Thursday, 23 February 2023 06:43

2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Editions Play the Retro Card

2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Editions Play the Retro Card 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Editions Play the Retro Card

With or without its wayback garb, this baby Bronco remains impressively capable.

Ford continues to channel the rich history of its iconic Bronco 4x4 with the introduction of two new retro-inspired special editions of its compact Bronco Sport SUV.

The 2023 Bronco Sport Heritage Edition and Bronco Sport Heritage Limited Edition celebrate the birth of the Bronco brand with a classic-themed appearance package that takes styling cues from the original 1966 truck. Both variants feature a white roof, white rear badging, white 17-inch aluminum wheels, and a white grille with red BRONCO lettering.

The Bronco Sport Heritage Edition, built on the Big Bend trim level, utilizes Ford's 181-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-three, which is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Suspension features include hydraulic front bump stops and specially tuned springs included in Ford’s High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (HOSS) system package, plus five user-selectable "G.O.A.T." terrain modes for off-road driving.

The Heritage Edition's interior styling includes white trim accents, plaid cloth seats, blue-and-red accent stitching, a microsuede center console armrest, and Navy Pier Blue accents on the door panels and dash. Buyers have a choice of seven paint options, including Robin's Egg Blue, a throwback color based on one that was available on the original Bronco.

The pricier Heritage Limited Edition is derived from the Bronco Sport lineup's more off-road-focused Badlands package, which features the larger turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, two additional G.O.A.T. modes, a torque-vectoring rear differential, and a lockable center clutch pack for the all-wheel-drive system. Our Peak Blue sample is one of three paint shades available, the others being the lighter Robin's Egg Blue and the intense Yellowstone Metallic.

Heritage Limited Edition–specific features include larger 29-inch all-terrain tires, leather-trimmed seats, and white door inserts. A retro-style plaque adorns the center console, while metal Bronco door badging in the classic '60s script is satisfyingly eye-catching.

Despite its basis in the humble C2 unibody platform as used in the Escape SUV and Maverick pickup, the Bronco Sport proves to be unexpectedly capable off-road, with the 2.0-liter's 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque making light work of the steep gullies, embedded boulders, and deep sand that constitute the Johnson Valley area of the Mojave Desert. (So much of the model's off-road development was conducted here that Ford chose to include a geographic coordinate from the area as an Easter egg hidden in the molding of the rear hatch trim.)

An aluminum skid plate, part of the standard Badlands equipment package, eases concerns of stabbing the Bronco Sport's underbody with spiky terrain elements. Despite the Sport's modest ride height, its 8.8-inch ground clearance (on 235/65R-17 tires, the model's largest available) proves to be perfectly adequate for comfortably brisk-paced desert driving as we follow the dusty wake of our guide, Melissa. She is well-versed in the Bronco Sport's abilities, having taken a stock Bronco Sport Badlands to first place in the 1500-mile, off-road Rebelle Rally in both 2021 and 2022.

It is the suspension that makes the Bronco Sport, and despite the plethora of off-road driving modes available, this SUV handles even soft trail running just fine in its standard drive mode. Locking in the all-wheel-drive system and the rear differential is more than sufficient for confident thrashing in deeper sand.

All of that would be equally true for the less retro-tastic Badlands model, however. At $46,250, the Heritage Limited Edition is fully kitted out, carrying nearly $5000 worth of features that are optional on the Badlands. Screen that out, and you see that the retro look carries a roughly $2000 premium. One rung down, the $34,245 Heritage Edition represents a roughly $1500 upcharge over the equivalent Big Bend model.

Is that worth it? Well, several miles east of where we drove this Bronco Sport, classic Broncos, stock and modified, are swarming the viewing areas of this year’s King of the Hammers desert road-race competition. For off-road enthusiasts, the appeal of those classic Broncos, the reborn Bronco, and this offshoot Bronco Sport is wrapped up in the combination of capability and aesthetics. The Bronco Sport Heritage Editions lean more heavily on the latter, but to no detriment of the former.

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