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First Drive Review: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport deserves all its engineering accolades

The verdict is in on the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport. Its engineering is a winner.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

It's the inevitable curse that comes with being a crossover. Buyers think you look okay and assume you're little more than a comfortable daily driver. Whatever pre-conceived notions you have about the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport being a crossover that just so happens to be lucky enough to wear the Bronco badge will be thrown out the window the moment you get into any sort of terrain off the paved road.

That's where the Bronco Sport shines. Unlike its closest competitors - among them the Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Nissan Rogue - the Bronco Sport takes its off-roading chops seriously. For the model, its powers isn't just a drive mode or available all-wheel drive. The Bronco Sport is extremely capable.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport First Edition Ford allowed the Bronco Sport First Edition to be put through its paces at a former quarry outside of Detroit.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

That capability starts with a bunch of equipment the average buyer will never see. The Bronco Sport First Edition, the model's most capable offering, comes standard with an advanced 4x4 system that has a class-exclusive twin-clutch rear-drive unit with a differential lock - something you traditionally find on much larger SUVs and trucks. This system allows the SUV to have virtually all its rear axle torque delivered to either wheel making getting out of sand, through mud, or over rocks easier.

How much torque is allocated is managed by the Bronco Sport's G.O.A.T. Modes. Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Sand are offered as standard drive modes while Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl models come on the Badlands and First Edition model.

The drive modes work in conjunction with the SUV's High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (H.O.S.S.). The Bronco Sport First Edition that was the tester was fully loaded with the system and the available Bilstein Position Sensitive Dampers. Ford developed the tech by test driving the prototype Bronco Sport SUVs on some of the roughest terrain in the U.S. and it's paid off.

In deep sand testing while in Sand Mode the Bronco First Edition maintained its stability at relatively high speed through a cone course without causing too much driver feedback. When crawling up rocks, the Rock Crawl mode performed as advertised.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport First Edition Even when encountering deep ruts and soft sand, the Bronco Sport was a champ.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Switching over to the experience in the less pricey 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks the stability followed suit onto the open road where the traditional jolting of Michigan-sized potholes was swallowed up by the system in Normal mode and not allowed to permeate the cabin. The same held true over rougher washboarded dirt roads covered in loose gravel. The Ford Bronco Sport might just be the smoothest ride on the market today.

The First Edition SUV also scored a win with its Trail Control technology, which allows the cruise control to be set going up to 20 mph forward and 6 mph in reverse for vehicle-controlled throttle and braking. On a steep incline, the system was very easy to control with moving the SUV's speed up and down proving to be an easy exercise allowing for 99.99 percent of the concentration to be on the terrain ahead. Maneuvering within the trail is easy enough thanks to connected steering and good wheel feel.

In the quarry cum off-road park where the Bronco Sport First Edition was tested, the fine dirt was a light brown color. The forward facing camera, in combination with the SUV's standard 8.0-inch infotainment screen, had difficultly displaying the nuanced differences in the terrain in bright sunlight driving rendering the camera fairly useless on a bumpy road. In the shadows it performed better, but contrast was still an issue The camera's picture display on the dashboard screen was also delayed to the point where the driver would need to be creeping along to use the technology effectively.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport First Edition The SUV's Trail Control technology made easing down this hill a breeze.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The First Edition's 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine delivers best-in-class 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. That means that the model has zero problem getting up to speed on the road and even less trouble keeping up on the trail. The Bronco Sport's eight-speed automatic transmission delivered the type of smooth shifts one would expect.

Ford could stand to give the Bronco Sport some additional top-end braking power.

As tested in the 2021 Bronco Sport Outer Banks, the smaller 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine proved up to the task as a daily driver power plant. Its 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque were more than plenty with two adults in the vehicle whether quickly pulling away from a stop or creeping through traffic, it's hard to see why most drivers would need more power on a regular basis.

Ford's biggest failure with the Bronco Sport is the line it walks between form, function, and aesthetics. In the high-middle grade Outer Banks model, the Bronco Sport isn't plush. It's also doesn't feel or look as rugged as the Jeep Wrangler's interior. Like the Ford Escape, the Bronco Sport's dashboard and center console components and materials feel a bit like afterthoughts made up of parts bin pieces in an effort to save money to pay for all of the model's the engineering. It looks much better in pictures than it does in person. The Jeep Cherokee, perhaps the Bronco Sport's closest competitor, has more aesthetically pleasing interior that appears hardier.

It's all okay - not great - but okay. There are technological highlights that will improve your impression of the cabin including the 6.5-inch driver information display and the infotainment touch screen, which are run by SYNC 3 software. That software operates as expected providing adequate responsiveness and easy-to-read graphics. The system is Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa compatible. Bronco Sport also has satellite radio.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport First Edition The Bronco Sport's interior is a blend of utility and parts bin buttons and knobs. It's not bad, it's just not great.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The seats in the Bronco Sport are comfortable and there's good enough room for four adults plus their cargo for a trip. It also has a good amount of thoughtful additions for buyers who want to take their Bronco Sport along for their adventure including liftgate LED flood lamps, MOLLE straps to carry extra gear, zippered seatback pockets, and a built-in bottle opener in the cargo area. Those are all little pluses that add up.

Ford has given the Bronco Sport lineup its suite of advanced driver-assist technologies called Ford Co-Pilot360 as standard equipment. Its roster includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning with dynamic braking support, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, lane keeping, automatic high beams, and a rearview camera. An upgraded version of the system, Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go and lane centering, evasive steering assist, and voice-activated touch screen navigation. Available Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0 technology adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-centering, and speed limit sign recognition.

Let's face it. Very few Bronco Sport buyers are likely to do any sort of real off-roading with their SUV. That doesn't mean that it's not exceptionally capable. Against the crossover odds, Ford has made a proven, true off-roader with its Bronco Sport that will appeal to drivers not just because of its name.

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Domino's and Nuro announced their partnership in 2019 — and now the robots are hitting the roads.

Photo courtesy of Nuro

After announcing their partnership to work on pizza deliveries via self-driving robots in 2019, Dominos and Nuro have officially rolled out their technology to one part of town.

Beginning this week, if you place a prepaid order from Domino's in Woodland Heights (3209 Houston Ave.), you might have the option to have one of Nuro's R2 robot come to your door. This vehicle is the first do deliver completely autonomously without occupants with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a news release.

"We're excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino's customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston," says Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, in the release. "There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations."

Orders placed at select dates and times will have the option to be delivered autonomously. Photo courtesy of Nuro

Nuro Domino's delivery vehicle

The Nuro deliveries will be available on select days and times, and users will be able to opt for the autonomous deliveries when they make their prepaid orders online. They will then receive a code via text message to use on the robot to open the hatch to retrieve their order.

"Nuro's mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we're launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino's," says Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president, in the release. "We're excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino's customers in Houston. We can't wait to see what they think."

California-based Nuro has launched a few delivery pilots in Houston over the past few years, including the first Nuro pilot program with Kroger in March 2019, grocery delivery from Walmart that was revealed in December 2019, and pharmacy delivery that launched last summer.

From being located in a state open to rolling out new AV regulations to Houston's diversity — both in its inhabitants to its roadways, the Bayou City stood out to Nuro, says Sola Lawal, product operations manager at Nuro.

"As a company, we tried to find a city that would allow us to test a number of different things to figure out what really works and who it works for," Lawal says on an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's hard to find cities that are better than Houston at enabling that level of testing."

You can find out which self-driving vehicles are being tested in your neck of the woods by clicking here.


This article first appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site InnovationMap.

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The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is on sale now.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG
The all-electric range of the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 has been confirmed. The model is the first modern electric Volkswagen to be sold in the U.S. and a model that the German automaker is resting a lot of hopes on for the future of sales in the country.

The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro with all-wheel drive will achieve an EPA-estimated 260 miles of all-electric range on a full charge. The ID.4 Pro S and 1st Edition, which have more features and equipment and therefore weigh more, achieve an estimated 250 miles of range.

The EPA-estimated fuel economy for ID.4 Pro RWD is 107 MPGe in the city; 91 MPGe on the highway, and 99 MPGe combined. The ID.4 Pro S and 1st Edition does slightly worse achieving 104 MPGe in the city, 89 MPGe on the highway, and 97 MPGe combined.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4: Exterior The "1st" badging denotes the vehicle as a first edition model. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

These new numbers come as part of a second round of EPA testing. Original testing found that the model did not quite hit its target.

How does that compare to other EVs? The Nissan Leaf Plus offers 226 miles of all-electric power. The Hyundai Kona Electric delivers 258 miles. Volvo's XC40 Recharge has just 208 miles of all-electric range but the Tesla Model Y can go up to 326 miles on one full charge.

First out of the Volkswagen gate will be ID.4 models with an 82-kilowatt-hour battery and rear-mounted AC permanent-magnet synchronous motor. That system delivers 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque.

At a public DC fast-charging station with 125 kW charging, the ID.4 can go from five to 80 percent charged in about 38 minutes. With purchase, ID.4 owners receive three years of unlimited charging at Electrify America DC Fast Chargers at no additional cost.

The 2021 ID.4 is on sale now, with pricing for the rear-wheel-drive ID.4 Pro starting at $39,995 MSRP, before a potential Federal tax credit of up to $7,500. The Pro S carries an MSRP of $44,495. The limited-run ID.4 1st Edition, which sold out the day the vehicle was launched, carried an MSRP of $43,995.

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