The Bronco Sport Is Far More Than a Repurposed Ford Escape . . . Here's Why
Borrowing a substantial number of an existing car’s parts to form a basis for the launch of another model is nothing new in the automotive world. As revolutionary as the Ford Mustang was when it first graced dealership showrooms in 1964, it nevertheless featured numerous parts from its Ford stablemate, the noble Falcon.
So when a car company debuts a new model — even if it features as long and storied a history as the Bronco does — it’s only natural for potential buyers to wonder just how “new” it really is. This holds especially true for the Bronco Sport, which recently beat its larger Bronco 2-door and 4-door counterparts to market. Is the Sport just an assembly of repurposed parts bearing a respected name that’s meant to placate buyers until its more substantial brethren arrive on the scene, or is it really a standalone model, with mechanical components and aesthetics it can proudly call its own?
Turns out it’s very much the latter. While if you look close enough you will see evidence of components whose design seems understandably familiar -- the Sport admittedly uses the Escape platform as a foundation -- a whole host of upgrades geared towards engineering the Bronco Sport for rigorous, off-road fun bears testimony to just how serious Ford was in its mission to create a refreshing new lineup of rugged, capable SUVs.
So, when you compare the new Bronco Sport to its undeniably successful stablemate, the Ford Escape, the distinctions are both numerous and substantial.
Looks Can be Deceiving, But Not in This Case.
The first of these differences becomes evident when simply putting the Bronco Sport and the Escape side by side. The two Ford SUVs look markedly different in nearly every way. The Escape is, by any measure, a nice looking ride in its own right: sleek and stylish. By contrast the Bronco Sport is unabashedly boxy and stout, which is no optical illusion, as the Sport is both 8” shorter in its wheelbase than the Escape, while standing 4” taller.
The Bronco Sport’s rugged appearance is further enhanced by the placement of its tires which, owing to its broader track, sit flush with its sides. This is one clear example where Ford’s decision to design the Sport specifically for the American public has paid dividends — since the Escape is sold in some countries where a certain amount of body overhang is mandatory to comply with vehicular standards, it can’t match this rugged styling cue.
When It’s Time to Venture off the Asphalt
Mechanically speaking, there are some undeniable similarities between the two models, but probably not as many as you’d expect, especially given Detroit’s ever-increasing emphasis on interchangeability in the name of cost-cutting. Further, most of these similarities are centered on component design, as opposed to an out and out borrowing of key parts. This comes despite the Sport being intentionally geared more for double-duty, city and highway driving than the larger Broncos that are soon to come.
The Sport’s versatility comes with no compromise to it being properly outfitted for adventure — especially in its Badlands configuration, a package that brings with it Ford’s High Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (HOSS).
Both the Escape and the Bronco Sport are equipped with fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspensions — more or less the norm for this automotive segment. Looking closer though, the Bronco Sport features a number of components that are not only stouter — especially as far as control arms are concerned — but also more purposefully geared toward conquering rough ground. These include upgraded suspension bushings, springs and anti-roll bars, along with specially designed rear shocks whose enhanced oil capacity and heat dissipation qualities make them much more up to the task of speeding over challenging terrain over longer periods.
It’s starting to become easy to see why the Sport would be far more at home than the Escape when the two Fords venture off the asphalt in tandem. But there are a number of other important distinctions. The Bronco Sport’s stiffer shocks help keep it from bottoming out over unforgiving land, yet those shocks are accompanied by springs and anti-roll bars that are actually a little softer than those on the Escape — all the better to help isolate the individual corners of the Sport while navigating obstacles.
Overall suspension travel, which is a key factor in successfully conquering rough terrain, heavily favors the Sport — not only in comparison to its Ford stablemate, but also in regards to one of the Sport’s key competitors, the Jeep Renegade. Max out that travel and you’ll have still more engineering advances at your disposal: specially designed front struts actually pad the last portion of front travel so that you get a softer landing than you would in most other vehicles.
Given the Sport’s more adventure-centric engineering design, it’s also not surprising that, where rock climbing ability is concerned, it really isn’t all that much of a contest between it and the Escape, although it’s worth repeating that the Escape was really designed for more civilized pursuits.
Using a measure called the Ramp Travel Index (RTI) — in simple terms a gauge of just how well a vehicle ascends a 20-degree ramp while keeping its wheels firmly planted on the ground — the Bronco Sport scores a full 20% better than the Escape. Of course, the Escape has some company when it comes to taking a back seat to the Bronco Sport in this measure, as the Sport also bests Jeep’s Renegade Trailhawk and Cherokee Trailhawk, as well as the Range Rover Evoque 300.
Ground clearance is probably the first thing we tend to look at when gauging a vehicle’s off-road abilities. After all, a multitude of engineering advances won’t do much if that vehicle is prone to easily stranding itself in surrounding dirt and mud, or a jutting obstacle stops it in its tracks. This is also an area where the Sport shines, and a well-chosen lift kit will take its already formidable abilities to an even higher level.
Ford’s engineers tucked the Sport’s exhaust system well into its undercarriage to protect it from danger, while providing the model with about 7.9 inches of minimum running ground clearance in its base 1.5 liter configuration, and a full 8.7 inches in Badlands attire and the larger tires that come with it. This handily exceeds the clearance on the Escape and makes the Sport strongly competitive with its Jeep-manufactured counterparts, the Renegade Trailhawk and Compass Trailhawk.
Lastly, take a look down below and you’ll see another engineering measure that could really pay dividends when off-roading. You’ll find a thick plate of steel running a substantial length of the Sport, protecting not only its engine and transmission, but also its fuel tank and vapor-recovery canister.
So, regardless of whether you’re just taking in the Bronco Sport from a distance, or you’re getting up close. . . maybe even REALLY close, you’ll have no problem concluding that the Sport is not only a truly unique offering that distinguishes itself from the rest of the Ford roster, but is also a thoroughly capable off-roader as well.