c. One restored ’76 edition introduced in $195,000.

Last 12 months, Ford lastly introduced particulars on the brand new lineup, and three months later, greater than 190,000 individuals had already spent $100 to order their spot in line to purchase one. It’d be correct to say that anticipation has been working excessive.

So what does the brand new lineup appear to be? The most iconic fashions are the two- and four-door SUVs, full with a detachable high and spare tire mounted on the tailgate. But the mannequin that can probably promote probably the most is possibility quantity three: The smaller, zippier Bronco Sport. That’s the one which has the diner cashier ogling, the one I’m check driving.

Unlike the 2 true SUVs, the Bronco Sport falls into the crossover class alongside the Toyota RAV4 or the Honda CR-V. It’s basically an SUV-shaped wagon constructed on the body of a sedan, and it shares DNA with the extra suburban-focused Ford Escape. The huge distinction is that it comes with energy and flourishing that enchantment to the rising base of consumers who spend their free time tenting, climbing, and kayaking.

The all-new Bronco Sport First Edition collection in Cyber Orange Metallic Tri-Coat. (Pre-production mannequin pictured.) Ford Motor Company

The Sport makes good companies sense: It’s probably the most sensible off-road entry level for many automotive patrons. As a class, crossovers account for about 40 p.c of recent auto gross sales. While SUVs are good to have a look at—and so they’re nice if you happen to do heavy towing—their smaller cousins value much less and supply higher gas economic system, so that you don’t pay additional for energy you don’t want.

While Ford has but to launch the full-size Bronco SUVs (COVID allegedly delayed manufacturing), the Sport is out now. It grew to become accessible within the fourth quarter of final 12 months, and some months later, Ford introduced it had offered 5,120 items. Those that make it to dealership heaps sit for a median of simply six days earlier than somebody drives them dwelling.

For my check drive, I deliberate what felt like a probable use-case for individuals who purchase the Bronco Sport: An extended weekend in nature. Two pals and I met up on a Saturday at 5:30 a.m. in New York City. We loaded the cargo maintain with tenting gear and set off for a 4.5-hour drive into the Adirondack mountains. We’d go from metropolis to freeway to snow, spend two nights in our tents, after which drive again to civilization.

Bronco Sport
Bronco Sport house owners can go for the Badlands collection for the last word in off-road efficiency. (Pre-production mannequin pictured.)

The Bronco Sport is available in five trim models, and I used to be driving Badlands ($32,820). It’s geared towards off-road use with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine (in comparison with 1.5 liters on the bottom mannequin), 28.5-inch all-terrain tires, and a beefed-up suspension system.

As my crew and I loaded up within the predawn darkness, I appreciated that Ford thought to stay a floodlight within the cargo space. The visibility made our difficult loading mission simpler, and in the end it obtained us on the street faster. I additionally admired the Bronco’s sturdy rubber flooring, which runs all through your entire cabin. It proved greater than able to deflecting barbs from snowshoes and mountaineering poles.

Ford Bronco Sport Badlands Edition
Clint Carter

After loading three packs starting from 55 to 85 liters, plus a pair additional baggage of emergency gear, we set off to beat the morning site visitors. From contained in the cabin, the Sport runs as quiet as any new crossover, however as I toggled among the many seven drive modes, I discovered extra oomph than I’d anticipate. There’s an entire lot of energy there—particularly in Sport mode. (The different modes are Normal, Eco, Slippery, and Sand. Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl modes can be found solely in Badlands and First Edition trims.)

On the freeway, I set the adaptive cruise management to deal with acceleration and braking. The function is refined sufficient to deliver the car to a whole cease, if essential, and it freed up some brains tempo so I may discuss by way of important path and camp plans throughout the drive.

The Badlands version comes with a collection of off-road perks that I used to be unable to check. It’s designed to wade by way of 23.6 inches of water, as an illustration. And the Trail Control function works like a low-speed cruise management, working gasoline and accelerator for splendid traction over rugged, tough terrain. Car campers will respect the 2 commonplace 110-volt shops—one behind the entrance seats and one within the cargo space—together with dozens of Ford-approved accessories and carriers for kayaks, snowboards, bikes, and extra.

The function that proved most germane to my journey was slip management. With about an hour left to the trailhead, we bumped into snowfall, and shortly after, we started seeing the standard casualties of icy roads—automobiles in ditches, surrounded by street flares, tow vehicles, and state troopers.

Ford Bronco Sport Badlands Edition
Clint Carter

A couple of of the shifting automobiles flipped on their hazard lights and slowed to a crawling tempo. And whereas I definitely dropped my velocity, I stored cruising confidently within the Sport’s Slippery drive mode, which moderates sudden adjustments in tire velocity from fast acceleration or doubtlessly jarring gear adjustments.

I examined the system at low velocity by pumping the gasoline a little bit too onerous and slicing the wheel. The traction didn’t budge. The Bronco’s mind successfully smoothed out my driving and stored me rooted on the street.

I’ll spare the main points of the tenting journey, however after miles of snowshoeing and two exhausting nights sleeping within the snow, it was good to return to a car that didn’t make me really feel responsible about filling it with ice-crusted gear. In addition to the rubber flooring, the Bronco’s non-absorbent upholstery wipes down simply.

Ford Bronco Sport Badlands Edition
Clint Carter

I began the automotive with the keyless ignition and settled my drained physique into the heated seat. Then I made my option to the diner, the place I met the cashier who was extra all for my Bronco than my two nights within the snow.

After breakfast, my crew and I got down to return to our properties. The drive again—quiet, easy, and partially piloted by automated options—illuminated the Sport’s most salient attribute: It’s equally snug within the metropolis as it’s within the wild. And that’s excellent for these of us who like going backwards and forwards.

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