Road Trip

High-tech tuning makes the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport more off-road competent than expected

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands is one of the most capable compact SUVs you can buy.

Photo by Sue Mead

Comfortable, capable, and composed. Inspired confidence. Loves to play in the dirt! Either you're reading my report card from elementary school or a tale of more than 500 miles behind the wheel of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands. The journey took a small group of journalists from Los Angeles, California to Lone Pine and back to L.A. via a sand dunes playground and along a 40-mile-long challenging off-road trail on the outskirts of Death Valley National Park.

Once outside the L.A. metro, it became clear that this all-new sport ute's breadth of competences was impressive, though somewhat expected. Ford wasn't just going to slap the Bronco name on a traditional crossover and call it a day. The company put this smaller four-door SUV through durability testing parallel to its bigger, more-off-road-skilled sibling, the 2021 Ford Bronco, evaluating it over almost all of the same low-speed crawling and high-speed thrashing exercises in Johnson Valley and the Anza-Borrego desert.

The point is this: the Bronco Sport has 'real-world' toughness and a collection of segment-best off-road talents, despite its junior role in the stable. The 'Built Wild' test steed was the Badlands model (one of five model choices) bolstered by specialized engineering and off-road proficiencies to enhance the standard four-wheel drive that comes on all Bronco Sport trims that carry forward the heritage G.O.A.T. (goes over any terrain) moniker.

Driving northward from L.A., I had the opportunity to check the boxes for comfort, technology and driving dynamics. The Sports' brick-like exterior styling is smartly-executed and carries forward Bronco's design DNA and gives an immediate impression of its off-the-pavement mission, penned with a high stance and chiseled angles of approach and departure, as well as the hint of its four underbelly skid plates.

For its price-point (this model starts at $32,600), I was impressed with the collection of infotainment and navigational technologies, safety features, and ergonomics. Elbow room abounds in the five-seater that wears interior cues that speak more to rough and rugged than premium accoutrements while the high safari-style roof sets the stage for an open and airy feel to the cockpit.

Traveling a highway speeds, I was impressed with the ample and on-demand power derived from the Bronco Sport's 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that motivates with 245 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque and the integration of the eight-speed transmission that brings seamless up-and-down shifts. I also appreciated the fully-independent suspension that provided just the right balance of supple ride and responsive handling as I sliced with ease through bustling traffic putting the Bronco's Sport's electric power steering to the test. My only complaint was wanting a tad more braking power at the top of the pedal to slow the nearly two-ton SUV.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands The Bronco Sport rose to the challenge of desert dunes.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Along our journey, a highway closure south of Lone Pine, due to the crash of an Air Force jet near the main roadway, forced our group to deviate on a dirt-road bypass. The group traveled along the track with corrugated washboard, with divots and holes that dotted the road for a significant swath. For us, it was the perfect first test to check out the Bronco Sport's manners and ride comfort in an everyday, unplanned experience. The SUV soaked up the bumps and didn't stray from its intended path, even on loose dirt with pebbles.

Our first authentic off-road experience took us to the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes, where we were able to motor up and over tall dunes, drive in deep sand, and perform high-speed maneuvers on a test track that Ford carved out in this desert area. As an experienced off-road racer that has navigated thousands of miles of dunes fields around the world, I was enamored with the Bronco Sport's traction capabilities. Its talents are derived from an advanced 4x4 system with a class-exclusive twin-clutch rear-drive unit that has a differential lock feature. This pairs with the SUV's Terrain Management System, which features up to seven G.O.A.T. Modes: standard modes include Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand; Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl are available on Badlands and First Edition versions.

Next up was a full-day of off-roading to check out more of the Sport's talents. The Swansea-Cerro Gordo OHV Route is a 34.7-mile loop trail located near Lone Pine that offers moderate off-road tracks and travels to an elevation of more than 8,000 ft., with views of Mt. Whitney and Death Valley. Our route along the Cerro Gordo Trail included a rugged backway to the Salt Tram Station and Cerro Gordo Ghost Town. On it, the road climbs rapidly through a corridor into the Inyo Mountains Wilderness and runs along the ridge atop the Inyo Mountains, with great views, wildflowers and historical mining structures.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands The Bronco Sport ventured far off the beaten path.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

This was the perfect venue to try out the Bronco Sport's hardware along a collection of steep, rocky and narrow tracks. Schooled by Eddie Khan, Bronco Sport Engineering Manager, I used different settings on the terrain management system with the locking differential in off and on settings, when the vehicle needed a more aggressive aid to climb up or over an obstacle.

I appreciated the Bronco Sport's 8.8 inches of ground clearance, 30.4-inch approach angle, 33.1-inch departure angle, 18:1 crawl ratio, and trail cameras when climbing up and over patches of steep rock and while navigating along a lengthy section of narrow shale shelf road with life-ending drop-offs on the side. On this trail in particular, precise driving is critical, as this last part of the road is prone to washouts and rock slides. If you research the trail, you'll see that it is deemed "suitable for aggressive stock SUVs with high clearance, low range, and skid plates" and, although we lacked traditional low range, the Bronco Sport's 105-inch wheelbase, with its slightly wider track in front than in the rear, and suspension, made the vehicle feel planted at all times.

Heading back to L.A. and seeing just how much dirt had accumulated on the Bronco Sport from the journey, I was thankful that the cleaning team could take advantage of the rubber flooring throughout the cabin and cargo area, easy-to-clean cloth seating surfaces, and silicone-sealed control switches to make their detailing job easier.

The Bronco Sport's technology and engineering made trail life easier. Though I've piloted thousands of vehicles in countries all over the world, the model and this journey will stand out because of how surprisingly well the compact SUV performed. Now I'm even more excited to get my hands on the four-door Bronco.

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Volvo is allowing Super Bowl LV fans to enter to win a free car - terms and conditions apply.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

Volvo Car USA Is bringing back its Volvo Safety Sunday campaign for this year's big game. This time around, they're giving away up to $2 million worth of cars.

When the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Super Bowl LV on February 7, 2021, Volvo fans won't be talking about the old guard/new guard quarterback battle. They'll instead be hoping for a safety.

Here's how it works. For a chance to win a free car, contestants visit VolvoSafetySunday.com between January 25 and February 7, 2021 to design, in any trim and color available in the U.S. Entrants can build their car in the Volvo vehicle configurator or take a short quiz that will recommend a model based on their lifestyle. Once configured, users must click "Try to win this Volvo" on the summary page to enter. Full rules, terms and conditions can be found at VolvoSafetySunday.com.

Potential winners must enter the contest ahead of Super Bowll LV.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

Volvo Safety Sunday 2021

Then, it's all up to the Chiefs and Bucs. It doesn't matter which team scores the safety. As long as one football lands in the end zone to score two points, there will be winners. Think it's a long shot? Remember that just last week the Buffalo Bills scored their first points of the game via a safety.

The giveaway is part of a larger push by Volvo to focus on the safety offered by their vehicles. The company is currently innovating to address the challenges of speed, intoxication, and distraction. Some of this work includes looking at how smart speed control and geofencing can automatically limit vehicle speeds near schools and hospitals in the future.

A new vehicle, designed to rise to meet some of this with hands-free driving software built in, is the redesigned 2022 Volvo XC90, which is expected to go on sale later this year. The XC90 is Volvo's best-selling SUV in the U.S. It comes in two- and three-row configurations, is available with a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain, and routinely is evaluated as having one of the poshest cabins in its class.

Last year, Volvo put $1 million worth of cars on the line to celebrate the more than one million lives saved by the three-point safety belt, a Volvo invention.

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A sufficient amount of torque can help get your trusty steed off the line with ease.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

For many, a pickup truck is as much a daily drivable vehicle as it is a tool for getting the job done. How much horsepower and torque a powertrain puts out is a big part of that. Most want enough to get the job done while keeping an eye toward fuel economy.

What's the difference between horsepower and torque? In simple terms, torque is the pull of the powertrain that gets you off the line from a full stop. Horsepower is what gets you going the speed you want and keeps you there.

Diesel engines tend to have more torque than gasoline-powered engines but have less horsepower. There's no perfect torque to horsepower ratio. It's all about which combination works best for you.

The engines on this list have the highest amount of torque and are available in 2021 model year pickup trucks in the U.S. To see the most powerful pickup trucks ranked by horsepower click here. See the 2020 horsepower champs by clicking here and the 2020 torque winners by clicking here.

No. 5 - 2021 Ford F-150: PowerBoost hybrid powertrain

2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

570 pound-feet of torque

Not surprisingly, Ford's new hybrid F-150 powertrain (a 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine paired with a 35-kilowatt electric motor) delivers more torque than almost any other light-duty truck. It's rated at 570 pound-feet, which matches up well with the engine's 430 horsepower to provide up to 12,400 pounds of towing capacity in certain configurations.

No. 4 - 2021 Ram 1500 TRX: Supercharged 6.2-liter V8

2021 Ram 1500 TRX Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

650 pound-feet of torque

The Ram 1500 TRX isn't just the fastest and most powerful light-duty truck on the market, it's also got the most torque. Rated at 650 pound-feet of torque, the supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 also produces a staggering 702 horsepower. That's good enough for a 0-60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds and an 8,100-pound towing capacity.

No. 3 (tie) - 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD: 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8

2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

910 pound-feet of torque

General Motors' trucks have attracted attention in recent years for their innovative trailering and tailgate technologies, but both Chevrolet and GMC Heavy Duty trucks are offered with a truly attention-grabbing powertrain. The 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 produces a massive 910 pound-feet of torque, which is in addition to a respectable 445-horsepower output. That gives the trucks a maximum conventional-trailer towing capacity of over 14,000 pounds in some configurations.

No. 3 (tie) - 2021 GMC Sierra 2500 HD: 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8

2021 GMC Sierra 2500 HD\u200b Photo courtesy of GMC

910 pound-feet of torque

Under the hood of the GMC Sierra 2500 HD is a 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 that produces 910 pound-feet of torque and 445-horsepower, just like the Silverado 2500 above. The truck has a maximum conventional-trailer towing capacity of over 14,000 pounds in some configurations.

No. 2 - 2021 Ram 3500HD: 6.7-liter Cummins diesel V8

2021 Ram 3500HD

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

1,000 pound-feet of torque

Here, we enter the realm of outlandish torque numbers. The 2021 Ram Heavy Duty lineup is available with a 6.7-liter C
Cummins diesel V8 that produces 1,000 pound-feet of torque. It's offered in a "normal" output version that makes 850 pound-feet, but the four-digit torque number available in the high-output version is truly headline worthy. Ram says that the 3500 can pull up to 35,100 pounds with this engine on board.

No. 1 - 2021 Ford F-Series Super Duty: 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8

2021 Ford F-Series Super Duty

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

1,050 pound-feet of torque

Ford's 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8 is the top of the torque hill for 2021. It makes 1,050 pound-feet of the stuff, which is in addition to a solid 475 horsepower. The F-450 truck equipped with the engine can tow up to 37,000 pounds, which is both insane and far above the weight limits for a standard Class A driver's license.

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