Opinionated at any speed

Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 8:15am

The Outer Banks are 200 miles of barrier islands and sand spits imperiled by rising seas and erosion that lie between North Carolina and the open Atlantic. “Outer Banks” is a teen TV drama, too, a sort of “West Side Story” on the beach instead of in New York and with Kooks and Pogues in place of Jets and Sharks. And Outer Banks is also a version of Ford’s still-new Bronco Sport compact SUV.

Our example is a leftover ‘21 model, but Ford hasn’t made any significant changes for this year other than apparently nudging some of the prices downward. The Outer Banks is the cushiest and third-priciest (of four) trim levels. It comes with the Bronco Sport’s standard 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine, a small but potent (181 horsepower) member of Ford’s EcoBoost family of gasoline powerplants. It is reasonably smooth and responsive, and in normal driving (on these 18-inch wheels) delivers decent performance as well as, incidentally, the best fuel efficiency in the Bronco corral: an average of 23 MPG.

(True, this is no longer acceptable in our over-carbonized world, but Ford is undoubtedly preparing battery-electric Broncos based on what it has learned from its smash-hit F-150 Lightning and Mach-E Mustang EVs. Stay tuned.)

The Outer Banks package also includes the Bronco Sport’s standard 8-speed automatic transmission and GOAT—Goes Over Any Terrain—all-wheel-drive system, which lets the driver turn a knob to adjust the steering and throttle response for Sand, Slippery, Sport, Eco or Normal conditions. (The range-topping, more adventure-focused Badlands package adds Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl as well as more ground clearance.)

Late last year, we noted the differences between the new Ford Bronco and this, its tamer cousin, the Bronco Sport. In short, if you don’t want to read those again, the badass Bronco shares its skeleton with the Ford F-150 pickup truck; the Sport is a reskinned, differently enabled Ford Escape crossover sport-ute. What the Bronco Sport loses in off-road capability, it gains in real-world civility—it is an all-around family vehicle bristling with safety, comfort and connectivity features. Nevertheless, the B-Sport is also more “rugged” than the Escape, and it is surprisingly proficient when the pavement ends, too.

Prices seem to have dropped in six months. According to Ford’s website, Bronco Sport prices now start at $28,165 for the Base trim, $29,980 for the Big Bend model and $34,590 for the Badlands package, plus destination fees and whatever extras the buyer may opt for. The Outer Banks version starts at $33,730, a pleasant ask for a pleasant vehicle.