Off-Roading

7 post-quarantine tips for getting your off-roading rig ready to hit the trail

Before you hit the trail, you'll want to follow these tips to make sure your rig is ready.

Photo by Getty Images

The trails are calling your name. Before you hit the road following an extended period of self isolation and driveway storage time, your off-roader may need a little TLC. Here's some quick tips to make sure your rig is ready for off-roading.

Check your tire pressure.

Sure, you may intend to lower the pressure when you hit the dunes, but you don't want to ride low on the way there. Having low tire pressure increases fuel inefficiency and can make you more susceptible to losing control of the vehicle while driving.

Make sure your lights are ready to go.

There are a number of reasons fuses go and sometimes it seems like there's no rhyme or reason. Before you set off, make sure all your lights are working, including the auxiliary ones you may have installed. Also, make sure none of the casings have been damaged and wire housings aren't showing any signs of dry rot.

Step back and examine the bumpers.

Were you parked in the street and got a bump you didn't know about? Has something slumped while parked? A once-around the car is a good idea just to be sure.

Don't forget about the spare tire.

Are there mice living in there? Has something rotted? Take a quick peek to ease your mind.

Check the cooling system.

You don't have to go elbows deep for this one. Just be sure that there's nothing obstructing the air intakes, radiator, etc. Leaves, dust, dander, and animal nests can easily take up residency while your rig sits unused.

Take a low speed spin around your neighborhood or head to a parking lot.

To make sure your steering and braking is as it should be after sitting for so long, get the system going in a safe manner at low speed. Execute tight turns, brake check with no one behind you, and ensure the throttle is working as you hope.

Test your tinkers.

Have you been tinkering with your off-roader during lockdown? Be sure to give it a thorough test drive before you set off for a day of fun, testing all your modifications. Even if you think you have everything right, there still may be something amiss.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Singer has reimagined the capabilities of a 1990 Porsche 911, turning it into a rally special.

Photo courtesy of Singer Vehicle Design

A longtime client of automotive design studio Singer commissioned the company to reimagine his air-cooled 911s as World Rally Championship-inspired, all-terrain competition machines. These types of modifications are becoming common. A 1982 911 piloted by American Amy Lerner is currently racing in the Dakar Rally and Cars & Bids recently auctioned off a modified 1984 Porsche 911.

Created in partnership with renowned 911 rally specialist Richard Tuthill, the vehicle design would enable a model to compete in off-road racing thanks to its all-terrain capabilities. Tuthill's Porsches have dominated rallies for decades including four victories in the East African Safari Classic. The Classic is a 5000 kilometer event that crosses Kenya and Tanzania.

1990 Porsche 911 by Singer Vehicle Design in the Studio

Photo courtesy of Singer Vehicle Design

"We at Singer are motorsport nerds in our hearts and demonstrating our understanding of the discipline required our off-road vision to display deeply legitimate competition credentials from the structural engineering, to the bodywork ethos, to the mechanical package," said Rob Dickinson, Founder and Executive Chairman, Singer Group Inc.

"We've taken particular inspiration from the iconic Rothmans-sponsored 911 SC/RSs and 959s that conquered events like the Qatar International Rally and Paris-Dakar in the mid-'80s and, at the request of our client, have reimagined these all-terrain 911's in their honor while utilizing fresh perspectives and state of the art know-how."

Singer started with a 1990 Porsche 911 (964). They company increased its ride height, suspension travel, and overall strength. It now has carbon fiber body panels that allow for easy underbody access. Permanent all-wheel drive has been installed in the originally rear-wheel drive car, along with front, center, and rear limited-slip differentials.

The car rides on forged aluminum 16-inch wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires. Stopping power is provided by four-piston monobloc steel disc brakes. There is a hydraulic handbrake.

1990 Porsche 911 by Singer Vehicle Design in the Wild

Photo courtesy of Singer Vehicle Design

A twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter air-cooled flat-six delivers 450 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. A sequential racing transmission replaces the traditional five-speed manual. Paddle shifting is available.

Rally racing requires repair and replacement supplies at the ready, in addition to traditional rallying equipment. There's a long-range fuel tank, two full-size space race wheels and tires, a full FIA specification roll cage, bespoke competition seats with FIA certification, a rehydration system for the driver and passenger, and a GPS race navigation system.

"Desert racing has got under our skin at Singer," said Mazen Fawaz, CEO, Singer Group Inc.. "I tested and ran a Trophy Truck with Jenson Button's Rocket Motorsport in 2019 and we'll be back in the truck for 3 events in 2021, so I know from personal experience exactly how demanding these events are. It's been great to work with Richard, who has run the Baja 1000 himself, as well as a vast array of other off-road competitions, and apply all that knowledge and experience to this restoration for our client."

The client liked the study so much, they have commissioned to machines, one - in Singer's iconic Parallax White - focused on high-speed desert rallying and a second – in Corsica Red - configured for high-speed, high-grip tarmac events and disciplines.

Additionally, the client has agreed to make the results of the study available to others who wish to equip their 911 with the same sort of capability.

The ACS restoration was undertaken as a collaboration between the two companies. Singer's Design Office in California led a joint engineering team with assembly undertaken in the UK at the Tuthill facility in Oxfordshire. Future cars will all be modified at Tuthill's facilities. Support packages for racing and maintenance will be available.

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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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