May 19, 2024
Wheels

Bronco Sport Heritage has off-road capability with nod to ‘60s design

Ford designs a head turner with two distinct variants

The Bronco Heritage Edition will be available this winter. Unique colors add to the Bronco Sport's appeal.

When Ford says it will only produce 1,966 Bronco Sport Heritage models, it’s not a fluke, but rather a homage to the rich history of the SUV that was first introduced – in 1966. With the number of new vehicles that sit in my driveway throughout the year, I must acknowledge few get the reaction the 2023 Bronco Sport Heritage got during my week-long review.

For all the right reasons, and due in large part to the careful and creative work of Ford designers, the Bronco Sport Heritage gets just about everyone’s attention. On the outside, the retro Yellowstone metallic paint and white roof scream ‘look at me,’ while the white steel wheels finish what the roof started. While it all feels a bit Matchbox or Hot Wheels to me, it resonates with a lot of people across generations.

Based on its sibling Escape, the Bronco Sport is a crossover SUV whose higher ground clearance, rails running the full length of the roof, beefy 29-inch all-terrain tires, and boxy rear quarters make it more capable off-road and a lot more interesting to look at.

My tester was the higher-end Heritage Limited and it added just about everything but the kitchen sink for a final price of $46,400. Is it worth it? You be the final judge, but with only 1,966 produced, you ought to move quickly.

Off-Road Capable

The Bronco Sport has a couple variants with two different powertrain options: a base Heritage 1.5-liter turbocharged engine delivering 181 horsepower; and the Heritage Limited with its more robust 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo four-cylinder engine pushing out 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque.

While the base Heritage model offers standard all-wheel drive and 8-speed automatic transmission, my Heritage Limited test model featured an upgraded four-wheel drive system with a distinct off-road rear differential, underbody skid plates, and trail speed metering via the Trail Control system.

My tester featured off-road drive settings including Mud/Ruts/Rock Crawl modes as part of the G.O.A.T. system. With a moderate 8.8-inch lift and street-tuned suspension, the Bronco Sport is not truly an off-road-ready SUV for hardcore enthusiasts, though it can do more than the average bear and looks amazing doing it.

Nostalgic Look

The truth about the impression left by the Bronco Sport Heritage resides in the many nostalgic touches designed into the exterior and interior spaces. I really like the old-school alloy wheels (made to look like 1960s steel rims), the two-tone paint colors (yellow, baby blue, and dark blue) all have a white contrast roof.

Inside the cabin, the tester featured plaid cloth seating, navy blue instrumentation, and the same white accents found outside the Bronco Sport. The highlighted stitching throughout the cabin is in nostalgic hues of the ‘60s, such as bright red and baby blue.

Cabin

The Bronco Sport’s cabin is a welcoming place with lots of throwback accents and cool elements that give it personality – something truly lacking in this crowded segment. The perforated plaid leather seats (a nod to the original ‘66 Bronco) with brown trim added a nice upscale touch, while the power adjustments were appreciated.

Head and legroom up front is very good, but a bit tight in the second row, which offers a nice 60/40 split for added cargo flexibility. A power tailgate was not available, though I loved the separate rear-hatch glass that gives you another loading option.

My tester featured a huge moonroof and a premium audio system with 10 speakers scattered throughout the cabin. The infotainment screen is large and easy to use with the climate controls located just below. Ford has big buttons and knobs for the audio/nav/phone/apps that are less a nod to old design as they are simply appreciated still by so many drivers.

The 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage model begins at $34,500 plus delivery, which is a great price for such a distinct-looking crossover. If given the choice, I’d definitely opt for the high-level Heritage Limited ($46,400) and its bigger engine and better performance.

John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing, and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations, and vehicles.