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The Boldest Baby Bronco Backs Up Its Brave Blood

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands Holly Oaks ORV Park Review
Photo copyright Manoli Katakis, Muscle Cars & Trucks.

When the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport came into the light, it didn’t take long for the internet to start cracking jokes. That’s what it does best, after all. “Beta Bronco,” they called it. Compared to the heroic proportions and capabilities of the 2021 Bronco 2-Door and 4-Door, perhaps. But a beta baby Bronco would be an alpha of pretty much anything else. Just as a coyote is less dangerous than a wolf, it’s nonetheless a creature not to be trifled with. This is especially true with the 2021 Bronco Sport Badlands, the range-topping model. Recently, we were able to take a ride in one, and our thoughts are shared below.

The layout of Holly Oaks ORV Park is that of a repurposed quarry. Which means that at the center of a web of trails, obstacles, hills and brush, that there’s a massive pit. Full of loose dirt, in this case. With seven standard GOAT Modes to choose from, the optimal setting was set to ‘Sand’, and we descended down into the quarry. Straight away, the Bronco Sport was enthusiastically kicking up the dusty earth, the rear end swaying port and starboard. Like a horse having itself a dirt bath. It was right at home. As were the 28.5-inch BF Goodrich K02 tires, which wrap around a set of 17-inch Carbonized Gray-painted aluminum wheels.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands First Ride Review
Photo via Ford

To demonstrate its hillclimbing abilities in Sand mode, the 2.0L EcoBoost-powered SUV used its might to rush up a steep, loose, low traction hill that really highlighted the adventure-ready nature of its chassis. The engineer in control of the vehicle mentioned to us that the all-wheel-drive system of the Bronco Sport is “very similar” to the late, great Ford Focus RS. Not to say that it’s suddenly the pocket rocket that the RS is, but it’s nevertheless a proven system. It can control torque bias not only from front tor rear, but also from left to right, all depending on the scenario in real-time.

The Bronco Sport Badlands also has a trail control feature, which acts as a low speed cruise control, and the driver doesn’t need to have their feet on the pedals. But they probably should.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands First Drive Review
Photo via Ford.

Sitting in the front seats, one observation is that the interior of the Bronco Sport has minimal dashboard – almost as if it were not on a front-wheel-drive based architecture. There’s a lot of room in the footwells, perhaps for a backpack or whatever else needs to go there. The center console is otherwise simplistic and absent of gimmickry that can sometimes come off as too much. We’d offer a photo, but Ford was sensitive about the fit and finish of their pre-production vehicles we rode in that day.

Compared to the big Bronco, the 2021 Bronco Sport Badlands doesn’t ride as smoothly over the rough terrain. You definitely feel everything more, and that’s not just for one single reason. It’s unibody, it’s got a smaller wheelbase, it’s got smaller tires, it’s got a more roadworthy suspension, and so forth. But, as we’ve seen from a couple of videos going around, the Bronco Sport is nevertheless highly capable, and by no means should it be considered a compromise of some kind. Especially compared to other compact utility vehicles in the segment. Wherever the adventure will take place, there’s a strong, strong chance the Bronco Sport Badlands can take you there. And that will be even more true after owners spend some time at the Off Roadeo driving school. Look for it at dealers this fall.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport SUV Badlands Review
Photo via Ford.

Written by Manoli Katakis

Muscle Cars & Trucks was founded by Manoli Katakis - an automotive media veteran that has been covering the latest car news since 2009. His journalism has uncovered dozens of major product changes, updates, plans, and cancellations long before automakers were ready to make things official.

Some highlights over the years of his reporting include the uncovering of the Zora trademark before anybody else reported on the coming of a mid-engine Corvette, as well as the dead-accurate reporting of the coming of the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, two years before it hit the market, and even before the debut of the concept vehicle. This type of reporting has immediately continued here, with reports of the original seventh-generation Camaro plans being shelved, as well as what's in store for the Chevrolet Silverado.

Some of his work can be found on massive automotive media outlets, such as Motor1. He also has been a guest on the 910AM Radio Station with Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne, as well as the enthusiast-oriented Camaro Show podcast.

Over the years, Manoli has interviewed various automotive industry titans, leaders, and people that make things happen otherwise. These include figureheads such as GM CEO Mary Barra, GM President Mark Reuss, automotive aftermarket icon Ken Lingenfelter, Dodge firebrand Tim Kuniskis, along with various chief engineers of vehicles such as the Ford F-150 & Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro & Corvette, and many more.

At MC&T, Manoli is taking his journalism expertise, deeply planted sources, driving abilities, and automotive industry knowledge to new levels, covering more vehicles and brands than ever before. This is the place where you will continue to read groundbreaking stories about American performance vehicles, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles. Here is where you’ll also read insights and quotes from various automotive subject matter experts on the latest relevant products, as well as some of the latest official news from their manufacturers.

Fun facts: he also once beat Corvette Racing driver Tommy Milner in an autocross with a Chevrolet Bolt EV. The biggest vehicle he’s ever driven is a John Deere mining truck. Besides a go-kart, the smallest vehicle he’s driven has been a Hyundai i10. He’s also spent time in the cockpit of various American performance vehicle icons, including the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Dodge Challenger Demon, and Ford Mustang GT350R. He has reviewed dozens of trucks, SUVs, and performance vehicles over the years.

One of his favorite new vehicles on the market today happens to be the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison. He is also a card carrying member of the Sports Car Club of America, and regularly participates in Detroit Region autocross events.

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